It’s no secret that the gaming industry has one of the most shapeless markets in entertainment. In terms of what a game constitutes, too, the industry doesn’t hold many strict guidelines. It’s the kind of perpetually-evolving and dynamic art form that demands consumers resilient to change.
Every year, video game companies curate new models around how to market their products, and thusly, how to sell them. Recently we saw Hitman (Square Enix’s latest entry in the franchise) release episodically, echoing Telltale’s similar approach, with their multiple series of late, such as The Walking Dead and Batman. Nowadays, indie developers like Alx Preston and Jonathan Blow can even release their game for the exact amount they think it’s worth (I bought the latter’s latest game, The Witness, for the oddly priced, and thankfully worth it, $55.95). In these particular instances though, you get what you pay for: A complete game.
Though how much should we, as consumers of such a pliable market, take? Recently, the media reported outrage surrounding microtransactions in games, specifically some number-crunching conducted by Reddit user bystander007, on Ubisoft’s medieval, multiplayer fighting game, For Honor. According to bystander007’s math, in order to unlock everything in the game (including DLC), you would have to earn 1,098,000 steel – the game’s currency, which equates to around 7.3 of For Honor’s $100 steel packs, or $732.
And to earn this one million-plus steel in hard fought man-hours?
“Casual players who play 1-2 hours 5-7 days a week will never reach this goal. Completing Orders/half-Contracts will get you roughly 1000 Steel, another roughly 200 for the matches you played. So 1200 a day is a good estimated gain for casual players. That’s 915 days. Roughly 2.51 years.”
Microtransactions aren’t a particularly new problem though, and For Honor is not the first, or worst, transgressor. And while I don’t particularly hold a strong opinion for the existence of microtransactions, I’ve definitely met people before who don’t mind them. I once heard a guy say he “loved” them and I suddenly felt like I was chopping onions, but I’ve always been open to the idea of microtransactions benefitting the player. That’s just almost never what they’re actually in a game for.
Regardless, I find it pretty understandable for yay-sayers to claim that microtransactions aren’t necessarily in a game to make money. For certain games that may even be true. The folks at Activision, however, have different ideas. Last week, it was announced that Call of Duty 4 Remastered would receive its first paid downloadable map pack.
Named “Variety,” this map pack includes the four maps originally released for Modern Warfare back in 2008, for $10. This time, the pack is $15, and it’s up to you whether to chalk it up to inflation or otherwise. Maybe it’s just those irresistible rare supply drops included that just compelled gamers to fork out the extra dough. However you look at it, it’s irrelevant to the main source of outrage concerning the game:
It may be a painfully obvious statement, but Call of Duty 4 Remastered is a remastered copy of a game. A game cheaply available to anyone with a low-level pc or a last-gen console. In the past, every remastered or “remade” game out there has included the game’s DLC, previously requiring purchase on the original console. Activision is setting a precedent here, by throwing that unofficial guideline out the window. This isn’t even considering the fact that the game’s retail price, with necessity of also purchasing Infinite Warfare, was initially around A$130 or U$100. You could probably even just go check our classifieds and find a cheaper way to play the original.
With the map pack out now, it’s clear that people have bought and will buy this DLC, and with the assumed 3 map packs of the original game likely due out soon, this kind of commodification of remasters may eventually cement itself in the industry, like the current normalization of microtransactions.
The Call of Duty franchise embodies a lot of what AAA titles mean to gamers and if a game as widely selling and popular as Infinite Warfare (whether the remaster had anything to do with that, or not) embrace this sort of approach, it may just canonize something potentially worse than the exorbitant microtrasactions of games like For Honor.
What do you guys think about COD4’s new DLC? Are you in favour of microtransactions? I’d love to hear your side. You could just be happy enough with access to the content. Some of you may simply shudder at the thought of paid DLC from a remaster. Whatever your thoughts though, please let us know in the discussion below!