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Namco Bandai insists Ridge Racer Slipstream in-app purchases aren't evil

"It plays like any console game."

Namco Bandai has insisted the in-app purchases found in £1.99 mobile game Ridge Racer Slipstream don't ruin the experience.

According to Alexandre Adjadj, director of mobile sales and strategic development at Namco Bandai Games America, Ridge Racer Slipstream works like a console game.

"As opposed to many games that have in-app purchases, the difference here is you don't have to spend any money to get the entire game," he told Eurogamer ahead of today's launch on the App Store.

"It plays like any console game. You start the game then you unlock new cars and new tracks."

So, what can you buy in the game?

According to Adjadj, you can spend real-world money to buy cars and tracks, if you don't want to grind for them, and you can accelerate their delivery. Apparently when you buy a car you have to wait a few hours for it to be delivered to you. You can pay to speed this process up.

Elsewhere, you can pay for car parts, such as a new exhaust or engine, which you keep forever, and pay for car perks, such as extra nitrous for a race. These are considered consumables and expire after use.

Mobile racing games have a somewhat troubled reputation among gamers for their in-app purchases, and when Namco Bandai announced Ridge Racer Slipstream, many expressed concern.

"You can get by by paying nothing else than the premium price the game will be at when it's launched," Adjadj insisted.

"You can finish the game and unlock everything and spend nothing. Additionally, all the updates, the more tracks, cars and game modes we will release in the future will be free."

Adjadj said Ridge Racer Slipstream's value for money was "so much higher than anything else that has been published on portable consoles in the past few years when it comes to Ridge Racer".

"I think fans of the franchise will be happy and new entrants to the franchise will be quite excited."

Namco Bandai raised eyebrows when it emerged the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One would launch without a new Ridge Racer game.

Namco Bandai's arcade racing series has a history of launching alongside new hardware - especially PlayStation consoles. But this time around, it failed to do so.

Ridge Racer Slipstream comes following the release of last year's PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game Ridge Racer Unbounded, which failed to set tills alight, and this year's microtransaction-packed free-to-play PC conversion Ridge Racer Driftopia, which is on Steam Early Access. In 2011, Ridge Racer launched on the PlayStation Vita, but it was panned by critics, including our own, as was 2009 mobile game Ridge Racer Accelerated.

It's uncertain times for Ridge Racer then - and Adjadj admitted the franchise "had not been treated very well" by his paymasters in Japan.

UPDATE: Before we continue, we've been asked to point out that Alexandre Adjadj is not empowered to talk about Namco Bandai as a group or other Ridge Racer games than Ridge Racer Slipstream, and the following comments about Namco Bandai or other Ridge Racer games are a personal opinion and do not reflect Namco Bandai's official position.

ORIGINAL STORY CONTINUES: "Bear in mind it's a Japanese organisation, so most of the employees are Japanese. Namco Bandai Games is a very big organisation and has been in existence for a very long time. They have their old ways. Especially for Japanese companies old ways are by culture. The older ways are the better ways. Older people are usually considered the wisest, which is not always the best, but that's the way it is. It's a cultural thing.

"So when it comes to franchise development outside of Japan, it's not just Japanese any more. The situation is there are definitely some challenges to communicate. When a guy like me says, hey, let's do a great mobile game for Ridge Racer, my colleagues in Tokyo don't necessarily think the same. So it takes time to convince them it's a good idea. At the end of the day the money belongs to them."

"Namco Bandai Games is a very big organisation and has been in existence for a very long time. They have their old ways."

Alexandre Adjadj, director of mobile sales and strategic development at Namco Bandai Games America
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Adjadj described Namco Bandai as an organisation built in "silos", with multiple silos in Japan. These silos are teams that work together but "don't communicate very well". He compared the situation to the way Sony Pictures fails to communicate with the rest of the wider Sony group.

"It's not mistakes, it's more the heritage of an organisational structure that was more adapted to the world as it was 15 or 20 years ago."

In the case of Ridge Racer Accelerated, which was developed by Namco Bandai in Japan, Adjadj said the company thought about the Japanese market for this game "first and foremost". "They didn't think about the entire world. But they don't know the entire world. When you're Japanese you know Japan and that's it. Maybe a bit of South Korea, but that's all. You don't know other consumers, what they want and how much content they need to feel positive about the game.

"No one cares about Game Center in Japan, or Facebook. It's a weird thing. That's because the company is managed in silos."

Adjadj's decision-making relates to mobile development, which is separate to decision-making for console and PC. Because of this, he had nothing to do with Ridge Racer Driftopia. "And I don't want to have anything to do with Driftopia," he added.

"I haven't played the game to be honest with you, but if you want to play the game you just have to take Ridge Racer Unbounded and then you have Ridge Racer Driftopia. They're pretty much the same game. That will be hopefully the last time we have a game like that, with multiple different SKUs in the market at the same time but disconnected from one another.

"I'd like to build a global marketing strategy for those two products, because we have to make the best of the situation. But it's very difficult when both projects are managed by different teams, and the two teams don't communicate together because they're not aware of what the other is doing."

But this structure is changing, Adjadj said, alongside an attitude more re-focused on content. Slipstream is developed by Namco Bandai Games America's production team in San Jose, with engineering done by Hungarian developer Invictus Games, which has created a number of mobile racing games.

And there may be light at the end of the tunnel for those who want a next-gen Ridge Racer. Adjadj suggested that if Ridge Racer Slipstream is successful, it may help convince Namco Bandai in Japan to greenlight a new game.

"Basically, if this game is critically and commercially successful there is a strong possibility that something might be done for next-gen," he said.

"It's not like they're not thinking about it. It might make them think, hey, let's do a free to play Ridge Racer game, or a boxed game, or a $49.99 special edition Ridge Racer HD Collection."

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