We live in an age of dominance from the AAA industry. Recent years have proven that even the most horrendous publicity failures will only scratch the big companies, never break them. In particular, issues surrounding methods of monetising are at the forefront of this battle. Consumers want to vote with their wallets, but the in-game purchases offered nowadays are extremely effective at getting results from the majority. When such incredible levels of effort are needed to even make a dent in the industry, many gamers end up cynical about their role in the big picture.

Warframe’s developers, thankfully, have shown us that the situation isn’t as hopeless as many would believe. In response to recent community disapproval surrounding microtransactions, Warframe’s devs have not only taken action towards changing the system, but have actively asked the community what they would want instead.

The Problem

Warframe’s free-to-play model relies on microtransactions to stay afloat. Source: Steam store page.

Warframe recently came under fire from popular YouTube game critic Jim Sterling. A few days ago, Jim made a video complaining about part of Warframe’s payment system known as “unvaulting”. Namely, that if you wanted to unlock certain cosmetic items offered in Prime Vaults, you needed to purchase a bundled pack which might contain things you had already purchased or farmed for in the past. This video (along with Jim’s opinion) was released to a general consensus of support from the community.

This problem is doubly strange, as Warframe already offers a package exclusively for accessories in their Prime Access pack. The Prime Vault, however, lumps these accessories in with inflexible packages of other items. This has been a problem known among the community for a while, but has typically received a defeatist attitude from the community along the lines of “it’s never gonna change.” That is, until the issue was approached head-on by the devs mere days later.

The Developers’ Answer

Warframe’s developers openly discussed the issue in their devstream. Source: Screengrab from Waframe’s devstream.

Only a few days after Jim’s video, the developers held a livestream discussion in which they discussed, among other issues, the point that he had raised. The developers’ conclusions, as reflected by Warframe’s community director on Twitter, was to listen to their community’s criticism. The devs literally posed the question as “what do you want”, and proceeded to rattle off several different options for accessory bundling. They wanted to be clear, though, that Jim was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back, and that the community was the true source of change.

The devs offered single or separate accessory packs, asked for which price range players are interested in, and asked whether players want added bonuses in these packs. Players responded heartily with extensive input and mock-ups of how packs could look. Jim, the creator of the original criticism video, made another video applauding the devs after this stream. He said “Triple A mouthpieces and excusers take note; that is what player choice looks like.”

Why Does This Matter?

This is not only a step forward for Warframe, but a defiance of the standard AAA non-communication. Source: Warframe’s media section.

This victory shouldn’t be overstated, as it’s not exactly the slam-dunk that Jim implies it is. While it bodes well for the future of Warframe, the change is only due to come into effect with the next unvaulting. As a result, refunds aren’t being issued to people who faced this problem in the most recent unvaulting.

That being said, this openness and engagement with the community is unprecedented among most modern gaming companies. Digital Extremes has not only faced their community about vocal concerns, but has offered a variety of options for the community to choose from.

Warframe has shown AAA game developers how community interaction is done. This isn’t just cursory responses on forums explaining why things were done; this is the game studio actively passing the baton to its playerbase to decide the road ahead. If more developers follow the lead of Warframe’s dev team, the relationship between players and companies could be a much more amicable one in future.