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Yesterday, Modus Games released its first actual announcement trailer for its upcoming revival of the Maximum Football series. The trailer was mostly heavily-edited, short clips of action from replays, but there was some gameplay mixed in as well. This gives us an actual indication of how the new football sim might play. The other 2 important tidbits from the trailer are the game's release window, and its price. No specific release date was given, except for a "fall 2023" window. Hopefully it is early fall: August or early September. We don't want the game showing up in the middle of October, when the NFL season is already half over, and the excitement for the new season has already died down a bit.

Modus Games has released the announcement trailer for Maximum Football, due out this fall.

The most interesting piece of information, however, is the game's price. The trailer revealed that Maximum Football will be a "free-to-play" game. Maximum Football's director, Micah Brown, has stated that being free-to-play allows Modus "to build on the game over time, alongside the community." Presumably, this means that there will not be a new, annual release of Maximum Football either. It will likely be a single game that will be updated with new features over the years. Similar to how a game like Fortnite has its different "seasons". According to Micah Brown:

"We want to create a football platform where users can play with tons of different rule sets, field configurations, severe weather changes and more without having to relaunch the game every year. Users shouldn’t have to rebuild their franchises from scratch every year when they purchase a new sports title."

The free-to-play model also means that we won't necessarily have to restart out career campaigns from scratch every year when a new game launches. We can presumably keep playing the same Franchise or Dynasty and develop the same team for years. That sounds awesome! I've been asking Axis Football's devs to implement save file transfers from year to year as well, as it's a great idea for a non-licensed game.

Being able to carry a Franchise save from one game release to another is one item on my Axis Football wishlist.

On the one hand, this is all good news. Free is good. This ensures that anybody who wants to play the game will be able to. No concerns about "wasting money" on a potentially lackluster product.

But on the other hand, Modus has to include some monetization scheme. They have to make money. They have to pay their developers for ongoing maintenance and development. They have to maintain servers for online play. And so forth. This has me a bit concerned, considering the game is un-licensed and will emphasize customization. How much of that customization will the users have to pay for? Again, from Micah Brown:

"In addition to the robust customization options that exist for players, we will be offering a selection of premium goods and licensed equipment that can be purchased to further expand the customization options."

Maybe there will be adequate customization options out of the box? In that case, users will have decent freedom to create the team they want and play single-player without additional charges. This seems to be in-line with Brown's statements about wanting users to have "robust customization options". So hopefully that means that the game will have a reasonably robust suite of customization options out of the box.

Or will we only have access to a bare minimum suite of customization options out of the box, and we'll have to buy new uniform colors, jersey styles, team logos, player equipment (such as arm bands, helmet visors, and neck rolls), stadiums, and so forth? In that case, maybe a few purchases here and there will be justifiable. If I was willing to pay between $30 and $60 for the game, retail, then I suppose I can support the game by buying some uniforms. After all, I'm not averse to the idea of micro-transactions in free-to-play games. It's when publishers charge $70 (or more) for a game up front, and then still lock cosmetics and options behind additional paywalls that grinds my gears.

How robust will the customization options be, if selling cosmetics ends up being part of Modus' business model?

But the monetization scheme might not be so benign, and could create bleed-on effects that hurt the game in other ways. Will there be loot boxes? Will there be some kind of level progression system that requires grinding, and which can be sped up with "time-saver" micro-transactions? Will there by some kind of "Ultimate Team" equivalent? Will there be "pay-to-win" game modes? Will the entire game be pay-to-win (via level grinding and time-savers)? I do not get the feeling that the game will completely embrace a pay-to-win design philosophy, so I'm not terribly worried about that possibility. But it is a possibility. And even if the game does not launch with a pay-to-win mechanics, it's always possible that they could be added later.

The idea of a potential Ultimate Team-inspired gameplay mode has me the most worried. After all, many Madden gamers blame that game's Ultimate Team for being the reason that EA and Tiburon have largely neglected Franchise Mode and core gameplay. Ultimate Team is where they make their money -- billions of dollars of money! -- and so they focus most of their development efforts on that mode and making it as addictive as possible, while providing only token upgrades to Franchise Mode (if that). The idea of a monetized, competitive multiplayer mode hogging the attention of another sim football game is not a very happy thought.

Or heck, maybe Modus will be reliant on in-game ads to make most of their money? If so, I hope that the ads are as un-obtrusive as possible. Maybe some billboards in the stadium, or some sponsorship logos in some of the presentation overlays. Heck, I'd even be OK with having short, 10-second ads inserted at natural stopping points. Madden used to do this at quarter breaks, and I honestly didn't mind it. Having short ads at natural stopping points like quarter breaks, changes of possession, timeouts, the 2-minute warning, and halftime could actually lend an air of authenticity to the game's presentation. And if they are short (and hopefully also skippable), then they shouldn't disrupt the flow of gameplay too much.

Ad billboards and actual commercial breaks have been in football games before.

Again, it's a free-to-play game, so some concessions have to be made somewhere. Watching a few short ad breaks like this in a match is way preferable than having the entire game be compromised by pay-to-win mechanics. It's not even close. Just as long as the corporations who own the ads don't copyright strike all my live streams and gameplay uploads. Please, please, please, Modus, make sure that any ads that you run in-game will not lead to streamers and content creators receiving copyright strikes from the ad owners!

Unfortunately, we won't know any of this for sure until Modus opens up about the monetization details and long-term plans for the game. They have stated that some features will not be present in the game at launch. There will not be in-game commentary. There will not be Canadian rules. And there will not be a pro Franchise Mode (though there will be a College Dynasty Mode). Those missing features are planned for future updates, however. So maybe within 6 to 12 months of the game's launch this fall, we'll have all those extra features.

I'm going to continue going through the trailer, dev diaries, and other interviews and promotional materials and make some educated guesses about how the game will play. But I'm going to save that for a future post. For now, I just wanted to express my initial reaction to the free-to-play pricing scheme, and express my concerns and expectations for how that might play out. I'm optimistic that Modus won't do anything too egregious or offensive. Everything I've seen and read from them suggests that they want to continue where Canuck Play started, and create a fun, sim-based football game that can serve as a AA alternative to Madden.

For now, I will remain cautiously optimistic. Fingers crossed that it all works out.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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