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You can’t please all of the people all of the time, as Atari is finding out with its new mobile take on RollerCoaster Tycoon.
The long-awaited sequel to the classic PC game series has been poorly received since it launched last week, averaging 2.5 stars out of five in the App Store, with reviewers pushing back against the $3 game’s adoption of micro-transactions. But Frédéric Chesnais, CEO of Atari’s parent company Atari SA, said it’s too early to throw in the towel.
“We don’t pretend that we know everything,” Chesnais said in an interview with Re/code. “But it’s very rare for a game to hit five out of five [stars] on first launch.”
He acknowledged that the company is listening to fans’ responses and looking at in-game analytics to fix bugs and possibly change the in-game economy “if needed.”
“We are not blind and we are not deaf,” he said.
A common thread in the negative reviews has been the way RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile asks players to either wait for new attractions to be built, sometimes for hours, or instead pay real money to buy “tickets” that speed up construction. In game jargon, this is known as an “energy mechanic,” and is found in free-to-play games ranging from Angry Birds Go! to PBA Bowling; last year, Disney abandoned an energy mechanic in its puzzle game Where’s My Water 2 when it came under fire from critics.
The monetization tactic is also common to many mobile simulation games that are like RollerCoaster Tycoon. But Atari’s use of the RCT name, albeit without the involvement of the games’ original creator, Chris Sawyer, means many gamers came in with specific expectations, and having to pay repeatedly was not among them.
Chesnais said those expectations should have been different.
“Yeah, you have to wait a little bit, but so what?” he said. “The world was not built overnight. They’re reviewing a mobile game, and a mobile game can’t be a PC game. … People are mad we did not release the PC game first.”
By that, he’s referring to a new computer entry in the RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise for PC, slated for release later this year, which Atari has already promised will be a “completely different game.” Chesnais said it would have “multiplayer and social features” but couldn’t say for sure if the PC version would use the same micro-transaction model as the mobile game.
“We have not made a decision on the PC game,” he said. “It’s entertainment, but it’s also business.”