There is certainly a time and place for those games as a service, and if done well can be a very rewarding experience. For the purpose of this article though, I want to explore the reasons why we could benefit from more games like God of War.
Author: Nathan Doverspike
Back in the 90’s, I was just a kid who found endless amounts of joy exploring worlds as a purple dragon that could breathe fire onto unsuspecting sheep and charge head-first into enemies. Never would I have thought that single-player only games like Spyro the Dragon (I can’t wait for the remaster to come out in September!) would become overtaken by games like Destiny 2, Farcry series, or recent Assassin’s Creed titles, games that prefer to be a service instead of a singular experience. There is certainly a time and place for those games as a service, and if done well can be a very rewarding experience. For the purpose of this article though, I want to explore the reasons why we could benefit from more games like God of War.
Awhile ago, I wrote and article condemning micro transactions in video games. It appears I am not alone, as the ESRB has begun cracking down on them, countries have started outlawing them completely, and there is even a petition online to have them halted altogether. These are steps in the right direction, but until these companies see a direct impact in sales (both Assassin’s Creed Origins and Farcry 5 were well received critically and sold well) I don’t see this issue going away. The loot boxes in Shadow of War, a game that was obviously crippled by their inclusion, recently removed them. I would give them a slow clap, but it’s too little too late for that game. These gamble boxes of random nonsense prey upon people who may have an addiction to gambling, or could possibly develop one due to this insidious practice. Jim Sterling, a moderately famous YouTuber, has been extremely vocal about the abolition of loot boxes in games for these reasons and others, and I highly recommend checking out his content to see exactly why they should be removed. They impact the balancing of the game, with the core experience often tampered with to make you feel inferior without dropping additional money to have better gear, weapons, etc. God of War doesn’t fall into this trap, and it deserves recognition for it.
Also along the lines of scumbag practices are season passes. These promises of extra content to gamers for extra cash often don’t live up to the money you invest in them. Whether it’s not as much story content, maps that don’t feel worth the price of admission, or outright screwing over customers with incomplete content, there always seems to be a downfall to a game’s season pass. God of War could have had one of these. There are multiple realms you do not visit in the game, and quite honestly I would pay extra to travel to them because the game is so extraordinary. But they aren’t available for purchase, and most likely won’t be according the game’s director Cory Barlog. For the first time in a long time, we have a COMPLETE game at release. No need to pay to finish the story, get more loot/gear, or unlock other content like characters that were already included on the original disc (Mortal Kombat I’m looking at you on that one). This gives us something to look forward to in the sequel.
Speaking of complete story, not since The Last of Us did I think a story was so well-done. It kept me engaged and always wondering how they were going to overcome their next challenge. Like the relationship between Joel and Ellie, Kratos and Atreus aren’t always on great terms. In fact, for the majority of the game, they butt heads more than a millennial and baby boomer stuck in a closet together. Which makes their evolution throughout the game that much more interesting. You see where each is coming from, you see the regret over the terrible things Kratos has done, and how hard it is for him to express that to his son. And without spoiling anything, you see how some of these rifts are closed by the credits, and how some more could be opened in future installments. Too many games are shifting to imitate a service instead of an excellent experience.
Being a single player game, without a season pass or expansions, you would think that sales would be down right? Publishers want to claim that multi-player games sell so many more copies, thus making them considerable amount more cash. God of War would like to disagree, with it selling over 3.1 million copies of the FIRST THREE DAYS! This sold more than Uncharted 4 (had multi-player) and Horizon Zero Dawn, both Sony first party games. It is hard to believe that if this were released on even just Steam as well as PS4, that the sales numbers would be even more impressive. Even still, the notion that single player games don’t make as much money would be labeled as busted if it were to be analyzed on Myth Busters.
It’s my hope as a gamer that studios continue to release quality big budget games that aren’t looked at as a service. Something that I can sink a decent amount of time into (currently sitting just short of 40 hours in God of War) and feel like I received a full and complete experience. The Last of Us did it, Horizon Zero Dawn did it (speaking about before the later expansion), and God of War did it as well. All were successful, and I strongly believe that single player games can continue being profitable for companies and provide their audience with experiences that stimulate their gaming senses. We just have to hope that publishers like EA, Activision, Ubisoft, and Warner Brothers come to their senses before another collapse occurs.
To conclude, EA is like a skid mark in my underwear: once it’s there it’s ugly and hard to clean up. They aren’t doing the gaming industry any favors, and I would be more than pleased to see them cut this crap out of having micro transactions in single player games before it gets even more out of hand than it already is.
Author: Nathan Doverspike
Updated: Battlefront 2 came out, and it was worse than any game with micro transactions before it. Progression itself is based on random drops of varying loot that may (or may not) help you progress your classes, characters, and overall rank (you could buy premium currency, but EA pulled that out at the last minute and slightly adjusted the requirements for acquiring major characters from the Star Wars universe). Or, as is expected, you’ll end up with a load of junk cards that aren’t relevant to your play style and you’ll be stuck grinding it out to get any characters of value. Honestly, the grind is so excruciating that players are building robots to circumvent the horribly designed game. This is pretty much the worst possible outcome: a game that was promised to be better than its predecessor is unbelievably worse because…give EA all your money. Right, great reasoning EA. I take back the insult to WB Entertainment Interactive in the last paragraph of this article (fixed the previous mistake, you’re welcome WB). EA will without a doubt ruin Anthem with more micro transactions, because they are EA and EA is the worst. If you feel like reading more scathing words towards heinous video game practices, keep reading and enjoy!
Yup, you read that right. Micro transactions in single player games are the next fad, the newest iteration of the darker and more greedy side of gaming, just like seasons passes were (and still are). They were a way to generate even more money in addition to the cost of a full priced game, and sometimes offered very little, if any substantial content to the experience. Plus, there is usually no clear indication what you were getting in most cases until the game was close to release or already available for purchase in stores. They were a cheap and shady way to get money for content that was even cut from some games. Other cases saw high-profile games, like Destiny, release content that, while satisfying, was way too short for its price (you can also buy loot boxes in that game as well, if you feel like you haven’t spent enough on the five expansions and base game like me). In a way, micro transactions in single player games are becoming even more sinister than season passes, and here are some examples to back up my claim.
Dead Space 3 – Released February 5th, 2013
Developer – Visceral Games
Publisher – EA
This one kills me, because it is one of the first ones to have micros transactions in a single player experience and it is one of my favorite franchises. Even though Dead Space 3 had some disappointing aspects compared to the first two, it was still generally considered a solid game. The coop was fantastic, especially since you were able to experience some areas differently depending on which character you were (Isaac or Carver). The game play was also still solid, even if it did feel more like Resident Evil 5 than a Dead Space game at times. That’s where my compliments end, and the criticism comes out.
For the first and only time in the series, you could make your own weapons with components you found in breakable boxes and hidden areas. These crafting materials have ratings, from common to epic, and are designed to improve the weapon you are creating by giving it better statistics or additional attributes. The problem? You could just simply purchase a loot box, get an epic weapon, and wreck every enemy in the game. That completely defeats the purpose of Dead Space games, which originally gave you that sense of dread and fear that you are always running low on ammo and an enemy could ambush you from anywhere. Not with these epic weapons they won’t! Even though I enjoyed the core experience, I didn’t approve of these changes and hope they never incorporate them into a future Dead Space game. P.S. Please make another Dead Space game!
Injustice 2 – Released May 11, 2017
Developer – Nether Realm Studios
Publisher – Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
Here is where the problem begins to manifest. Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment, known for publishing the Shadow of Mordor, also published the sequel to super hero fighting game Injustice, called simply Injustice 2, on May 11th 2017. The introduction of micro transactions were met with cautious skepticism, since this is a fighting game with a single player campaign and multiplayer modes as well. The purchasable loot boxes contain gear for random characters, that can be better or worse than their currently equipped gear. They are also locked to a level restriction, but that can be changed by using one of the multiple currencies in the game to change it. Instead of criticizing it for having too many currencies, I am going to focus solely on the loot boxes.
I understand that the loot is disabled for some multiplayer modes. I commend Nether Realm for implementing that in their game. It needed to have that, or else the multiplayer mode would be unbalanced and absolutely unfair for players not forfeiting their hard earned money. Thankfully, that isn’t what this concern is about. It is about having to spend real money in order to get better gear for characters, only for the gear to drop for characters you don’t even use. I never used Bane, and yet I ended up with a ton of gear for him since that is what dropped from the loot boxes. Don’t like what you get? Well why don’t you spend MORE money to get something better. But wait, better hope it’s for a character you like, because if not it will just get disassembled into more currency to spend on the next (usually) drop of garbage gear for characters I never used in the game.
Shadow of War – Releases October 10, 2017
Developer – Monolith Studios
Publisher – Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
Are you seeing a pattern yet? I sure hope so, because it sure is clear to me. Shadow of War, developed by Monolith Productions and the sequel to the 2014 Game of the Year Shadow of Mordor made by the same studio, is releasing on October 10th, 2017. Originally slated for an August release, it was delayed two months before its release and scheduled for the new date in October. It is easy to overlook this delay as polishing, but I strongly believe it was due to the inclusion of micros transactions. A game published by WB Interactive in 2017 has micro transactions in it? No! It cannot be true! The dark lord Sauron must be the head of WB Interactive to make such a henious decision.
Seriously, another single player game with micro transactions in it, and it by the same publisher as Injustice 2, and released the same year just months apart. That’s not a coincidence. To me, this game doesn’t need the addition of micro transactions to catch my attention. The original did that by having fantastic game play and a serviceable story. It was, by all measures, a great game. Did everyone like it? No, and that’s okay. That doesn’t take away from how good of a game it was. The balancing between your character’s abilities and your enemies always felt fair, with a gradual learning curve and satisfying progression throughout the experience.
Shadow of War, which should now be named Shadow of Give Us More Money, has loot boxes and two different currencies. One seems like a dummy currency: you earn it but can’t spend it on loot boxes. The other one, called gold (really…gold is the best they could come up with) is the premium currency and is dropped sparingly throughout the game and is used to purchase said loot boxes. The boxes come with three rarities, and can include minions for the multiplayer mode similar to Metal Gear Solid V’s base building mode, or additional weapons and XP boosts. Sounds invasive but not game breaking yet right? Think about this: will the game be balanced to take into consideration that a few whales might drop a couple thousand on loot boxes and just stomp out your base and make your gaming experience miserable? My guess is probably not. Making a single player game literally pay-to-win isn’t fun, and spending 40 plus hours to unlock a legendary weapon or Orc you could get by spending $20.00 on loot boxes sounds like a pretty terrible way to play a game.
It seems that the choice to add these loot boxes into the game came from the publisher. Even still, it is Monolith’s decision to sign with that publisher in the first place, knowing full well that it might mean altering their game to fit the publisher’s greedy and slimy desires. They want to make money, lots and lots of it, even if it means potentially ruining what could be a fantastic video game in the process. I don’t excuse Monolith, but I don’t completely blame them. However, their reaction and body language in a recent live stream that explained and demonstrated the extent of loot boxes does concern me.
WB Interactive Electronic Arts is like a skid mark in my underwear: it’s ugly and hard to clean the stain out of them. They aren’t doing the gaming industry any favors, and I would be more than pleased to see them cut this crap out of having micro transactions in single player games before it gets even more out of hand than it already is. They prey on gamers who have a tendency to gamble, or flat out take advantage of those unable to control their spending. That’s disgusting, and we need to tell them how we feel by speaking with our wallets.
What games do you think should have been on this list? Do you agree with my opinion, or think I am a doomsayer and losing my mind? Let me know in the comments!
These publishers and developers are entitled to revenue, as are we all. Let’s just hope that the next exploitative solution isn’t as revolting as the season pass or loot boxes tied to progression.
Author: Nathan Doverspike
It seems like a long lost time, but believe it or not a time existed when video games allowed you to play them to improve, instead of paying your way to victory. Games seemed way more satisfying during that renaissance. No need to open your wallet time and time again when you were shot and tea-bagged by someone with a higher grade weapon or character you could only get by spending $20.00; or you could just forget about family, friends, and bills to play the game for dozens of hours en lieu of dropping that cash. Full price video games SHOULD be play to win, NOT pay to win.
Before I get to beating the dead horse that is Star Wars Battlefront 2, I want to offer some praise to a game that I don’t personally play, but one of which I admire due to their business practices. That game is Overwatch, developed by Blizzard. This game, which released on May 24, 2016, has yet to charge one customer for a single map or in-game character, instead opting to go another direction for continual revenue. They offer in-game cosmetic rewards from random loot boxes. Wait, don’t I despise that form of monetization in modern, full price video games? Well, yes and no. In this case, because they offer no advantage to gameplay and are strictly cosmetic, I don’t see an issue with the implementation of the loot boxes (whether or not it is addicting and/or gambling is another topic entirely). It clearly paid off as well, since in Q1 of 2017 Blizzard reported Overwatch had exceeded $1 Billion in revenue. Not bad for a game that only requires you pay for it once and never forces your hand to reach into your thinning wallet for more and more dollar bills.
If Overwatch is the shining example of how to correctly offer additional content in this situation, there must be a bad example, right? Exactly, and for this I would like to present Star Wars Battlefront 2 (2017) as the stinky, half flushed turd that just won’t go away. This monstrosity of a game has managed to piss off so many of it’s own fans, that the publisher has reported to have sold less than half the volume of copies as they did Battlefront 1 (2015) in the UK alone. Don’t get me wrong, they still made money on the game, but that’s a significant drop, even for a big publisher like Electronic Farts…whoops I mean Electronic Con Artists…wait I meant to say Electronic Arts. Whew, didn’t think I was going to be able to make it through that sentence. I’ll just refer to them as EA from now on.
If you would like to read about the scope of the drama, feel free to read this recap of the PR disaster. Here’s the short story: loot boxes are tied to individual character and overall player progression. Buy more loot boxes, and you have a better chance at getting better cards and upgrading your characters. You are literally paying to MAYBE upgrade a character you use and/or prefer. Yup, EA felt it was a good idea to force players to play for a ridiculous number of hours before unlocking either Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker, the two most known characters in Star Wars. Even after cutting the number of in-game currency required to unlock them by 75%, it’s still based on luck. Basically, you may advance your progression in the game, or you might just get useless cards for characters you’ll never use. That sure sounds like a trap to me!
Eventually, after tons of outrage and contempt towards EA, they decided totemporarily remove the premium currency(it wouldn’t surprise me if they turn it back on immediately after the holiday season). That would solve the problem, except the grind to unlock all the characters and ships is still there; it’s just now “whales” or “dolphins” or “sea urchins” or whatever they are calling them now can’t pay for it. That doesn’t address the issue that it takes far too long to unlock anything by simply playing casually (because some of us have jobs). Plus, the progression being tied to random loot still isn’t fixed, and might never be fixed if EA has the final word. While they did take a decent hit to their stock (it dropped 8.5 points overall in November, causing shareholders to lose $3 billion), they are such a massive conglomerate that they will have to have much worse months than that to make any permanent changes. Perhaps the increased pushed for legislation to become involved will persuade them to shy away from these greedy and downright predatory practices. While I don’t always think more rules and regulations are the correct solution, it might be the only band aid that patches this Wampa sized wound.
My hope is that more publishers and developers see the backlash towards EA and their practices, and in turn decide to take different avenues to monetize their games. These publishers and developers are entitled to revenue, as are we all. Let’s just hope that the next exploitative solution isn’t as revolting as the season pass or loot boxes tied to progression.
How do you feel about these practices? Do you prefer to drop some money on a game you like to possibly get better loot, or would you rather spend some more time to get that content instead? Let me know in the comments!