The Pure Greed Of Free-To-Play
It’s no secret that free-to-play games are designed to extract as much money as possible from you. If you’re unfamiliar, free-to-play games are completely free-to-play (obviously), but they offer in-game bonuses that you can buy with actual money to give you more of an edge. It’s not required that you buy these things and they can be earned in-game through time, but they take forever. But can they go too far? Absofuckinglutely. Ladies and gentlemen, I now urge you to focus your attention on a game by the name of Spartacus Legends. Spartacus Legends was recently released on Xbox LIVE as a free game to Gold members and my first instinct was “oh cool, a free game, I’ll have that”. Never before have I been insulted so much in my life by a damn videogame since Pimp My Ride.
Spartacus Legends is fighting game inspired by a series with the same name. It has you building up a Roman gladiator with different pieces of armour and weapons so that he can be the most powerful gladiator out there. That’s all fine and dandy. I was actually interested in the idea the first 5 minutes as I was playing the game. My first brush with the gameplay wasn’t that amazing. It played sluggishly and the moves weren’t that spectacular and it looked like a PS2 era game. It wasn’t absolutely eye stabbingly horrible and if I had to give it a score out of 10 I would have given it a 5. But as I’ve really started to get into the game I noticed the loading screen tips constantly reminding me that “true victory can only be bought with coin” and various other ways of saying that sentence.
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Then I started noticing gashes in the armour. The various items that you can buy are ludicrously expensive and the fights that you were participating in didn’t give nearly enough currency for you to be as effective as possible. This all reeked like an entire skip full of putrid fish. As I was struggling along I noticed the game’s “bank” where you can buy currency. I thought, right, this is probably why all this has been happening. The pure greed I saw on that screen. If you wanted the highest amount of Gold there was you had to pay, wait for it, 12 000 Microsoft Points. That’s not a typo. Twelve THOUSAND points. With that money you can at the very least buy 4 brand new titles that are lightyears ahead of this shitty fighting game with regards to quality. I could not believe my eyes.
After this sudden epiphany, I started seeing what this bloody game was actually doing. Throughout your fights, opponents get naturally stronger as you would expect, but after fighting the sort of “mini-boss” character I was ready to tackle the big fish. Lo and behold he absolutely destroys me. I wasn’t even a challenge. This unnecessary substantial bump in difficulty wasn’t done with good intentions, oh no, it was to coax you into spending your hard earned money on better gear. And while on that subject, I’ve noticed the loading screens have been getting longer and longer with the game not reminding me to use “coin to bloody up the arena”, but nearly shouting at me to do it.
The audacity. The pure fucking greed of this game can’t even be put into words. It makes me physically mad how they can expect to get away with this travesty. Please, do not support this game. You will only be shooting yourself in the foot. This is not the first time that I’ve seen this, however. When I got my iOS devices (iPhone and iPad) I downloaded a multitude of free apps. A tiny fraction of those apps were just normal games that you played without the constant harassment of “YOU NEED MOAR GOLD WANNA BUY?” every nanosecond, but unfortunately most of them had the aforementioned mentality. After a while I just got over it. I discovered how to buy apps using vouchers and I was never plagued by this greedy nonsense ever since. I’ve even cleaned out all the apps I got for free as well as swearing to myself that I will never download another free app again unless I’m sure it’s good.
The entire microtransaction rich free-to-play model has become broken. At the beginning it was only there as a “pay to win” option for people that really wanted to, but it was never forced on you. Now it’s nearly a necessity. Your experience will be vastly inferior and almost not worth it if you don’t give a contribution to the great mouth of money. I believe that’s why Zynga has tanked in recent years. Their free-to-play games were wildly popular, but after a while people started seeing through the bullshit and decided that they won’t take it anymore. You can only be so greedy before people start catching to your tricks.
It has even made its way into mainstream gaming. Dead Space 3 needs no introduction when it comes to this topic and I’ll spare you the details because everyone is tired of it already. I actually had no problem with it. It didn’t intrude that much in my game and for the most part I didn’t ever need it at all. I did find it insulting how they had to change the game’s mechanics to cater to it, however. I think microtransactions will become a problem if they start intruding on our already paid for games. If they become so obtrusive that natural progress gets hindered because of it, I’m drawing a line in the sand and making a stand.
The developers of these free-to-play monstrosities think they are guaranteed success if they charge money for in-game items and bonuses because “it worked for Mafia Wars, why can’t it for us?”. What we then see is an oversaturation of ridiculous titles all trying to milk you dry with “new weapons” and “extra coin”. Those games will fail. People will look at them and think: “This game kind of sucks. Why should I pay money to get things for it?” But still the trend goes on with no stop in sight.
At the present time, I don’t believe in the free-to-play model. It’s greedy, obnoxious and downright insulting. Developers really need to reshape their idea of a good free-to-play game. Not just follow the trend that Farmville established just to make a quick buck. You get some great free-to-play games out there, but they are in the vast majority. Some developers think that their first little platformer title has the right to charge you $5 for a few coins. Don’t flatter yourself there sunshine.
In closing, fuck Spartacus Legends.