Dead Space 3’s Microtransactions Aren’t That Bad
For those of you living completely oblivious to the goings-on in the industry of late, Dead Space 3 launched yesterday in NTSC regions, and will be launching in PAL regions on Friday, with a microtransactions model that is immediately familiar to anyone who has played a free-to-play mobile game.
There, the game itself is freely downloadable and may be explored and enjoyed to a certain extent, however the option exists to purchase something further, be it more play time or cosmetic changes to the game. The free-to-play model is a well-documented one that has recently also been well-adapted for mainstream gaming in such places as Steam’s Workshop, with the primary beneficiary of this model being Dota 2. If you’re into hats, you might also consider Team Fortress 2. There are also free-to-play models where you may enjoy the game up to a certain level or for a certain duration, after which you are asked to spend money in order to play further.
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Dead Space 3, however, is a retail game. That means you pay actual money for it in order to play it. It is not free to play. In fact, you might call it fee to pay if you factor in its microtransactions model.
Now that reviews for the game are finally out, I had a chance to find out exactly what these microtransactions are about, and how they affect the overall experience of the game. Basically, in Dead Space 3 you must scavenge for resources in order to build and upgrade weaponry and other items including your RIG, which is the suit you wear. These items can take a while to scavenge and to get any of the really high-class weaponry, it takes a lot of scavenging. Thankfully, you have the option at any time, to pull out your credit card and give Electronic Arts real money in exchange for resources or outright weapons and items, essentially bypassing needing resources entirely.
It’s no secret that the game tries to sell microtransactions to you whenever it can. Low on resources? Hey, no problem! Hit Y to buy some with a credit card. Want to buy some really cool weapon early on? Get your Y button on. So on and so forth.
What I can criticise about microtransactions is that it breaks the immersive grip that Dead Space games tend to have on the player, you know, since there is no actual HUD and all of your vital information is displayed through your in-game RIG. If not for the pause button, there would be no way to break immersion while in-game. Now there is. Every time you open up an upgrade station / weapons bench, you’re greeted with a very real-life message about the availability of weapons for a premium price. That can get a little annoying.
But you know what? It’s entirely optional.
And do you know what other Electronic Arts mandated system is included in their games? Online Passes. Yes. Very well done. Those are not optional.
See, microtransactions are essentially still an option on the part of you, the player. You may opt to spend real money, you may instead opt to use the brain you were born with and pretend the option doesn’t exist. But in the end, it is your choice and the power remains firmly in your hands. To that extent, while Visceral might well have been forced by EA to include microtransactions as the publisher seeks to find yet more ways to milk one of their biggest franchises, at least they made it such that while it does offer a decent opportunity, it doesn’t force it down your throat.
On the other hand, if you don’t have an Online Pass, you can say goodbye to all hopes of trying out the multiplayer or cooperative segments of the game in question. Here, that is the cooperative section of Dead Space 3, which according to reviews is sub-standard in any case. Moving to other EA titles, however, you begin to see just how damaging Online Passes are. They’re the reason that a used copy of Dead Space 3 will be worth no more than R250 by next month, and even then you’re pushing it.
If you don’t have an Online Pass then you are locked out. You are restricted to a certain play-space only because the publisher cannot legally do any more harm without getting into trouble for it. So your multiplayer capabilities are cut off. Hell, I’ve seen singleplayer games with an equivalent system. Crucible Pass in Darksiders II, anyone?
Fee-to-pay models might be silly, and microtransactions will always be met with frowns, but they at least give you the final say on how you experience your games. Online Passes, take the power firmly out of your hands. So tell me again which you think is worse. Because I don’t think microtransactions, given all that we’ve discussed here today, are all that bad. How about you?