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Dead Space 3

Dead Space 3 has microtransactions because mobile gamers

8:00 AM on 01.25.2013 // Jim Sterling
  @JimSterling

Visceral reads from the Big Book of Not Making Sense

Visceral Games has justified the controversial microtransaction system in Dead Space 3 by claiming mobile gamers expect them now. Well, that's a totally reasonable ... wait, what?

"There’s a lot of players out there, especially players coming from mobile games, who are accustomed to micro-transactions," Visceral's John Calhoun told CVG. "They’re like 'I need this now, I want this now.' They need instant gratification. So we included that option in order to attract those players, so that if they’re 5000 Tungsten short of this upgrade, they can have it."

So ... mobile gamers, who play games on mobile devices, expect microtransactions, which means a home console game, played on a home console, should have them. Is that really all it takes to sell a game to a mobile player these days? The promise of in-app purchases? Is Visceral not trying to run before it can walk, offering a mobile gaming structure before it even knows it has an audience?

This doesn't even go into the fact that Visceral conveniently forgot something else mobile gamers expect -- games that don't demand $60 up-front before they start offering their little extra purchases. If Dead Space 3 is being designed for mobile gamers now, why does it costs exactly $59.99 more than Temple Run?

Of course, Visceral is still stressing that micro -- sorry, in-app purchases -- are totally optional. 

"There’s also the hardcore Dead Space players, who are reluctant to spend money outside the purchase of the game. Honestly, most of the dev team are that way, we’re kind of old school, a little bit older. So not only are the micro-transactions completely optional, but all packs are available to purchase using in-game resources that you find.

"So, your scavenger bot will go out, and sometimes when he comes back he’ll deliver ration seals. You’ll start to accumulate ration seals at a pretty steady clip throughout the game, and everything that can be purchased with real world dollars can also be purchased with ration seals."

On the surface, that sounds reasonable, but I refuse to think of microtransactions as an optional feature when the game constantly reminds you about them. It might be optional to take Dead Space 3 up on its offer, but it's not optional to have the offer constantly there, trying to demolish the game's atmosphere by reminding you you're playing a videogame, and it's a videogame that'd really like more money.

It's not optional to have a game drag out the accumulation time of resources, hoping you'll get impatient enough to drop some cash. Microtransactions work by attempting to psychologically beat the consumer. The system is adversarial, it tries to hold out longer than the player, who likewise is attempting to see if he or she can resist until the game absolutely has to give up the goods. You can't just choose to brush past that. 

Dead Space 3's entire currency and weapon system has been dramatically altered, now cynically designed to support its own little economy, and that wasn't an option.

I'm currently playing the game for review and I'm bound to an embargo, so I can't say much. All I will say is that this particular topic of discussion is not on my list of favorite things about the game. 

Interview: Dead Space 3 producer on micro-transactions and keeping the horror alive [CVG]



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