Oct 11, 2017
This fall's gamut of video game releases is a mess. Publishers and studios' decisions regarding pre-orders, microtransactions, and downloadable content (DLC) have marred what is usually the most exciting time of the year in video games.
Caveat lector: This is a (not so) veiled personal venting of frustration against microtransactions in general.
Here’s a brief description of the controversy for each of the key releases this fall.
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (MvC:I)
MvC:I’s character selection isn't as robust as expected from previous entries in the franchise. The character models are bad. For example, Frank West’s model doesn't even match the Dead Rising game from which he’s from. Chun Li's eyes are red, like in no Street Fighter ever. Other models are just low quality and subpar. The fighting stages are also like that of the previous generation (PS3, Xbox360) generation. Gameplay has "free to play" feel. Usually a cheap experience repeating over and over. To make matters worse, the DLC characters look considerably better. This implies development money is reserved for extra payed content instead of having the highest quality content on disc. There is also a $200 collector's edition that contains extremely cheap quality "easter egg" like infinity stones.
NBA 2K18 was launched with unnecessarily expensive cosmetic items and skill adjustments in Neighborhood Social Space. This required quite a bit of grinding to achieve any substantial amount of the Virtual Currency, therefore encouraging players to spend real money for the in-game perks. This led to fan backlash and resulted in a patch to significantly reduce the price of the cosmetic items such as haircuts, coloring and facial hair.
Forza Motorsport 7
Every entry in the Forza Motorsport series in the past has allowed the player to tweak the difficulty in various ways to gain a higher reward of in game credits. These credits are used to buy cars, upgrades, and visual mods. In Forza 7, those tweaks are now relegated to "prize crates". Fortunately, real money isn't part of this equation yet as you cannot use real money to buy in game CR or prize crates. Forza's crates come in a variety of tiers and CR costs. At the low end of the spectrum, the "basic mods crate" costs 20,000 CR; an amount that can be earned by completing two standard races. On the higher end of the spectrum, you can buy an "elite mixed crate" for 150,000 CR or 300,000 CR for a limited-time "lucky car crate."
This has also led to fan backlash and negativity. I know I don't want to play this game anymore. I would always tweak the difficulty to increase the rewards. I loved getting to the higher end cars. Now, this would take potentially more time and effort without a rewarding challenge to make it feel worthwhile.
Middle-earth: Shadows of War
It was announced that Shadows of War contains a “War Chest”, loot box system that provides random rewards for spending real world money. The War Chests provide random rarities of orcs and consumables that give you in game boosts (ie timed boost to experience gained). The game revolves around randomized orcs that you enslave to build multiple armies. The game system requires the player to have decent orcs to make progress. These orcs can permanently die. Throughout the course of the game, you will kill, recruit, and replace tons of orcs. There are the standard rarity tiers of orcs; Legendary, Epic, Rare, Uncommon etc. The main character also equips sets of gear including swords and bows. This is also constantly changing as you progress through the game. The pace at which you complete the game is directly proportional to how much money you want to spend. This also leads to questions about how much padding was added to the game to encourage players to buy War Chests.
Assassin's Creed Origins
GameStop’s pre-order campaign consisted of an animated ad previewing the game. The animation is interrupted by a confused camel and the message: "Sorry. The Bonus Mission Is Blocked. Unless you pre-order Assassin’s Creed Origins.” Really GameStop?! Extra content should be that, extra. It should be a reward, a bonus, an extra thing that makes you feel good. This ad is passive-aggressive, annoying and makes player's feel they are missing out on something.
Call of Duty WW2
It was leaked that there will be Zombie Crates that can be purchased with real world money. There are things in them that affect multiplayer unlocks as well as Zombie-exclusive Fate and Fortune cards of which come in various categories.
Star Wars Battlefront 2
Battlefront 2 has loot boxes as well called ‘crates’ that contain digital rewards like new weapons, ability upgrades, weapon mods, and passive stat bonuses that give you an edge, along with cosmetic options such as skins and victory poses. You can get crates either by spending in-game credits to buy them, or by spending real money to purchase them outright.
Leveling classes is tied to how many cards you have for that class, not matches played. Buying large amounts of cards right off the bat will allow you to immediately equip more cards per class than those who don't, so you can buy your way to maximum capacity. Since these cards give you a boost in game, this affects actual gameplay.
The more money you spend, the bigger advantage you have over other players. Things like making your primary weapon stronger for an amount of time. Get more cards and you’re even stronger for a longer period.
This decision has led to fan uncertainty and backlash and continues to mar EA’s already bad name.
Most of Fall 2017's big hitting titles are all bogged down with fan questions and concerns instead of excitement and hype. These "loot crate" microtransactions and a focus on pre orders have proved lucrative in the free to play and cell phone game market. Do they belong in AAA titles? What happened to video games that reward you for hours played instead of dollar's spent? Today's video games require higher budgets than ever. The development teams are huge and the time develop a AAA game is usually 5+ years.
Are the microtransactions a result of the community being so closely tied to a 60 dollar price point that publishers need to find creative ways to make up the actual cost of development? Maybe increase the price of video games to $70, $90 or $100 and keep microtransactions relegated to truly bonus content?
I'm not buying any of these games because I firmly believe the best way to make a difference is to vote with your wallet.