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Is NFS Unbound Free to Play? The Complete Lowdown

Before we get into the nitty gritty details, let‘s kick things off with a clear answer to this question – no, NFS Unbound is not free-to-play in the traditional sense. There is no way to just download and play the full NFS Unbound game 100% free.

However, all hope is not lost! There are plenty of clever ways for savvy gamers to access NFS Unbound either for free, cheap, or at least try it out first before buying. Through services like EA Play and Xbox Game Pass, deals, discounts, or even good old fashioned borrowing from a buddy, you‘ve got options.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explore all the tricks and loopholes for getting Need for Speed Unbound in your library without plunking down $70 of your hard-earned cash upfront.

Putting NFS Unbound into Context

Before we dive into specifics, let‘s take a quick look at why NFS Unbound doesn‘t follow the free-to-play model like some other major game franchises have adopted lately.

The Need for Speed series dates back 25+ years, with the first NFS game launching back in 1994. During the 90s and 2000s, NFS established its pedigree through premium games like NFS Hot Pursuit, Underground, and Most Wanted. Paying a standard $50 or $60 for the latest NFS release just felt normal for fans of these AAA racing experiences.

Flash forward to today, and the NFS franchise remains one of EA‘s major annual franchises, with each new entry featuring robust content and production values. NFS Unbound spent 3 years in development by the seasoned Criterion Games studio.

Given this legacy and budget, EA has little incentive to give away Unbound for free and miss out on major revenue opportunities. Free-to-play economics make more sense for continuously updated, live service style games.

However, the rising base price of $70 on next-gen consoles like PlayStation 5 has caused some sticker shock. This has gamers exploring their options to ease the hit to their wallet.

Luckily, between EA Play, Xbox Game Pass, discounts, and more, you‘ve got plenty of avenues to access Unbound for less. Let‘s get into the juicy details…

Breaking Down the NFS Unbound Editions

First, a quick recap of the NFS Unbound editions available and their price points:

  • Standard Edition – Base version of the game.
    • $69.99 on PlayStation, Xbox, Steam, Origin
  • Deluxe Edition – Adds 4 exclusive cars, deluxe packaging, decals.
    • $79.99 on PlayStation, Xbox
  • Palace Edition – Deluxe contents plus Palace cosmetic pack, driving effects, credits boost.
    • $89.99 on PlayStation, Xbox

As context, consider that the previous NFS entry, 2020‘s Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered, launched at $39.99. So NFS Unbound represents almost a $30 price hike.

Diving deeper into sales data, Hot Pursuit Remastered sold over 1 million copies worldwide as of January 2021 across all platforms.

Meanwhile, EA has over 25 million EA Play subscribers as of early 2022. Even if just a fraction of those subscribers try out the Unbound trial, that represents a massive audience.

This gives a sense of the large userbases who will have potential access to Unbound either through discounts or subscription perks.

How to Access NFS Unbound with EA Play

One of the best ways to land NFS Unbound either cheap or free is via an EA Play membership. Let‘s do a quick rundown of what EA Play offers:

EA Play

  • Cost: $4.99 / month or $29.99 / year
  • NFS Unbound Access: 10-hour trial
  • Other Perks:
    • 10% discount on purchases
    • 200+ games in The Play List
    • Exclusive challenges and rewards
    • Early trials of new releases

EA Play Pro

  • Cost: $14.99 / month or $99.99 / year
  • NFS Unbound Access: Full game early access
  • Other Perks:
    • Early access to all new EA games
    • 300+ games in The Play List
    • In-game bonuses and DLC
    • Annual game upgrade editions

For casual racing fans or those on a budget, EA Play is clearly the smarter call over EA Play Pro. You still get a decent NFS Unbound trial period plus a nice discount on buying the full game.

Let‘s break down exactly how to maximize EA Play for NFS Unbound access:

  • Sign up for a 1 month EA Play subscription for $4.99
  • Enjoy your 10-hour Unbound trial during that month
  • Use your 10% member discount to buy the Standard Edition of NFS Unbound for just $62.99 instead of $69.99

Total cost = $67.98

Compared to buying the Standard Edition alone at $69.99, you save $2 by using the EA Play trial and discount!

Considering the Deluxe Edition is $79.99, your total savings become much more substantial by going the EA Play route.

When Will NFS Unbound Hit Xbox Game Pass?

Now what about getting Unbound through an Xbox Game Pass membership? Unfortunately, unlike EA Play, NFS Unbound is not available on Game Pass at launch.

Based on precedent, it will likely take 6-12 months after release for Unbound to make its way into the Game Pass libraries. For example, It Takes Two took about 8 months after launch to hit Game Pass.

However, since an EA Play membership is now included with Game Pass Ultimate, Xbox gamers can access the same 10-hour trial as outlined above.

Gaming industry analysts like Jeff Grubb predict NFS Unbound will land on Game Pass in late 2023:

“I don’t think that it’s going to be a permanent exclusive off of Game Pass. I think it will eventually get there maybe next summer or next fall."

So Xbox faithful will need to make use of that EA Play trial until Unbound joins the Game Pass lineup down the road.

Beyond Subscriptions: More Ways to Save

Let‘s explore a few other money-saving tactics for getting NFS Unbound below the full $69.99 price tag:

Buy a Physical Copy Used

Shopping used gaming copies at retailers like GameStop is a time-tested way to save. Unbound physical copies will discount quicker than digital.

Wait for a Sale

Major sales on PSN, Xbox Store, Steam like the holiday sales can see up to 50% off new releases. Worth waiting a few months if money is tight.

Game Share with a Friend

On Xbox and PlayStation you can designate one other console as your "Home" device and share access to your game library. Take turns buying titles!

Use Trade-in Credit

Trade in old games you don‘t play at GameStop or elsewhere to lower Unbound‘s price.

Find a Discount Code Online

Sites like CDKeys sell digital codes at a discount. Or look for coupon codes on deal sites.

Borrow from a Friend

Don‘t forget good old fashioned borrowing or lending games with your buddies. They get to try Unbound and you play for free!

Why Does NFS Unbound Cost More?

As we’ve explored, Need for Speed Unbound launching at $69.99 on new consoles like PlayStation 5 vs the traditional $59.99 has certainly raised some eyebrows. Let‘s analyze the key factors driving this price hike:

Development Costs Have Ballooned

The technical complexity of programming, artwork, animation, and assets for new games on PS5/Xbox Series X hardware is exponentially higher than 10-15 years ago. Teams of hundreds may work on a AAA title now. Not to mention rising operating expenses like office space and payroll.

As an example, reports estimate Rockstar spent over $265 million producing Red Dead Redemption 2 over 8 years. Games have simply gotten more expensive to make, so prices are adjusting to match.

New Consoles Are More Advanced

Sony and Microsoft invested heavily in custom architecture and bleeding edge components for their new consoles. This power comes at a cost – both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X have higher retail prices at launch than past generations. With higher baseline console prices, pricier software makes sense.

Maximizing Revenue and Profits

At the end of the day, major publishers are public companies looking to maximize profits and shareholder returns. If the market supports $70 games, then they‘d be doing themselves a disservice sticking to $60 just out of tradition. Here‘s Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad explaining the simple economics:

“The increase in development costs and the need for games to make as much money as possible, as quickly as possible (games make most money at launch), means $70 makes perfect sense.”

The Impact of Inflation

Lastly, inflation is always a factor. US inflation recently hit a 40-year high of 9.1% in June 2022 due to global supply chain woes, labor shortages, and more. When everyday goods and services cost more, gaming can‘t escape price creep forever. Especially with development costs rising too.

Evaluating Your NFS Unbound Options

Well friend, we‘ve covered a ton of ground here on getting Need for Speed Unbound in your game library as affordably as possible. Let‘s do a quick recap:

  • NFS Unbound has a premium $69.99 price tag on next-gen consoles that may give sticker shock to some
  • Services like EA Play and Xbox Game Pass don‘t offer the full game free, but provide cheaper access via trials and discounts
  • Watching for used copies, sales, or borrowing from friends are other money-saving tactics
  • The economics of game development and platform pricing help explain the $70 new normal

While gone are the days of abundant free-to-play offerings, you’ve still got plenty of options to enjoy street racing through Chicago in NFS Unbound even on a budget. A little patience and strategy can go a long way.

At the end of the day, only you can decide if buying Unbound day one is worth the premium cost of entry. My advice? Take it for a spin via EA Play first and go from there. Let me know what route you decide! I‘m always down to chat gaming. Enjoy the ride!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.