Update: Ubisoft Nadeo managing director Florent “Hylis” Castelnerac clarified on Twitter that the Trackmania Nations remake is in fact subscription based, but added that "it's not the point."
"In Trackmania, you will keep the 100 official + 365 tracks of the day after your yearly access and it is more related to traditional offline game content," he wrote in a message posted to Twitlonger. "The question is that for online games that can benefit from support for years, what is the best model for each game."
Castelnerac said that in his opinion, $10 for a year of the service, and then the opportunity pay another $10 for another year—or not, if you prefer—makes more sense than paying full price for a game that many people won't play for a year anyway. And for those who do stay committed to it, the pricing scheme makes it easier for developers to continue supporting the game new content over the long run.
That also holds for the high-end tier of $30 per year, or $60 for three years. "The idea here is that for most engaged players, we don't want them to have to pay on a regular basis and also for us to engage accordingly to the numbers on more long term. If we support the game for three years and they are still there, we hope they will be happy with our work and renew their subscription," Castelnerac wrote.
"We set a top limit to it because most engaged players can sometimes spend a lot and that we want to leave no one out of the track. Of course that amount is a lot, but $20 per year is still something we believe is okay for one of your top online activity."
Castelnerac said that many of the complaints arose from gamers who want to pay for the game once and own it "forever." He described that as a "delicate" issue, because Trackmania games tend to have very long legs: "We are even still loading maps made in 2006 in the most recent Stadium edition," he wrote.
"I don't think [the complaints are] nothing, because money is very important," he wrote. "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."
As for why a Ubisoft rep said that the new Trackmania doesn't use a subscription model, Castelnerac said, "It was an answer [written] by someone of the studio to another player question in the 14th page of forum on a given minute of the day. Welcome to the internet."
Ubisoft announced a somewhat unusual pricing scheme for the upcoming Trackmania Nations reboot last week: The base game will be free, but full access to the track editor (which is a major part of Trackmania's appeal) costs $10 per year, while full-on "Club Access," which includes admission to special racing leagues, exclusive skins, and that sort of thing, is $30 per year.
Predictably, some of those who were looking forward to the game are not happy about the scheme. Trackmania fans in this Reddit thread said they'd rather pay full price to own the game permanently, or that they're unhappy with subscription-based pricing as a matter of general principle.
In response to complaints, Ubisoft has posted a message on the Maniaplanet forums stating that Trackmania doesn't use subscription pricing at all.
"Actually it's not a subscription model but an access to the game for a limited time. You pay for having access to the game for one period and that's it," a Ubisoft rep wrote. "When the time is over, you have to buy the game again for the time that you want to access it again."
It's a very creative way to describe a subscription without calling it a subscription, and predictably it hasn't smoothed the waters: Several redditors in this thread equate the response to EA's 2019 description of loot boxes in videogames as "surprise mechanics."
But there also appears to be some confusion as to what is and isn't included at the free tier, which is contributing to the upset. For one, the initial post in that thread states that the track editor is only available at the $10 tier, but the pricing FAQ states that the full editor is included at no charge—the limitation is that it's restricted to saving just one track.
It also isn't clear how exactly server access will be restricted. The pricing page says free players will be able to "try" map review servers, but those who pay for standard access will have "full access" to them. I've emailed Ubisoft for more information and will update if I receive a reply.
The Trackmania reboot is set to come out on July 1. You can find out more about the game at trackmania.com.