Microtransaction Space 3: The “Additional Service”
I was unimpressed with Dead Space 2, so I’m a little hesitant going into Dead Space 3, especially after hearing all of the news about co-op and the like. One thing I was curious about was the weapon crafting system that they’d stuck in the game. Crafting is the kind of goofy collection quest I like to see in games; one where all of those collectibles become useful items instead of just unlocking artwork or points toward an achievement. I basically spent the entire time I played Farcry 3 building new backpacks for myself, so I thought a crafting system might really help cheer me up if Dead Space 3 wasn’t any scarier than the last game. I must have forgotten that EA had its filthy hands in the game, because I was shocked to find that the crafting system could be bought out using microtransactions. Most of my remaining hope for the game flew out the window with that announcement.
I could hear the excuses before I’d even read them. The parts you can buy won’t let you break the game; they just help speed a couple of things along. They enhance the game for players who want to move things along a little faster. EA isn’t going to make it any harder to collect the items in-game, but this just lets players get a leg up if they want to. No one is going to force anyone to buy these items. It’s just offering a better service to the player!
If EA was genuinely worried about any of that crap then they’d put in some cheat codes. You guys remember those? It was only one generation ago that the sort of things you could get from microtransactions and DLC were the sort of things you could unlock by putting in a code. You didn’t have to pay to get infinite money or unlock specific cars in Grand Theft Auto III by buying some expansion pack. You just had to hit a few buttons in the right order and the game would start raining tanks and ammunition down on you. It was glorious, and always a great way to extend gameplay after the game was done.
Now we pay for these things and more. I’d love to think that this sort of system will just let players get to content a little faster if they felt like it, but I know Dead Space 3‘s system is going to be tweaked to take advantage of things. I won’t know how much or how little until I’ve played it, but you can bet that the rate at which you’d collect parts for crafting will be slower than it should be. It’ll probably move just slow enough that, given a cheap rate on buying crafting parts over Xbox Live or the Sony Network, many players will splurge every once in a while. It probably won’t be to the rate where it will aggravate a lot of people, drawing out a couple of bucks here and there from people. A slow boil will get the most people without them noticing that they’re being burned.
These systems are not there to help players. They only exist to wring a few more dollars out of games well after they’ve run out of steam. I know Triple-A development is expensive, but EA is one of the biggest publishers in the industry and is still guilty of the worst stuff. They already force people to buy their games new if they want to play multiplayer with them and have DLC levels (levels that seem suspiciously important to the plot, almost to the point where you’d say they were taken out of the game and held back for some reason…) prepped for launch days. They seem to be at the forefront of wringing every dollar out of every game they publish. While it may be smart business for them, it’s something that’s really leaving a bad taste in my mouth.
I will still play Dead Space 3. I want to see if Visceral Games can somehow make co-op frightening, but I’m not going to spend a cent on crafting parts. I think it’s especially greasy to make me buy something that I used to get from a cheat code, or something that I should be able to earn enough of over the course of the game I paid for. I hope they handled it intelligently enough that it won’t be a noticeable issue with the game, because I’ll be the first person tearing them apart if this breaks the game.
I doubt it will. EA is a sneaky entity, and its practices lean toward slowly gouging its customers and calling it ‘additional services’. They’ll play this carefully, hoping that no one notices or gets too upset. After all, no one is making you buy this stuff. Except they are, because this is the exact sort of thing I used to get with my original purchase of the game. I shouldn’t have to pay for the opportunity to pay for something else.
Images courtesy of onlysp.com, gameranx.com