Breaking Down the Microtransaction Discussion Further
Yesterday’s blog about Battlefront 2 being pay to win started a good F2P / cash shop discussion that warranted further dialog. The main comment that prompted this post comes from Gankatron, a long-time reader and active participate in the comments. I appreciate the active participation, and hope you won’t mind me using your comments to prompt further discussion!
Here are two clips of the comment that I want to discuss.
Selling a fun game the devs purposefully broke that can be repaired with real money is a parasitic monetization scheme.
I can’t believe people will willing buy a box for $60/$80 and then continue to pay real money to remain competitive.
Treating your player base like bags of cash to be repeatedly harvested over time through “fun pain”, on top of a premium priced box purchase, is an extremely disrespectful and exploitative business model that I wish people would stop supporting.
It is hypocritical to condemn F2P games while simultaneously supporting a game that incorporates a F2P P2W type of cash shop, but even worse, on top of a premium box price.
First, let me start by saying that I do not approve of microtransactions or cash shops in any form. Whether they be cosmetic (WoW/Overwatch/PUBG), Pay-to-Win (Battlefront 2), or even only in single-player type games (Shadow of War). I’m also not a fan of “crates” — the industry’s latest cash shop disguise.
Let’s try to separate our dislike for a system and proceed with analyzing this a little further. And please, don’t read two sentences of this and comment. Read the whole thing.
We must separate the idea of “F2P” from “cash shop” or “microtransactions.” They are not the same thing.
Free-to-play games are free to play, and typically (99.999% of the time) built/designed around their cash shop. The goal of the “game” (and they are rarely true games) is always to get you into the shop. This can happen when a game starts out F2P, or after a game becomes F2P. It matters not.
F2P games typically contain predatory pricing schemes. The cash shop comes first, and the gameplay comes second. This is why most F2P “games” are shallow. [Standard Disclaimer: There are exceptions, particularly those with cult followings.]
On the other side of this are the “premium” games that charge a box price (often called “buy-to-play” games) which offer cash shop incentives. These can be “pay-to-win” when they offer an advantage. Developers with a cash shop in their game are obviously drawn to the idea of enticing players into the shop. Blizzard markets the heck of out their cash shop. It’s on the launcher almost every time. Marketing your cash shop does not make you predatory.
Things get a lot more interesting when the cash shop offers an advantage to those who make a purchase.
This type of “pay-to-win” can be handled in so many different ways. Here are both extremes:
- You simply can’t play without paying. You have to drop dozens, maybe hundreds to even matter. You can’t simply play and ever achieve the success of paying players.
- You can completely enjoy the game without paying. The advantages provided offer a bonus, a boost ahead, and a lot of pizzazz to your gameplay, but can be skipped or achieved by playing the game without paying.
I don’t know where Star Wars Battlefront 2 falls on this list, but having seen what the star cards do, I have a hard time believing it will be closer to the first than the second.
Where would you place a game like Hearthstone on the scale? I would place it closer to #2. Is it pay-to-win? OMFG yes. The more you pay, the more cards you get. The more cards you get, the better your chance of getting better cards. The better your cards, the better your deck, and the better you’ll do. Hint: people pay a lot more than a box price on card packs.
In the case of Battlefront 2, it has a box price. It has a cash shop. It has pay-to-win elements within that shop. Ouch, that is indeed a trifecta. HOWEVER…
It also has a fully-functional game behind it. It doesn’t feel designed to force anyone into the cash shop. You can obtain the same rewards by playing the game and purchasing as you can with spending real money (think Hearthstone here). And… there’s no season pass. There’s no paying for more maps or more content. They’re making that portion free, which is typically a very pricey and in my opinion much worse way to charge players. I also do not see a broken game needing to be fixed with a cash shop purchase.
Much remains to be seen with how EA/whoever is in charge over there handles this business model. Much, indeed. But please don’t obfuscate the separation between F2P games and games with stupid cash shops. There can be a very, very big difference. The main one being one being the core game behind the business model.
The “vote with your wallet and show EA who’s boss” mantra falls flat for me on games like this. I have too much fun to deprive myself of hours, and hours of enjoyment. I reserve the right to change my mind if EA screws things up worse.
And finally, we must realize the key factor in all of this is truly what is “fun.” If a cash shop offering any P2W at all is not fun for you, then I respect that. For me, there’s more ‘fun’ and game here in Battlefront 2 than many games recently, and I look past some P2W when I enjoy the core experience well enough.