The Microtransaction and Electronic Arts (Hint: They’re doing it wrong)

Some days I think it stands for "Evil Accountants"...

I’m a fan of the Madden series.  It’s been one of the games that’s kept me coming back for more every single year.  I wasn’t too happy when Electronic Arts landed their “exclusive” contract with the NFL because I thought it would mean that they wouldn’t try as hard to produce quality products for the series.  I was wrong, the games continue to be top notch but with the most recent release, I’m concerned that EA is taking the microtransaction business model a bit too far.

For instance, I picked up my game on launch day, August 10th, and took it home to see how many improvements there were over the previous year’s iteration.  Upon loading the game, I found there was already “DLC” available for the title.  Needless to say, I was a little surprised about this and went to see what could have possibly been added…

There were scouting reports, Ultimate Team mods (more on this in a moment), and a few other assorted “power ups” that could be purchased with cold, hard cash.  It’s not that surprising to me after seeing the “add-ons” that were made available for Mass Effect 2 shortly after launch; weapons, armor, more weapons, avatar items, pets… It was ridiculous.  And then they added DLC that included missions and of course I was interested in those so they had to be purchased.  So when everything is said and done in regards to ME2, I’ve now probably spent $100 on a $60 game…

Then there’s the “Ultimate Team” in Madden 11 which is touted as being a mixture between Fantasy Football and Madden’s Franchise Mode to provide a “unique experience” to fans of the series.  The Fantasy Football angle is provided via a Trading Card method.  You receive a “starter pack” in order to begin your team and then as you play, you garner coins that allow you to purchase new “booster packs” or bid on players being “auctioned” by other players.  It is a new, fairly interesting means of enjoying a Madden game and certainly does inspire one to keep playing in order to garner newer, better players.

On paper, it’s a great idea.  However, let me tell you about my short lived experience with it.

I got my starter deck, all mediocre players, and moved a few around a few of them before choosing to play against the CPU in order to see what moves had been changed.  On the second play of the very first game, my first string quarterback was sacked and removed from the game with a broken collarbone.  He’s out for the season.

So my second string QB steps up to the challenge and I finish out the first game, losing abysmally to my CPU opponent.  I receive 450 coins for my efforts.  To put a perspective on the amount of coins, the booster packs are rated using Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.  The Bronze pack costs 1000 coins.

I quickly jump back in the fray thinking I can hold out with a few close games to have enough to start building my team. In the second quarter, my second string QB is sacked and put out of the game with a concussion.  He’s out for the remainder of this game and the next.  I only had two quarterbacks.  This means I have to “promote” a kicker to the QB position to finish out the game.  During the process of losing once again, I lose several defensive players and end up having to put some offensive men into an “Iron Man Football” situation, having to play both sides of the line as the game progresses.  At the end, I’m awarded another 450 coins.

So where am I? I have a kicker filling in for my injured QBs, I have a Fullback playing as a Linebacker, a wide receiver pulling double duty as a safety, and one poor tight end playing as an off tackle.  On top of all of this, I still don’t have enough coins to purchase even the low end Bronze booster pack.

I start checking to see if there’s some means to get more coins without losing the other half of my team to injuries and sure enough, lo and behold, I can purchase more coins using Microsoft Points that I have purchased with real money.

I didn’t even look at the conversion rate.  Sickened by this ploy, I turned off the game and I haven’t turned it back on since.

I’m certain there is a game here that I will enjoy.  I could ignore Ultimate Team mode and simply begin my franchise as I have each time I pick up a new Madden title but the thing is, I’m starting to see a lot of corporate greed in the titles EA has been producing lately in the form of their version of “microtransactions”.

Let’s review the more traditional form of the microtransaction business model… First, the games that use this model are typically free to play for either a certain amount of time or you only have access to better “gear” when you pay in for either a monthly subscription or you can use real cash to outright buy items for use in game.  I don’t have a problem with this model.  I have tried several free to play games and often end up paying something in to show my appreciation for them.

Games that use microtransactions may also release expansions that you must purchase in order to experience the content.  The base game is still “free to play” and thus, one can continue to play the base game without the expansion if one so desires.  Again, this is a logical business model and I have, in the past, purchased the additional content in order to show my support of the game company since they have provided me with something I enjoy doing whether I pay for it or not.

Some of the shortcomings of the games in this field is that those people who are willing to spend large amounts of cash are often unstoppable in the gear they’ve purchased.  This, however, justifies the position of the company to provide a free to play product and to produce such content that allows them to continue to do so and thus I suffer through the butt whoopings I receive at the hands of those with the fat wallets.

Now, I just shelled out $60 for my copy of Madden 11.  I don’t want to find out that someone who is willing to shell out another $100 on top of the original sixty is completely skewing the playing field (pardon the pun).  You already have my money, EA… level the field.

It’s simple.  If you’re going to put together a game where you want people to constantly pay in so that they can have the best “team” or “gear” or whatever you’re hawking, don’t charge me up front for your product.  If I determine that I want to pay in because I appreciate the game or simply because I want to be able to compete at the same level as others who are playing, I will do so.  Now, however, you’ve forced me to reconsider my purchase because you have DLC and content available to those who are willing to shell out more money on top of the initial purchase price.

People will likely tell me to calm down, that I’m overreacting to one portion of a great game.  They might be right.  I can tell you this… if EA continues in this vein, I may be boycotting any series they produce which has a “pay” mode.  I understand they have to make money on their products but in light of their recent decision to add an EA login to the requirements of DLC, forcing one who purchases a used copy to spend more money in order to play the used copy on line, I think they’re just milking us for everything we’re willing to pay.

There might be a great game in the Madden 11 box.  For now, though, it’s staying on the shelf until I cool down.

Gritskrieg – End of Line

Posted By Gritskrieg

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