One Limb Left: Sea of Thieves And Microtransactions

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Last week I wrote about how putting a season pass in Farcry 5 eliminates my want to buy it.  By placing items and levels behind paywalls, many AAA developers have robbed gamers of an experience.  Remember how great it felt beating a game and finding out you just unlocked something by doing so?  It gave gamers like myself a great sense of accomplishment.

Unlocking Rumbleman in Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 after beating arcade mode 11 times on hard added so much replay value to the game.  This type of achievement was common back in 2000.  Now if you want to unlock a player, item, or mission you better pray they’re in a random loot box.

Related:  What If Life Came With A Season Pass 

Sea of Thieves

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Or just go to the digital store and buy them outright.  Adding an extra fee or fees to the actual retail price.  Imagine Bob Barker hosting a video game version of The Price Is Right?  “Actual retail price of the game is $60 but when you add the season pass and microtransactions it’s $120 so Martha you were the highest bidder come on down”!

While loot boxes are receiving rightful scrutiny, developers have realized they’ve crossed the line.  The problem is many gamers aren’t moving the line back with them as developers cross back over it.  This became evident last week.  When Sea of Thieves Executive Producer Joe Neate spoke to IGN about the game not having loot boxes but it will implement microtransactions a few months after release.

Sea of Thieves

When asked why the $60 game needs microtransactions, Neate said, “It’s always an interesting topic, but ultimately I have to look at the reality of running a game-as-service as a business. My goal and everyone else’s goal here is to have as many people as possible working on this, and just keep giving people reasons to return, reasons to have fun. We have to run that like a business, you need revenue coming in”.  Before I dissect that quote let me say this.

I like that a developer has supposedly seen the error of EA’s ways and decided not to put in a gambling system like loot boxes.  Especially when many of them have been tied to player and character progression.  But Sea of Thieves is still a $60 game with microtransactions.  You know how you build revenue and get people to return and have fun without putting microtransactons in?

Sea of Thieves

By selling them a full experience when they pay full price.  While Sea of Thieves will supposedly contain more extra content that’s free (back in the day content like that was just part of the game and not labeled “free”) it is not a free-to-play game where microtransactions are the only way Rare makes money.  Going back to last week’s One Limb Left, developers cannot use cost as an excuse to gut a $60 game.  While I applaud the no loot box decision, that is not enough for me.

Jim Sterling said it best recently in his weekly series The Jimquisition, “The more the industry crosses the line, the previous lines become more acceptable.  And I’m gonna get called an asshole for saying it’s still not cool.  But “just microtransactions” in a paid game is still not cool”.  To which I agree.

Sea of Thieves

The first wave of microtransactions is going to be pets you can give your character.  But what will be next?  Ships?  Weapons?  Characters themselves?

People need to realize this is how this type of content progresses.  Start off small,  cosmetic, and away from launch so it doesn’t piss players off.  Then do the same but with bigger and better content because by that time they’ve become accustomed to paying for it.  A lot of articles I’ve read about this have the “That’s the industry nowadays” mindset.

Sea of Thieves

It’s the wrong mindset to have.  There are more ways we as a community can push back against microtransactions in AAA games.  Whether it be social media, blogging, and/or podcasting.  Or just not buying the game at all.

I’m not calling for a boycott of the game, I just get concerned when I see developers trying to pull a blindfold over gamers’ eyes, and gamers helping them pull it down faster.  I want AAA games to contain the same level of content and offer the same experiences that they gave just 10 or so years ago.  If Nintendo can go without microtransactions in Super Mario Odyssey, why can’t Rare (which was purchased by Microsoft in 2002) do the same with their game?

Sea of Thieves

That fact alone blows many holes in Neate’s reasoning.  You’re a company that’s owned by Microsoft.  You’re a first-party developer for them.  There is no reason for Sea of Thieves to cost $60 and have content that’s behind a paywall.

Another developer Activision Blizzard made $4 billion alone from paid content last year.  Microtransactions in AAA games are also still a thing because they play on peoples’ want.  You want to drive the same Batmobile Michael Keaton drove in Batman?  Pay a fee and you can use it in Batman:  Arkham Knight but only in one mode.     

Sea of Thieves

Having a tough time performing fatalities in Mortal Kombat?  Well if you pay a fee you can perform a certain number of them by pressing one button.  Want a pet monkey to help distinguish your character from others in Sea of Thieves?  It’ll cost you.  We also live in a time where we can have any movie and TV show we want in an instant without commercials for a fee.

Developers are capitalizing on that by giving people a paid option to get all of the content quicker even though they can afford to do so by just making things easier to unlock in-game.  My biggest hope is that more and more people realize this and help pull the line back to where it originally was.  In politics and society, the pendulum swings both ways.  In the gaming community, developers saw it swing towards them and they’ve grabbed it, we should not help them tighten their grip.

 


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Nick Battaglia
Nick is a staff writer who enjoys all types of video games and reminiscing about past pinball experiences. As a gamer who has one arm, he also aspires to one day be cast in a live-action adaptation of Mega Man.

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