What stands out about TURBO Studios’ recent announcement of its free-to-play partnership with Nexon is what it doesn’t say. Will the first title out of Dumbo’s new game studio have a pay-to-something element to it?
TURBO is a new studio that only recently started to give hints about what it’s working on. It’s led by CEO Yoshei Ishii, former director of business development at CCP Games, publisher of EVE Online. In the announcement about the partnership, the TURBO team said it wanted to bring AAA ambition to mobile gaming.
Nexon is a global publisher of free-to-play games. Last week it announced a deal with TURBO to publish its first mobile game, sometime in 2015. Details about the deal were not disclosed.
“The opportunity to combine our local attitude and creative instincts with the proven expertise, reach and resources of Nexon is tremendous,” Ishii said in the release. “Partnering with Nexon lets us retain our focus on our true passion — developing killer core games that people around the world will love. Teaming up with people who understand how to propel our vision globally is invaluable.”
TURBO describes itself as a team of industry veterans. In the recent announcement, the studio also addressed the prevalent skepticism of free-to-play games. Many free-to-play titles are ad supported, but others reap revenue by pushing players to buy items in the game or to pay to get past certain levels within it. The frustration is often captured in the epithet “pay-to-win.”
Senior producer James Mielke addressed core gamers’ skepticism of free-to-play in a blog post on the company’s site. It mostly talks about how much creative influence Nexon will have over the company as it develops.
However, the question on every gamers’ mind is: free, but how free?
One passage in Mielke’s post seems to hint that the company’s first game won’t be totally free. He writes: “As senior producer on our game I can say with confidence that we are making a great game, one that people will find value in no matter what their level of investment.”
‘Investment’ there could refer to time, but probably not. It suggests that something can be paid for in the game. Odds are, if you get into the game it will make more and more convincing arguments for players to pay.
TURBO shows 16 employees on its about page.