Gamers’ opinions against pay-to-play model

Grant Beltrami, Staff writer

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Anyone who has played video games in the past 10 years knows about microtransactions and probably has an opinion on them. That opinion is almost assuredly negative.

Recent backlash from the gaming community has even prompted lawmakers in Europe to push for some types of in-game purchases to be classified as gambling.

On Nov. 9, Electronic Arts released “Star Wars Battlefront 2.” The gaming community at large was quick to denounce the game’s microtransaction model.

Critics report that purchased “loot boxes” provide direct upgrades to player weapons, and abilities. The game was widely derided as pay-to-win.

However, it is possible to purchase “loot boxes” with credits earned through gameplay and many games have similar microtransaction systems. So why the outrage at this one game?

The grind to earn credits in “Battlefront 2” is unreal. It would take approximately 4,528 hours of gameplay, or 188 days, to unlock and fully upgrade all 324 “star cards,” according to a post on ResetEra, an online gaming forum. Six months of playtime, or $2,100 worth of “loot boxes,” just to experience all aspects of a game that cost $60 to begin with.

Electronic Arts was silent until Nov. 12 when a community spokesperson posted this message on r/StarWarsBattlefront: “The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.”

This response, which is now the most down-voted Reddit comment ever, with a comment score of -683,000, smashing the previous record of -24,000, shows how unpopular these systems are.

“Loot boxes” in most games contain random contents. Even by spending money, there is no guarantee that you will get what you want.

Activision, publisher of Call of Duty, Destiny and other games, recently patented a matchmaking system that can match players based on their in-game purchase history.

In the patent summary, the application examples given explicitly state that low skilled players will be matched with higher skilled players that have made in game purchases. The idea is that the low skilled or non-purchasing player will be driven to make a purchase to stay competitive and the high skilled or purchasing player will feel like their purchase was worth-while and be more likely to purchase more.

This system will completely undermine the spirit of competition in any game where it is implemented.

The backlash against “Battlefront 2,” which sold only 60 percent as many copies as its predecessor and caused a 10-point drop in EA’s stock value, sent a strong message to the industry. But a systemic change is needed.

A good system has these characteristics: Everything that must be earned cannot be purchased, everything that can be purchased can also be earned, and nothing that can be purchased should have any effect on competitive play.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Gamers’ opinions against pay-to-play model”

  1. adam on December 4th, 2017 9:01 am

    The presence of loot boxes in games such as Star Wars and Need for Speed are insidious enough, but we’re now hearing news that EA have cancelled/are reworking another star wars game they had in progress, because it was single player and there was no easy way to add loot boxes to it! EA should be ashamed of themselves, as should Disney for letting this happen!

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Gamers’ opinions against pay-to-play model