Microtransactions. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re a major part of the current gaming landscape and that’s not likely to change any time soon. For every argument that they’re a necessary evil to keep games and game companies afloat, there’s just as much reason to believe they do more to line the pockets of a publisher’s CEO and to keep the shareholders happy. It’s a contentious issue, and one of the biggest concerns that players have is the (often correct) perception that their favourite games are employing increasingly insidious design to coerce them into coughing up extra cash. Whatever the case, and whatever you feel about the situation, it’s a sudden and welcome reality check of sorts to speak to a developer who’s genuinely passionate and excited about a project, but who also has to deal with the fact that their game needs some kind of ongoing revenue stream to be viable.
Speaking to Studio Head of Crystal Dynamics, Scot Amos, during PAX Australia 2019 about the studio’s upcoming game, Marvel’s Avengers, the conversation turned to in-game loot.
“It’s important to know that you can earn tons of outfits in-game just by playing,” Amos says, referring to the game’s unlockable cosmetics. “But you can also go to a marketplace and buy some, and those are separate. You can’t ever earn what you can buy, and you can’t ever buy what you can earn, so you have two different pathways when you go to get those custom looks for your characters”.
A seemingly unsurprising statement, but one that (sadly) flies in the face of the norm. Where games, especially in the AAA sphere, have increasingly begun to make players work harder and grind longer for the best in-game loot in an attempt to entice them to just pony up the cash instead. It seems like Crystal Dynamics aren’t about to jeopardise the core of their game in order to make a quick buck or two. It’s one thing to do the ‘good enough’ thing and only offer cosmetic, non-gameplay-altering goods for real money, but it’s another thing entirely to take a firm stance and say “this is what you can earn in the game, and this is the extra stuff that you can pay for if you want to”.
Truth be told, I hate to think that this is something that stood out to me in a jam-packed preview of what will no doubt be one of next year’s biggest video game releases, but it’s just another refreshing positive in a game that could have easily existed as nothing more than a Marvel money-making machine. That in itself deserves some degree of kudos, I think.
Marvel’s Avengers releases May 15th, 2020 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Google Stadia.