My experience with Knockout City has been an overwhelmingly positive one so far, and it’s quickly crawled its way up to be not just one of my favourite games this year, but one of my all-time favourite online experiences. It’s because of this that I’m more than happy to have bought the full deluxe version of the game. Despite that, I can’t help but wish it would go free-to-play in order to reach the audience it deserves and become the next big thing.
Knockout City recently offered up a free trial that saw over two- million players sign up for the game in just a couple of days. For a dodgeball title that seemed likely to fly under the radar during a busy season, this is a big win. That trial period has now ended, although EA has just announced that new players can now play until Rank 25 completely free of charge.
This is an excellent decision for ensuring that new players can see what all the fuss is about, but to be cynical for a moment, it seems like a bit of a half-step towards going completely free-to-play. I understand the reasoning behind the trial; by letting players have enough time to see if the game is for them, they’ll hopefully be invested enough that they’ll want to pay for the full thing.
And don’t get me wrong, Knockout City is absolutely worth the current price of admission. It’s a fantastic spectacle of skill-based gameplay and has already attracted a large audience that could build up a really healthy community and player base. Celebrities like Brie Larson have even started playing the game alongside some influencers, which is sure to bring it some traction – the potential is definitely there.
Still, no matter what trials and bonuses you offer players, there will always be some that won’t buy the full game. This trial is a great idea, but for Knockout City to really take off, it needs to eliminate the paywall altogether.
It doesn’t help that Knockout City is full of microtransactions and cosmetic purchases, which feels a little like having its cake and eating it. It feels a little off when you’re instantly met with the option to buy microtransactions after just paying your way into the game. It would make total sense if it was free-to-play, but right now it just feels greedy. When you compare what Knockout City offers to titles like Fortnite and Apex Legends – which are completely free and offer microtransactions as an added bonus – it doesn’t really make a ton of sense why there’s no free-to-play option in the dodgebrawler. Fortnite has a creative mode, party mode, and so much more that make the microtransactions seem like a fair trade – Knockout City has none of that.
Knockout City is so mechanically sound that I can see it being a big deal competitively as well as casually, similarly to how Fortnite started out. We’ve all seen how much of a runaway success that game has been, and that’s exactly what should happen here. A big part of that success was because it was free, meaning everyone could play as much as they wanted.
Of course, a lot of this is based more on fear than fact right now. We don’t really know how many players have dropped off after the block party has finished or even if any of them did. Knockout City might continue to grow and grow, and that would be fantastic. I just wish it would make a brave step towards ensuring that everybody interested in playing it actually could.
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