Watch as $60 games push the not-free-to-play model
Dead Space 3 is going to see a fair few changes, boasting a faster pace, cover-based shooting, and a weapon crafting system. While I’m not a big fan of some of the alterations, the one thing I did find praiseworthy was that latter element — that is, until Visceral revealed the potential reason why it exists. It’s another way to push freemium elements into a non-free game.
Weapons are put together and enhanced by various scrap materials, which can be found in the game, acquired by Isaac’s scavenger bot or, alternatively, purchased using real money. As you might expect, the cash option allows you to cut out the waiting and start getting decent weapons more swiftly.
Visceral Games justified the microtransactions to Eurogamer, stating you don’t have to spend real money and that you can’t use them to “cheat” your way to powerful end-game weaponry early. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Dead Space 3 is pushing a free-to-play model in a game that costs $60 up-front, a practice we’ve been slowly drifting towards ever since the days of Oblivion Horse Armor. Man, that Horse Armor seems almost charming these days.
While this is not the most obnoxious example of “not-very-freemium,” and by no means the first, it’s a worrying example of where the mainstream game industry is headed.
The free-to-play market was an innovative idea once, a way to get gamers invested in a title and allow them to decide their level of financial investment. Companies like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft saw that and thought, “Why are we letting the customer decide how much they pay when we can just double down on this shit and jam them at both ends?”
As someone who was big on F2P games for a while, it’s upsetting to see that, like with mobile gaming, a platform I saw a lot of potential in has been perverted by the elder statesmen moving in and twisting the medium to suit their long-established business practices.
It seems that whenever a new way to deliver gaming appears, Electronic Arts and its ilk will descend on it like a pack of locusts, ready to twist and break it until it resembles the old way. Because that’s how these companies do business. They don’t change themselves to adapt to an evolving market — they rip the market from other people and brutally snap it until it’s adapted to them.
As for Dead Space 3? The series has been home to skeezy DLC practices since the first game, with EA always ready to offer up new suits and content on launch day, for ridiculous prices. At the very least, we can say the idea isn’t entirely new to the series. That doesn’t make this okay, though, and it certainly doesn’t mean I don’t want to vomit all over the idea of microtransactions in full-priced retail games. It’s gross, no matter how many times it’s done.
I still don’t want to hate Dead Space 3, I still love Visceral’s work, and I still think that, through all the bullshit, it’ll still be a good game. EA is really seeing how far it can fucking push a thing until it breaks, though.