When the open-world, cops versus robbers game APB hits computers this summer it will include an unusual pricing option that charges per a minute rather than a month.
That's because all but the most hardcore online computer gamers are typically paying for more game then they need, E.J. Moreland, design lead for Realtime Worlds, told Kotaku this week.
Realtime Worlds' massively mulitplayer game will still include the option to pay for a month's worth of unlimited playtime for $10. But Moreland and the folks at Realtime Worlds suspect most gamers will ultimately decide to purchase packs of gameplay hours, 20 hours for $7.
"We looked at a lot of different pricing plans," Moreland said.
They even looked at the possibility of delivering the game for free and just charging for upgrades and customization, but ultimately Realtime Worlds' founder Dave Jones decided that offering a pay as you go plan seemed "pretty fair."
Players will receive 50 hours of gameplay when the buy APB, and then will have to either decide to buy additional hour packs or pay the monthly fee.
And the clock of paid gameplay doesn't start ticking until players hop into the action zones of the game. Players won't have to pay a penny to access the social districts where characters can interact with one another and customize their look.
Realtime Worlds settled on the initial free 50 hours after doing quite a bit of research, Moreland said, looking at typical play times in Modern Warfare 2, Call of Duty 4, Battlefield and even World of Warcraft.
"There's nothing out there exactly like us" in terms of gameplay," Moreland said.
When the found was that most people tend to spend 90 minutes to three hours in a session. And only the hardcore gamers do daily sessions.
"Three hours is a magic number for us," Moreland said. "We found most players don't go beyond that in one session in our game."
The social districts of APB, Moreland said, could also become a place where some gamers spend most of their time. In fact, the developer is even playing around with the idea of making it free for anyone to access, whether they buy the game or not.
"With the social district there is a compelling investigation to be made into making the social district entirely free to play, building that out to be a stand alone," he said. "There is going to be two kinds of audiences in APB: People who want to play the action game and think it's cool and then people for whom customization is the driver.
Realtime Worlds is already looking into building out the social districts of their game to include more features for people not as interesting in the gunplay.
"We're talking about adding player housing soon," Moreland said.
In theory, gamers could spend all of their time in the social districts creating their own clothing lines, car art or tattoos and selling them in game for APB's in-game currency.
While that in-game currency can be traded among players, there is no way to cash out, Moreland added.
The notion of breaking the game world in half, allowing players to interact, customize and socialize without having to worry about a clock ticking, is an interesting concept. As is the notion of only paying for the time you spend in game.
Perhaps this is the sort of pricing structure that could lead gamers to spend more reasonable hours in the game.