Perhaps this is a bit controversial to some, but the idea of companies adding in Free-to-Play ecosystems into their $60 or $70 games is a bit disgusting to me. I’m a bit older school when it comes to the way I think games should be priced. They’ve never been cheap, per say, but when I was growing up, you’d get the content of a full game, with the possibility of DLC down the line, which is fine as long as the content given as DLC is worth its price tag.
Now, however, most games come with the mindset that the player will spend more than the base game price for simple things that would have been unlockable fifteen years ago. I’m talking about characters mostly, but this can extend to weapon skins, weapons themselves, and hell, progression as a whole can be more or less bought in today’s titles.
I should clarify that I’m not talking about every new title, mind you, but rather those in specific series’ and from specific studios. So, let’s go over those, shall we?
Let’s start with the obvious one first: Electronic Arts. They’ve been doing this for quite some time now and they’re even the company that got the talks really going in regards to gambling mechanics in games rated for children.
It doesn’t seem to matter what type of game they’re releasing. They will always find away to suck every penny out of their player base. At this point, their games should absolutely be free-to-play if they’re going to continue like this. No one should have to pay $60 to then gamble to get unlocks in a game that should have most of its content available from launch. This can be seen in one of their most controversial games of more recent years: Star Wars Battlefront 2, where if you didn’t pay for the in-game currency at launch, you’d be grinding for far too long just to get a chance at a character you wanted.
This is not okay for a title at full price. We shouldn’t be allowing them to push this type of system and I, for one, haven’t bought a game of theirs in a long time because of their scummy practices.
Another, worse example, is their FIFA titles, which have been rated E for everyone by the ESRB and ages three and up in the UK. This game preys on people in its online mode by blocking players from getting the players they want, having some spend hundreds of dollars before they even get the one they want. With these games being available to such a young audience, this should never have been a thing. Cases have shown kids spending thousands of their parent’s money without even thinking about it or understanding the consequences.
This is predatory, plain and simple. Yes, parents should keep a close eye on their kids, but this doesn’t excuse the rating given to the games, and to make matters worse, gambling isn’t listed on the package, so parents may not even know.
If you’re going to put this type of mechanic into your game, it needs to have a mature rating and needs to be stated on the package or download page. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it should be.
The next one I’d like to mention is one I personally experienced, which was Gears of War 4 and 5. I played a lot of 4 when it was at the height of its popularity, and I spent more money than I’m proud of, because I wanted the content in the game. I had a steady job and no bills to pay at the time, so it was overall pretty harmless to me. However, I can see it being a real issue to those who weren’t in similar situations.
That being said: that wasn’t the worst part to me. The worst part was that unlocking characters was done through progression in the previous titles. It was a fun experience and felt rewarding to the player to reach those milestones and get a cool character out of it. Now, it’s all chance and battle passes, which really lessens the value of the unlocks, I’d say. It doesn’t feel rewarding. It feels dirty, to be honest.
Now, the Gears series has always been rated mature, so I don’t see these mechanics as predatory. However, the game should have costed nothing, as the title of this article suggests. It has a model akin to a free-to-play game, so as such, it should have a base price of zero dollars.
Something I saw going around the past few days is that Pokémon Red and Blue would be considered 18+ with new laws regarding gambling in gaming. To that, I say: so what? As much as I adored the game corner in those titles, I don’t think this is inherently bad. I think the only people this would even effect are kids whose parents don’t know about the games. However, that wouldn’t be the majority of kids, and I’d argue that kids nowadays wouldn’t even want to play those old titles. If they do want to play, odds are their parents know a good bit about the series and would be willing to purchase it for them, regardless of a fresh new mature rating.
From what I can tell from my limited engagement with the discourse, this seems to be the common opinion. This isn’t a bad thing, and it won’t effect the games’ ratings on past releases, but only future re-releases.
The Free-to-Play model has proven to work quite well in the right circumstances, and I don’t mind it when the game is, well, free, and the game is using its funding to make the experience better as time goes on.
What I don’t appreciate is AAA game studios taking that model and putting it into games they’re selling for full market price, especially since that market price has been raised. They need to change their games to either be free or strip them of the microtransactions. We shouldn’t tolerate this any longer, especially if we want the gaming industry to continue to improve in the future.