One of the biggest controversies in gaming since the crash of 1983 has finally come to a head. Micro-transactions. A long time ago I wrote an article that looked at both sides of the micro-transactions argument, the freemium phone model and how that can work in video games, but then also how it doesn’t work. I came to the conclusion that when you slowly feed the player free ‘loot-boxes’ that only have cosmetic items that don’t effect gameplay that isn’t too bad. There is still an ethical grey area with the ‘gambling’ going on but the fact you could get some boxes for free it just meant that a degree of self control was needed. However I said that when this system affects gameplay directly it becomes unfair and ‘pay to win’.
Lo and behold however, the Empire of gaming… ‘EA’, strikes again and may have finally tipped over the overflowing bucket of this plague on video games.
Some context before get into what this means for us as gamers. When Ea released the Star Wars Battlefront 2 beta people were very unhappy, with good reason, about the multiple currencies and loot-boxes, as if you poured enough money into it you could get items that would directly affect gameplay. Early access for the game rolls around and have EA fixed this? Nope! In fact it was worse. People were not happy about the fact that characters and abilities were locked behind tonnes of hours of playtime which could be prevented by paying for it. Now EA responded by greatly reducing the in game cost of these things and the notorious 40 hours to unlock Darth Vader came down to about 10-15 hours. Better… but not quite what we wanted still. EA claim all this was to give an incentive of ‘reward’ for players who unlocked these things. 600,000 downvotes on Reddit later and micro-transactions are gone from Battlefront 2, for now.
EA have said they will be coming back at some point, ‘improved’.
It has finally happened, this phone model of gaming has come crashing down, head exec’s who don’t understand the first thing about gaming and jut do all this for profit might just realise you aren’t gonna make any sales with this model. Why? Because it’s pay-to-win. Who in their right mind want to pay 50 pounds for a game to then either have to grind for ages for characters you EXPECT TO HAVE?! Vader and Luke in a Star Wars game should be playable from the get go. Not behind some long time unlock. Now I Know it was reduced but the fact the game was released in such a state illustrates EA’s game plan, force people to pay. The only reason this hasn’t happened is because of fan backlash.
It’s about time companies like EA stop looking at games like spreadsheets for money making. They need to understand that after we pay for something we expect to be able to just play it from there. Yes make us unlock stuff because quite rightly it feels rewarding, but not when these rewards are stuck behind days of playing or just paying for them. I do not blame DICE for this, they made a good game, yeah it has its own set of problems but it is still a solid experience. Just because EA have said “oh sorry, didn’t know lads, paying for stuff is gone *whispers* but it’ll be back *rubs hands together*” does not mean we should forgive and forget, as soon as they come back we need to slam EA again, because if they get away with this in the end this is it. Micro-transactions will have evolved to pay-to-win and be everywhere.
I defended Blizzard and their model in Overwatch before, I naively thought that as it was only cosmetic it was okay, but it has been huge companies like them that opened the door for EA to do something that could ruin games for us. I’ve flipped, as of right now we need to destroy EA’s business model as we have been doing, then hopefully companies will just eliminate micro-transactions completely. Sadly this probably won’t happen, I mean it makes money so why would they?
Hopefully this is it, we will have to see.