Pay 2 Win

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 4 days, you probably saw something about H1Z1’s early-access launch debacle. SOE clearly stated several times that guns, ammo, etc., would not be something players could acquire with real money. They would not be purchasable from the cash shop, yada yada. Turns out that wasn’t entirely true.

In what is now being apologized for as a misspeak by a dev during an interview, SOE is cleverly getting guns into players’ hands via the cash shop … indirectly. Players can buy airdrops with a random chance of dropping these types of items.  The problem with the airdrops was that they were landing too close to where the player ordered them. Supposedly these have been tweaked for balance already.

So yes, players can get guns and ammo from the cash shop. It’s just not a direct option. You can’t go to the cash shop and buy an AR-15 with ammo. You have to order an air drop and hope no one steals it from you. I’ll let you decide for yourself if the semantics matter. Smed and his team are 100% pro-air drop, so unless they change their minds it looks like it’ll stay.

What I love about this entire affair is how hard the community policed the anti-pay-to-win philosophy. Reddit blew up on Smed, players started demanding refunds (to which SOE is currently obliging) and a massive spotlight was shined on some pretty crappy decisions and (maybe) bugs leading to a style of play that isn’t in-line with what players want these days.

If only the community would pick up on the design implications of F2P and police it just as hard. The world would be a better place.

  • The whole airdrop thing is bad, but it’s also the overall context that makes the whole thing a perfect example of where the industry is going today.

    Sony, a giant company, charging $20 for an unfinished version of a “free” game. It’s just a beta, so remember not to criticize anything! We warned you! It’s okay to have bugs because it’s “beta”. But of course, being in “testing” doesn’t stop you from having a fully functional cash shop. When is the game feature complete? When are the bugs gone? Who knows.

    “Early Access” has become a way for companies to milk tons of money from consumers for unfinished, mediocre products. Some games (like Firefall) have stayed in this fake “beta” stage literally for years, charging people all the while.

    How did it come to this? Since when did we decide that gamers get a good deal by paying more for less? We’re actually giving developers incentive to lower their standards.

  • SOE saying the air drops aren’t Pay-4-Power because there is a chance you don’t get a gun when you pay is like some random Asian MMO (that SOE may or may not import only to shut down 6 months later) telling us that their lottery lockbox chests aren’t Pay-4-Power because there is only a chance you get the uber “Sword of free-player farming”. Hilarious.

    SOE just being next-level SOE I guess.

  • SOE activated their cash shop during a beta? A beta you have to pay to be a tester on?

    Smedley and all he is involved with has been toxic to me for years, though. Finding out he lied to his entire audience and sold them irredeemably damaged goods with a smile and a broken promise isn’t the least bit surprising.

  • @Keen and Fidjit:

    I absolutely agree with you both on about every point you guys make.

    There are two important negative factors impacting the release of H1Z1, the F2P model and Smedley.

    As pointed out numerous times in this blog, the F2P model is particularly vulnerable to exploitive marketing practices due to the intentional breaking of game mechanics that can be temporarily repaired by spending money in non-cosmetic item based cash shops.

    The purposeful degradation of the gaming experience is ever present in the player’s mind, breaking immersion, as well as fostering resentment over the inclusion of “fun pain” as a detracting game mechanic (a term coined by Zynga’s Roger Dickey to denote the situation in which a player is put into an uncomfortable position, and then offered the chance to remove the “pain” by spending real money).

    The idea of alpha access and Kickstarter programs is a productive concept when applied to small indie developers whose games might not see the light of day without a constant cash stream throughout the process. Not surprisingly well heeled AAA corporate gaming outlets seized upon this idea as a way to extract as much money possible from consumers, particularly at the expense of their most dedicated fan base.

    But like trickle-down economics one needs an ambitiously disingenuous PR team to sell the person at the bottom of the financial food chain as to why they need to provide additional money to those at the top for the system to thrive, of which they will apparently also benefit, albeit indirectly.

    The AAA outlets co-opt concepts more properly applied to indie games instilling a sense of community during their marketing campaigns by highlighting the player’s sense of philanthropic idealism, in an attempt to mask their thinly veiled cash grabbing marketing schemes. In this fashion the early adopter is sold on the idea that they will be helping to guide development of the corporation’s product, attempting to instill a sense of ownership and cooperative camaraderie, when in reality the consumer is being parasitized by a thinly veiled exploitive monetization tactic.

    This form of patent exploitation is particularly offensive in the marketing of F2P games, as the product will by definition be offered free of charge at launch; as such these dedicated players will not only pay to debug their product, but additionally pay into the system post-release.

    Worse still the situation is exceptionally loathsome when principles critical to game design are marketed during the alpha process as something fundamentally different to what it will be released as, particularly when it involves monetization mechanics.

    …and this is where Smedley comes in.

  • This guy is one of the least honest heads of any corporate game outlet out there and continually tarnishes SOE’s reputation.

    This guy’s business model is based upon a constant stream of double talk and half truths, trying to see just how far he can push people’s dissatisfaction, knowing full well that he will attempt to rely upon wordplay to smooth over the PR nightmare he creates once his actual intentions for game development are revealed. It is as if he thrives on dissention, incorporating damage control into his developmental roadmap going forward as opposed to just falling back upon it when things go unexpectedly badly.

    This is highlighted in the fallout over the disingenuous marketing of H1Z1 during early access. I have to wonder if he believes he is far more clever and/or charismatic a speaker that he is in actuality. Watching him try to craft an apologetic demeanor while simultaneously blaming the most dedicated early access players for being responsible for any “misunderstandings” is embarrassingly painful to watch.

    So for the last 8 months players have been buying this product under the unambiguous promise that “We will NOT be selling Guns.” (he even capitalized “NOT” for extra justice).

    A few days ago players realized that statement was untrue as guns would be sold.

    How does Smedley, the head of SOE, handle this situation?

    1) He shifts the blame onto the players and tries to play both sides of the argument claiming their misperceptions are at fault for their dissatisfaction as streams have been showing airdrops for months, but of course he leaves out that no one realized guns would be included in the payout, as if this somehow makes him less of a liar for directly stating that they wouldn’t be sold.

    2) He offers a refund so he can say he acted reasonably and let players out of their financial commitment, …but he only extends the offer for a few days. If it isn’t obvious not everyone who bought the game under his not gun selling promise will be following H1Z1 development on a daily basis and will likely miss out.

    3) He then follows up his heartfelt claim of being misunderstood and genuine apology with the arrogant ‘fuck you’ statement “So if you think it’s P2W don’t buy it. Don’t play it.”

    It would be refreshing if this guy actually came clean and just admitted that selling guns in airdrops was in the works for a long time and the statements from SOE representatives of not selling guns, even up to a few days ago, were knowingly fallacious and intended to bait-and-switch them into buying early access.

    Such bald-faced lying marketing tactics undermine confidence in the alpha process.

    Selling guns in a survival shooter after explicitly promising they wouldn’t forces one to accept that nothing Smedley says can be taken to be true regarding alpha game marketing.

    My advice is one that I have been following myself with regards to the selling of F2P SOE products and expands upon Smedley’s sentiments, don’t fall for it, don’t buy it, don’t play it.

  • I know you’re a big fan of the Everquest franchise. Seeing all this happening or how PS2 has been missmanaged, how can you still have faith that SOE will be able to release it in any way that won’t be insulting?

    I stoped following EQ Next, is there any reason you still have any faith in that project?

  • Over the years, I’ve been disappointed in the way the MMO industry was headed. I was looking forward to the contemporary interest in sandbox games, but if this is the kind of payment models that are being foisted upon us- hey, it’s free to play unless you want to pay to win!- then I’m afraid I’m losing interest in MMOs. Maybe it’s time to find a new hobby.

    All I want is UO2 or SWG2. Without payment model BS. Every year that goes by I get more and more discouraged.

  • At this point in the evolution of gaming, there is only one immutable fact. Literally. Just. One.

    Anyone that buys into Early Access in any way, shape, or form…. totally deserves the shaft that is coming for them.

  • The idea behind the air drops actually sounds like fun. After the drop, players and npcs all converge on the area and fight it out for the goods. Maybe when the game is out of Beta, I’ll give it a try.

    As for Smed, why are people still surprised by this? He has been doing stuff like this for years. Ask any long time EQ2 player. There were so many “this will never happen” promises that were broken.

    @Keen, I do agree that it is great that so many players called him out on his BS this time.

  • @Frosth: I’m holding out hope that EQ Next brings back a shard of what EQ was for me. I can’t honestly say I have a logical reason. Like you said, there’s a lot out there to make me question. In fact, I’m a bit terrified right now that the business model SOE is using will ruin any chance the game has of succeeding. But.. it’s EverQuest and I’ll hold out hope just because.

  • I stay out of f2p games most of the time…I got used to p2w shit and the weird thing is that lately what bothers me more, is the lottery boxes… get this box for x real money and there are randoms things inside that maybe are very good or just piece of shits…

    Even if I did want to spend money in a game, this super greedy attitude is turning me off…but seriously, I didn’t expect anything less from a game that launch as f2p.

  • @Morreion I hear you on UO2 and SWG2. Does not seem like any game in dev is close though. I’d recommend jumping on a player run shard. They have dedicated and passionate players and the fun is still there. A new UO shard just launched last week at, Take a look, might be something that interests you. I played some this weekend and enjoyed it. Really waiting on HoMM3 HD to hit steam in a week, too.

  • @keen Thanks for the answer. I understand the feeling, we’ve all been in that position. I was just wondering since EQ Next was also something I was looking forward to until SOE anounced it would be f2p.

    With any luck, it will be like ps2, a great game that will take at least 6 months for SOE to ruin, so launch could be fun for a while.

  • @Frosth: Heh, I hope it lasts longer than that. I’m really wanting a game I can play for years instead of months. Actually… it’s sad. These days I can’t find a game I enjoy for months instead of weeks.

  • @Keen

    “Tabletop” D&D via is honestly the closest thing you can find these days to a good MMO. People set up games with friends or strangers or whatever and play as often or little as they want.

    When all the newage versions of D&D started to suck, there was really only one place to go back to for me. At least this is online though, so I can find people beyond my close RL friends to play with too.

  • Bad enough the other players are going to take every opportunity to humiliate and or kill you, and not necessarily in that order.

    Now you pay Smedley to humiliate you. First by convincing you to get a Founder’s Pack and buying yourself into Alpha, second by your paying to have a big a$$ target painted on your back for the chance at something good. All for their acknowledged amusement.

  • I think the Airdrop mechanic is absolutely Genius, it encourages tense and dynamic conflict siuations, but its absolutely thw wrong choice making you pay for it.Find another way to make money Sony, there is a plethora of options available.

  • This is shady.

    They should have been upfront about the whole ammo, supplies and weapons in airdrops and how they work, before people buy into early access.

    It makes me wonder what more they are hiding….
    Be up front about your mechanics and your business model.

  • Managed to Ambush a guy who picking up his Airdrop, I got fully kitted after a few swings with a Tree branch. I didn’t know at the time that he must have paid for that, but afterwards I got some perverse pleasure when I realising that’s what had happened. It’s less like pay to win and more like floating lockboxes that can kick you in the balls.

  • We all knew it would be planetside2 with zombies, right? This can’t possibly be surprising. Expect airdrops of tanks and copters next.

    By the way, EQ Next news releases are where again? With the WoW 2 articles?

  • Finally, a mugging simulator comes to gaming.

    Now you can pay real money and risk having someone jump you and steal the gains from you!