For a publisher who tends to struggle giving players what they want, the fact that EA commissioned a brand new Skate game is still bewildering. After the release of Skate 3, many thought that the franchise would become dead in the water, but EA announced the formation of a new dev team, Full Circle, who’d be working on a fourth game in the series, which is now known as just “skate.”
However, Full Circle has seemingly caught a lot of people off guard when talking about skate.’s future plans, as they’ve revealed that the game will be completely free-to-play. What’s more is that skate. will be treated like a platform in and of itself going forward. Instead of expecting a Skate 4, 5 and so on, skate. will just be what Full Circle improves and iterates on in the years after launch.
Immediately, the idea of a free-to-play Skate game raised a lot of eyebrows, as free-to-play games can be filled with a whole host of invasive microtransactions and other practices that can feel predatory. Full Circle has been quick to confirm that they don’t want skate. to go down those old familiar roads, stating in a developer diary that skate.’s monetisation and microtransactions will be governed by four key ground rules: no pay-to-win, no map areas locked behind paywall, no paid loot boxes, and no paid gameplay advantages.
Those promises already put skate. ahead of most other EA games, either premium or free-to-play. However, the fact that skate. is going to be free-to-play in general is what’s most exciting, as it gives the game the freedom and ability to lean into the elements of the franchise that are most exciting. The Skate series has always been about community, and making the game free-to-play means that community is about to get bigger than ever.
From what we’ve seen of the pre-alpha footage already, skate. is promising a more connected and ambitious multiplayer experience than we’ve ever seen. The trailer showcases about a dozen players all skating around the city at the same time, which is twice as many players as Skate 3’s multiplayer lobbies. They also just confined players to certain parts of the open world, though it’s not quite clear yet if the multiplayer lobbies in skate. will feature a fully explorable city.
What it will feature though is multiple players moving objects at the same time to create the skate park of their dreams, which is also a huge upgrade from the previous game. Seeing multiple player coordinate to create huge ramps, kickers and street setup, or to even create silly pachinko machines to ragdoll through like what was shown in the trailer is exciting to say the least, and making the game free-to-play will ensure most players will have access to these features.
But community is more than just skating in the same lobbies together. One of the best aspects of Skate 3 was the creation, whether that was the creation of custom skate parks that could be shared online, or people using the in-game video editing tools to create exciting and hilarious clips of their best Skate moments. Full Circle would be daft to remove these elements from skate., and hopefully the free-to-play elements means there’s enough player-created content to keep the game alive between official content drops and patches.
Of course, going free-to-play is likely to have some downsides too. Those who preferred to play the Skate series for the career and single-player modes will likely be left out in the cold with skate. While microtransactions have been promised to be cosmetic only, it’s all but guaranteed that everything will have some kind of price tag or be locked behind some battle pass, and there’s also the worry that skate. will launch broken or incomplete like many live service games.
There are also valid concerns when it comes to preservation with skate.’s status as a free-to-play game. Full Circle have said they’re committed to updating the game for years after launch, but all good things must come to an end, and free-to-play games tend to be easiest to have their plugs pulled. Once skate.’s time in the sun comes to an end, will Full Circle or EA make any attempts to ensure the game is preserved?
Free-to-play might be a dirty or worrying term for many, but for a game like skate., which is going to rely on building a core community, making sure they can get skating without a barrier to entry feels like the right move. We’ll have to wait and see if the final product lives up to the series’ legacy, but for now, there’s every possibility it’ll be one of the best entries in the franchise yet. Let’s just hope that skate. also manages to avoid the pitfalls that other free-to-play games have fallen into.
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