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The Sopa Box: Pay more or be an NPC


So last week I said about how people are supporting the predatory practices that allow AAA companies to prey on the so called Whales to exist by merely buying the games.

This week with the release of Battlefront II (of Battlefront poo if you're an immature unoriginal person like me) it seems like the perfect week to point out how some AAA companies and increasingly seeing regular customers as a resource that just exists to feed whale and unless you are paying for micro transactions you're seen as less deserving of fun.

Don't believe me? Well Activision literally patented a system that would mean people who bought Micro transactions would be matched with lower skilled players to make the player who bought the Micro transaction feel more powerful and that their purchase as a good idea. The intent to try and drive further purchases. Meanwhile the system as designed to try and encourage players to buy said micro transactions by matching a higher skilled player who has spend money on mico transactions with a lower skilled or newer player who hasn't.

With Battlefront Poo in the beta it was pointed out how people with more unlocks were objectively more powerful to quite insane degrees such as being able to output something like 2.5X the damage of a player just starting out or as certain hero units take literally no damage during certain abilities. Oh and the easy way to get more unlocks was simply to pay more real money on top of the price of the game. (Which yes it's now disabled TEMPORARILY) 

This isn't the first incursion of such a mechanics into a full retail. Accidentally or deliberately this kind o mechanic was included in Battleborn the moment people were allowed to buy in game currency with real money. In Battleborn you could get look boxes which contain items you could use to create builds for characters along with cosmetics. The issue is in some cases these items made you objectively better. Even while people will point out the most powerful items tended to come with downsides such as slower reload speeds or increased recoil it was easy to offset these or equip them on characters who didn't get impacted by the negative effect, after all you don't need to reload when you use a melee weapon.  See and you thought ol' Randy Pitchford was being pro consumer and hated micro transaction stuff because he was such a good guy, and you know not because he's already tried it; had it fail terribly and is bitter as the system itself because he failed to rake in the cash himself from it.

For a long while there have been lots of murmurs about how progression systems were giving advantages to people who played longer and well the present push for micro transactions is taking those systems and further corrupting what is an already manipulative skinner box system to try and extract more cold hard cash from the player. After all when the more powerful guns are at the end of a long chain of progression and you can just pay a little bit to skip ahead plenty of people will.

You see for a long time in gaming the idea of being able to play a power fantasy has been pretty common. From cutting down legions of enemy troops in Dynast Warriors to killing Gods in God of War or gunning down hell demons in Doom and Nazis in Wolfenstein, power fantasies have always been part of gaming. They're not a bad thing (despite what certain people may wish to present them as). The present issue is publishers have either already learned or are about to start learning how to exploit this to get people to pay more. You see if pay to win becomes more prominent (which it seems to be starting to be) in full retail games well unless you're willing to pay more, then the role you're going to be taking up in the game is akin to those waves of NPCs being cut down in Wolfenstein or Dynasty Warriors. Merely buying the game won't entitle you to be anything more than fodder for some-one who has paid a lot of money. I said about something like this before in my Wallet Warriors unWelcome C-blog where I talked about some-one who had spent over $3,000 on a ship in Battle Star Online and it took most of the server all converging on them to take them out. Only Battle Star Online was a free to play game and now it's creeping into full price retail games.

The worst part is it's preying on people who likely are susceptible to being exploited because in real life they do feel powerless. The person harassed and isolated because they're seen as different. The person working a job where they feel powerless to act against an abusive boss. The person who feels depressed and like everyone else is better than them. It's preying on these kind of people to cynically try and exploit their situation and milk them dry of cash and in doing so use them to try and force other players to spend money to even try and compete and be anything but an NPC.

So are you happy to play NPC just there to keep the Whales entertained? Cause I'm not and I'd also rather not have a hollow victory knowing my opponent didn't stand a chance and that I'm actually basically ruining some-one else's potential fun.

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About Dwavenhobbleone of us since 8:33 AM on 06.19.2012

A qualified Environmental Chemist who happens to live in a fairly dense city with no real environment or chemistry industry.

I review indie games on another blog and you'll see them pop up here if I think the review is a good or interesting one (along with a shameless bit of self promotion)

I also operate another blog reviewing films and I mean t pick that back up when I can.

I've been gaming since the SNES days. I've been in the pro scene before for tribes 2 but hate the present pro scenes and have no interest in going back into it.

I tend to get into quite a few Betas and love ones without NDA as it means I can write about them. I have even beta tested an xbox 360 game in my time (and no not a normal public Beta one )

In gaming I'm normally the guy looking at the shelf below the AAA titles first to see if there are any great hidden gems.

My gaming drug of choice: Timesplitters in any flavour (Why won't you make Timesplitters 4 Crytek, why ????? I need my fix of insanity )
Xbox LIVE:hobblejp
Steam ID:dwavenhobble


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