The Early Access version of kart racer Disney Speedstorm cost up to £59.99, but the full game will be free to play when it launches on 28 September.
Now here’s a strange thing. Usually you’d expect a game that launches in Early Access to be cheaper than the full version. After all, you’re being asked to pay for something that isn’t finished. Likewise for game betas – normally these would be free, as you’re essentially being used as a guinea pig to test whether things like online matchmaking are working properly.
Disney Speedstorm has flipped that thinking on its head. It’s long been known that the game will be free to play on its full release. But when it entered Early Access in April, players were asked to stump up some ready cash for a ‘Founder’s Pack’ to gain the privilege of playing the game ahead of time. The Standard Founder’s Pack costs £25.99, while the Deluxe one is £44.99, and the Ultimate Founder’s Pack costs a whopping £59.99. Each of the packs contain things like access to certain racers, cosmetics and bundles of in-game currency.
Disney Speedstorm is being developed by Gameloft, the same studio behind Disney Dreamlight Valley and the Asphalt racing game series. Speedstorm features a cast of characters from a number of Disney and Pixar properties, including Baloo, Mickey Mouse, Mulan, Sulley and Mike from Monsters Inc., Beauty and the Beast, and various folks from Toy Story. As you’d expect, it’s a racer very much in the style of Mario Kart, with tracks inspired by Disney films and an ever-swelling list of new racing drivers to unlock.
Of course, being a free-to-play game, all of this stuff can end up being very, very expensive. Players can use real-world money to buy in-game tokens, which can be spent on racing suits and new wheels, among other things. And of course, there are loot boxes – called Rewards Boxes here – which offer up the chance of dropping shards that could be used to upgrade or unlock racers.
(Curiously, Nintendo is being taken to court over the use of loot boxes in its mobile title Mario Kart Tour.)
The game’s September release date was confirmed last week, and so far it has received mixed reviews on Steam. One player with nearly 100 hours of playtime on record criticised how the game was “bogged down with Gacha-mechanics”, while another was frustrated at the inability to get their money back: “You cannot request a refund because the game is ‘free’ but requires a non-refundable DLC to play it”. Many of the negative reviews focus on the payment model: otherwise, reviewers praise the music and graphics.
Disney Speedstorm will be released on PC, Xbox, PlayStation and Switch on 28 September.