Ubisoft Redefines “Subscription” with Trackmania

The gaming industry is fond of altering definitions to suit their needs.

Ubisoft has recently announced that their remake of Trackmania Nations is coming in July, as well as how players will be able to “buy” the game. The base game itself will be free for players to download and play tracks. However, the track editor (a rather significant portion of other entries to fans) will be limited to those who opt to pay a yearly fee for access. Now, this may sound like a textbook example of a subscription model, but the kind corporate overlords at Ubisoft have assured us that this is not the case.

In a response to players who had angrily taken to the Trackmania forums, a representative at Ubisoft had this to say:

“Actually it’s not a subscription model but access to the game for a limited time. You pay for having access to the game for one period and that’s it,” … “When the time is over, you have to buy the game again for the time that you want to access it again.”

Definition of "subscription"
Source: Cambridge Dictionary

For the English majors out there, this may be a bit of a shock to find out the subscription model that requires players to pay a yearly subscription is, in fact, not a subscription model. For context, to gain access to the editor without limits, players must pay a yearly fee of $10.

There is also a higher tier available since this is the gaming industry and they like their tiered purchases. “Club access” allows players to use the track editor, as well as gain access to special racing leagues and skins. These prices are admittedly not the worst, as far as some game prices go. Look at the numerous editions for Assassin’s Creed titles, for example. However, it doesn’t excuse the poor response to players’ concerns.

The gaming industry is like any industry; it relies on consumers buying products on a somewhat regular basis. But lately, it seems that many publishers are seeing how far they can push people’s limits before it’s declared enough is enough. Money is a sacred thing, so when the medium many use to escape the real world starts to have a negative impact on their real-life experiences due to being quite costly, it becomes an issue.

This is by far not the worst thing to happen to games lately. Loot boxes are infamous now for their negative impacts on customers, as well as game publishers’ feeble attempts at excusing this poor practice. The most noteworthy being, of course, EA’s representative exclaiming that they don’t see their loot boxes as “loot boxes”, but instead rebranded them as “surprise mechanics.”

Most industries use clever phrasing to cover up or excuse poor practices, it’s by far not exclusive to this industry. Yet lately it feels as though the gaming industry is attempting to pull ahead and see how far they can go, and they’re doing a pretty poor job of it.

Nevertheless, as with all other products delivered with shady practices and money-grabbing opportunities presented in plain sight, there’ll still be an influx of people who do pay for Trackmania this way. Just look at Bethesda’s Fallout 1st if you believe this to be a far-fetched assumption. Publishers only continue to do things such as this as they believe they can get away with it, with all evidence proving this to be the case.

Another Ubisoft representative has had their say on the matter, stating that “It was an answer [written] by someone of the studio to another player question in the 14th page of the forum on a given minute of the day. Welcome to the internet.” He also went in-depth as to why this model was chosen:

I don’t think [the complaints are] nothing, because money is very important,” … “But I hope people can see that our model maybe aligns in a better way with players needs, in our case, than DLCs, microtransactions, yearly sequels or monthly subscription.

The irony of this being that he mentions monthly subscriptions, so at least one person has a vague grasp on what the term means. However, full transparency is still not present as surely the dedicated players would be the ones to buy the game and the additional passes.

This means the additional “club access” could have been added as an optional subscription on top of the base price for those people. This would have allowed the people who aren’t as invested to still get the full Trackmania experience, without the need for an outright baffling way of paying to play.

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A few boring details for your reading pleasure.

I’m someone who plays games as a hobby. The media has carried me through many difficult times; serving as a distraction from real-world problems. Chances are that if you’re here, you can relate to that at least.

Now, the boring stuff. I live in the north of England, studied maths and further maths in college, to then go on and study psychology in university.

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