Golf fans were given a treat when Winning Putt, a free-to-play online golfing game where players can personalize characters to compete with each other, recently entered into Open Beta. Winning Putt combines sports elements with those of massively-multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) for an experience unlike any other.

[a]listdaily talks to Ed Chang, Namco Bandai’s Global Brand Director of Digital Games, to find out more about how Winning Putt stands out and gets an ace.

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Tell us about Winning Putt and how it stands out from other golf games.

Winning Putt is a unique combination of two things: 1) A solidly detailed and enjoyable golf game with all the nuances and rules of real golf. 2) Gameplay features from proven genres such as action games, RPGs, and MMOs which allows players to go beyond mere golf  — such as instanced speed runs with 20 simultaneous players, enchanting clubs for greater stats, golf gear with stats. More to be revealed in the near future.

We believe this combination offers something to both gamers who are looking for that extra something in all games they play, and the golfer who is looking for the familiar, but who will be pleasantly surprised and engaged with all of new additions to golf in Winning Putt.

In what ways can friends play and compete with each other online?

Currently the game allows up to foursomes in normal play. 1v1 matches are also possible. The instanced speed runs will allow up to 20 players to play through a course, much like instanced dungeons in MMOs, and win based on score & speed.

How does the character leveling system work, and how deep are the customization options?

Leveling is fairly standard in that you gain experience by playing the game, and in every stroke in a round of golf. In addition, you can accelerate your progression with items from the store.

As for customization, there are many levels to this:

  • First, your character can be deeply customized in the character creator where you can create a stunning beauty or the opposite.
  • Second, there are many items of clothing you can earn and buy that give your golfer a unique look.
  • Third, golf identity is based on gear, and here is where Winning Putt really shines. There are thousands of clubs to discover in the game as well as other types of gear that give you skill or stats such as rings, shoes, visors, glasses as well as clothing. Even if your character and clothing are generic looking, the identity from your performance on the golf course will make you stand out.=

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What can players expect to get out of the Open Beta?

Winning Putt at this point is a highly polished product. We’re making tweaks to players as we get feedback but they can expect a game that has been customized to the Western marketplace as well as a stable product. We’re listening to feedback from all our players as well s trying out new things in the game so be prepared for an experience that will change over time. We feel this is the best long term way to keep the players happy.

Give us feedback, though… that’s what this phase is for!

Is there any chance that Winning Putt will have VR support someday?

We can see the growing popularity of VR very plainly. We love this technology as well. At this point in time the development team is busy with all of the existing tweaks that we are proposing. If the community feels strongly about it then there’s no reason we wouldn’t do this.

What would you say is the best reason to play Winning Putt?

Winning Putt breaks new ground with the combination of solid golf and reality bending gameplay features. Other games are great but none have this combination. Gamers and golfers alike all have something they will love in this game: the gameplay features from non-golf genres, the ability to play golf at any time alone or with friends and the stupendous graphics made possible by CryEngine. There’s definitely something for everybody, and what players don’t expect from their golfing experience will make them play even more.

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This is the sixth game that the Bandai Namco Free-to-Play division has launched. What can we expect from you guys in the future?

Free-to-Play is like is something that is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds. A very large segment of video games has gone to, or plans to embrace, a F2P business in some form or another. As this segment grows, so do our plans.

Also, the business model in many ways allows development teams to more freely explore other types of gameplay and also to mix and match them. A golf game with RPG elements would probably seem risky with a more traditional pay to play model since it’s untried. But in F2P we can experiment with those configurations until they work. That’s the freedom to both players and publishers. And that’s just the beginning…

We see that Console also has a substantial F2P presence as well. While we’re focused on PC currently the business model has gained major traction on consoles and we follow the business model.

Lastly, Bandai Namco has a substantial portfolio of IP that has major popularity in both East and West. The combination of this IP and the expanding F2P business model has already happened. Expect it to continue into the future.

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