Trackmania changes its subs model after belatedly realising it was too generous, dev says it has 'to be realistic'

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Developer Nadeo has announced changes to the Trackmania business model, following the 2020 game's recent re-release on consoles. This iteration of Trackmania was something of a soft reboot for the series (heavily based on Trackmania Nations) and arrived with a free-to-play business model, under which players could access a bunch of the game's features for free and subscribe to access additional community content: "standard" access costing around $10 a year, and "club" access $25 a year. 

That model (and the fact you need a Ubisoft account to play) has inevitably attracted some pushback over the game's life thus far, though I found it pretty generous and played this latest version without paying anything. Three years after release, however, and with the game hitting various consoles this May, Nadeo has somewhat belatedly announced it has been too generous—and things are changing.

In a new post on the game's site Nadeo says the console release has "surpassed our highest expectations in terms of both amount of players and playing time" which means "we need to adapt the quantity of content given for free with the Starter Access". Adapting the quantity of content, of course, means it's been giving too much away. There's even what could be considered a slight backhand at the moaners: Nadeo says it has "to be realistic and compare the situation with the efforts made by the studio".

Thus the "starter" edition of Trackmania, which is the free access point, will now give access to the first 10 campaign tracks per season (each season consists of 25 tracks), and access to royal and ranked modes, and the community focused arcade channel. This will apply from the winter 2024 update which is due January 9 2024. 

"Be sure we understand that many of you have become accustomed to playing the full campaign for free and we would have preferred to keep it that way," says Nadeo. "Our primary goal is to keep Trackmania live as long as possible, and have it enjoyed by a maximum player [sic] from around the world thanks to the right balance for players who play for free and others who are making it possible [by paying] for two decades."

I'm detecting a very slight level of petulance from Nadeo in that last line which, sympathy for the devil and all that, one can probably let slide. I've played various Trackmania games over the years and they've always seemed pretty good value-for-money. I'm not the kind of player who is obsessive about this game but, if I was, the current subscription model doesn't seem enormously greedy: and it must be deeply frustrating to provide a game where the majority of content is free for all, and get constant sniping for daring to charge for other parts.

As part of the change, the existing "standard" and "club" tiers are being merged into a new "club access" subscription which will cost $19.99 a year, again applicable from the winter 2024 update. Nadeo also notes that the racer's 20th anniversary hits in November and looks forward to players joining in for this "incredible milestone", though it doesn't seem like any in-game celebration is planned.

The backdrop to all of this is of course Ubisoft, which has owned Nadeo since 2009. But the big bad publisher in this instance just doesn't seem all that bad: Since acquiring Nadeo, Ubisoft has let the studio focus entirely on making Trackmania games, and been content to let the series roll along (until now). Players didn't like the existing subscription model and, well, be careful what you wish for. Nadeo is altering the deal. Pray it doesn't alter it any further.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."