We’re used to publishers trying all sorts of unusual things when it comes to monetising games. But turning Trackmania into some kind of subscription-esque, timed access model wasn’t on my 2020 bingo card.
Trackmania Nations Forever is one of the most remarkable games you can play for free, so it’s natural that Ubisoft would want to update it for modern audiences. That’s the idea behind the Trackmania reboot, which was due out already but was delayed to July 1 because of the ongoing pandemic.
So like Trackmania Nations Forever, you can play the new Trackmania for free. But that won’t give you access to everything: you’ll only get 25 tracks, access to casual competitions, and you won’t have full access to the skins, replay or track editors, with only one save slot for user-created tracks. If you want more access or more save slots, you’ll have to pay for “Standard Access” or “Club Access”.
Here’s the pricing, and what you get with each tier:
Starter Access: Free for players to race solo or multiplayer on quarterly renewed official campaigns, including 25 tracks, allowing players to earn medals and record scores in the regional rankings. Players will be able to enjoy other player’s creations on the Arcade Channel, try various editors (tracks, replays and skins) and map review servers. The weekly Nations League is also available for casual competitions.
Standard Access: In addition to the free content, Standard Access expands the content available with player creations, including the “Track of the Day” selection, and full access to replay, track editors and map review servers. Additionally, players can participate in daily competitions and keep every “Track of the Day” and “Official” campaign track. One year of standard access is available for $US9.99.
Club Access: Including the above, Club Access allows players to join their favourite clubs to access exclusive content and activities such as skin customisation, special campaigns, online rooms, training tracks and competitions. They can also create their own club to share their creations and organise events. Players can participate in the Open Grand League, organised by Ubisoft Nadeo, and try to qualify for the Trackmania Grand League. One year of the Club Access is available for $US29.99 or three years for $US59.99.
Obviously, Trackmania fans immediately tagged this as a subscription model. They’re the ones who want and need full access to all the editors and competitions, because without them, Trackmania wouldn’t be a community at all. And not everyone was against the idea: some fans prefer a subscription model instead of microtransactions, and others acknowledged it’s hard trying to keep the lights on. (Remember that time Trackmania had a Quake spin-off, ShootMania Storm?)
But in what is this week’s most bizarre contortion of the English language, Ubisoft Nadeo has tried to explain that, no, Trackmania isn’t a subscription model. You’re simply paying multiple times to access the game:
The differentiation the Ubisoft Nadeo dev is making here is that after your standard or club access times out, your account will be reset back to the starter level. “You keep official maps, tracks of the day and maps built. It’s not possible to pause your access,” the developer wrote.
I mean … that’s a subscription. It’s functionally no different than Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus. I might not lose access to what’s accrued in my account, but once my access runs out, I lose access to the things that payment enabled. That’s a subscription. Plain and simple. Trying to defend it or work around it just looks bizarre, especially when some of the Trackmania community is being pretty understanding about it all.
Video games is a hard business. There’s more games out there than ever, more things vying for attention and your time, and it’s difficult to make a living when there are so many wonderful experiences available for free, or cheaply. So Trackmania‘s in a weird spot, and situations like those mean publishers often have to think of creative solutions to get a project greenlit.
But maybe just call a spade a spade. There’s enough waffling and linguistic backflips in the world as-is. And if Ubisoft Nadeo feels like it has clarify and defend their business model to this degree, one might suggest that other business models could be a better fit. Would free-to-play access and paid battle passes for creators and competitors be such a bad thing, compared to a yearly subscription model?
Trackmania is out on July 1 through uPlay and the Epic Games Store.