Paid Content in Paid Games
EA has always received heat for their games, but I think this game was the straw that broke the camel’s back. If you don’t remember the controversy behind it, long story short all the unlockables cost $1,000+ or could be unlocked with years of game play. While this would be normal for a free or freemium game. This didn’t sit well with the Starwars community, and they were right to be outraged. The game is already a huge title, produced by a large developer, and with the most loyal fan base since the first movie. This really did cause EA to not only come under fire, but to also restructure their games. As a gaming community I think we are a little tired of paying $60 for an unfinished game, then $20-$40 for a season pass, and then $1.99 per pack of unlockables. That’s a lot of cash for one singular game, that you may get tired of in a month.
Video games are tending to have a much longer shelf life then we are used to, with certain titles being the exception. CS:GO has the best structure to date, a pretty cheap game with the only unlocks being aesthetics. Some of those weapon skins can go for a pretty penny they’re like the trading cards of the gaming community. Blizzard does the same thing with Mounts in World of Warcraft and loot boxes in Overwatch. Many other titles like Halo and Call of Duty use paid DLC.
I actually was never really fond of DLC. Paying a certain amount of cash to get a few maps or a few more hours of content always seemed like a scam to me. Destiny was the first game that came to mind. I felt like I was paying far too much money to get content that was pretty easily consumable. I give a free pass to World of Warcraft because their expansions are typically 2-3 years long. Halo added DLC at a moderate rate and it was never essential I think they truly did DLC the best.
Free games are not without fault either. Many free games glide by on the fact that the game is free. MOBAs are typically free, and the one’s that aren’t tend not to get too far. MOBAs require you to either buy some form of currency to then buy an in game character and then skins. MOBAs can absolutely break the bank and I really only like the MOBAs that give you the ability to buy ALL the characters new and old. Then you can purchase skins at your own expense. I have met people that unlock characters solely by playing the game and those people have my respect. Other than MOBAs shooters and MMOs can walk a fine line of a fully free game and pay to win. If a game seems pay to win it always will be and it will always be that way. There may even be DLCs associated with these free games and again, the game is free so complaints are nullified by that fact. I still think that any pay to win structure hurts the gaming community.
Many video games use their in game unlocks to help support the prize pool for their eSports tournaments. We need to be incredibly mindful of that. Halo 5 does it, Overwatch does it, and I think League of Legends did it at one point or still does. Being able to buy skins for your favorite team and supporting them is also a really nice feature. This is actually the bright side of loot boxes that we may tend to forget. I will say I think Overwatch does it the best, their "eSports” aspect is separate from their regular loot boxes and you can earn points to buy your teams skins by watching the league.
What to do?
Extra payment structures can be essential to games. We want the support to continue for our beloved games and we don’t want to have to buy a new version every two years. If we want our titles to last then we do need to realize that unlockable aesthetics are needed. What we do need to stop doing is supporting DLC that lets the publisher release an unfinished title. The other thing we need to stop doing is paying for any pay to win content that free or even paid games release. Holding the publisher’s accountable will slowly improve the quality of games, but it is also on us to support the game in some way when doable.