DLC and microtransactions have been picking up a lot of flack in recent times. It seems that publishers have begun to push the envelope on what is and is not fair game. Yet 2017 has seen a selection of microtransactions and DLC that really makes you wonder where the line is.
Given how contentious the entire issue has become within the industry – we figured we’d take a look at the occasions in 2017 where DLC not only became tasteless, it began to outright distract from the overall experience.
Which pieces of microtransactions and DLC bothered you the most from AAA gaming?
8. Shadow of War’s Memorial DLC
I debated heavily whether to put in this or the loot boxes (To be fair, if I had to put in every example of bad loot boxes, this list would go on all night). Instead, I opted to focus on the piece of DLC that ultimately was intended as good, but came off as anything but.
The story behind Shadow of War’s Memorial DLC is very touching. a development studio wanting to pay homage to a former colleague is arguably one of the best things a studio can do. But almost as soon as the DLC was announced, questions began to appear with the intention of the pack. Usually, this kind of content is given for free (FIFA 16 famously included a whole ground in memory of one of that games developers). To see the memorial DLC being pushed with a money value rubbed gamers up the wrong way. Talk of charities and good causes didn’t help subside the feeling that a developers legacy was being used to shill more cash.
This wasn’t helped by the small text on all adverts stating that only in select US states would the promised money fully reach the intended charities. Promises were made – but the marketing around this DLC led gamers to feel they were being duped.
7. Destiny 2’s Single-Use Engrams
Destiny 2 raises a lot of questions – namely what is and what isn’t a core feature of a game? Back in the original Destiny, gamers could make use of armor engrams as many times as they pleased. The items were there to allow gamers the chance to reskin their armor how they wanted. In Destiny 2, that largely overlooked feature has suddenly become a hotbed for microtransactions.
Activision made the decision to make the items single-use only. It means that to color an entire armor set requires multiple engrams. Not a problem, except the only way to earn them, is through sheer luck in loot drops. The only other way is to buy them outright in the game’s store – a point that isn’t helped by the fact that you can buy the currency to do this. It’s a hilariously brazen attempt to monetize a part of the game that previously was given for free. If it was in a free-to-play game, it might not be such an issue – but asking gamers to shell out more money on launch day to get the look they want is incredibly tacky.
6. Integrity Uses Stolen Assets To Sell $100 DLC
As showcased by Jim Sterling, the game acts as little more than a shop window for its eye-watering DLC. The game barely functions as such, with a number of stolen assets and the bare minimum effort put in to attract gamers. Yet the game launched on to the Steam platform with the addition of a single piece of DLC – a costume priced at $99.99.
Even in the most adored game, this would be considered ridiculous. Yet in this game, it barely hides the contempt held for the gamer by the developer of the title. Who in their right mind would pay such a high price for a single piece of DLC? It’s madness and speaks volumes of the methods currently being employed over in Steam’s indie scene.
Valve promised to stop this kind of rubbish – it seems to be only ever increasing.
5. NBA2K18’s Virtual Currency
Virtual currency isn’t anything new. It’s been a staple of games for a long time, expecting gamers to earn the money needed to unlock new items, characters or upgrade custom ones (WWE No Mercy on the N64 was my first encounter with it). It’s a solid idea, but when mixed with microtransactions – the entire thing becomes a bit of a joke.
In 2K’s NBA2K18, virtual currency is drip-fed to gamers at an alarmingly slow pace. When gamers first boot in, they get 6000 points – but these don’t go very far. Want to add custom hair to your face captured custom character? That’ll cost you VC. Want to buy custom attire? More VC? Want to level your basketballer up at a pace that doesn’t make you want to yank out your hair in frustration? Best get that VC. This might not be a problem if the game actually delivered them in a decent manner. But as many have already discovered over on Reddit and Neogaf – the game is stingy at best.
All the while, the game dangles the option of buying Virtual Currency over gamers heads. Tempting them to use real money as a shortcut to making their character better. It’s a shockingly brazen attempt to push for more money in a full retail game. While some may argue money isn’t “essential”, this is the kind of thing mobile games do in order to get money from their customers. It has no place in a prominent AAA-game like NBA – and represents a cold new front on the microtransaction front.
For years, this has been a feature in games. Now it’s dangerously close to ruining the core experience.
4. Bethesda’s Creation Club
Bethesda’s Creation Club is what happens when publishers decide that they want to cream a bit more money off the top. Free mods have been a staple of PC gaming for years – but Bethesda has long shown an interest in monetizing the entire section. It failed once before, but that hasn’t stopped it from coming back around to the idea.
From the surface, it’s not a bad idea. Mod owners register their wares and receive a percentage of the sales they generate. Anything from reskins through to entire new weapons are on offer – but that’s where the problems start. Bethesda force gamers to use their in-universe currency to make transactions. The problem with this is that Bethesda is the one who gets to decide how much their currency is worth – effectively manipulating how much they could earn.
It points to a worrying future where Bethesda and Zenimax may not allow gamers the option of modding for free – something that would be wholly unthinkable in series like Fallout and Elder Scrolls. It’s unnecessary and frankly unwanted – which goes some way to explaining why many gamers are downloading mods to hide it entirely.
3. Need For Speed Payback Makes Car Upgrades A Lootbox Mess
Need for Speed Payback arrived in the shadow of Star Wars Battlefront II – overshadowed by the monstrous backlash that managed to create. That doesn’t make Payback’s sins any less appalling – in particular for those who turned up and paid full price for this mistake.
In place of traditional car parts and upgrades, Need for Speed Payback forces you into a loot box style system which gives your car small boosts. Like most loot boxes, the credit to earn these cards is earned wither via in-game currency or via real money outlay. The problem is that the cards are tied into the main core of the game, effectively halting progression in the process.
This might not be the worst thing if the game had any interesting ideas, but it honestly has nothing to pad the time. Other than a leveling system that encourages gamers to buy the packs to speed up progression, there’s nothing really exciting about the entire thing.
2. Destiny 2 Pushing End Game Content Behind A Paywall
Destiny 2 makes its second appearance on this list and for good reason. While the use of microtransactions was deplorable, it didn’t interfere with the core gameplay. If you weren’t happy with that aspect of the game, you could always ignore it. Sadly that wasn’t the case when Curse of Osiris landed, which pushed a good amount of the base game endgame behind the DLC’s paywall.
By lifting the level requirements for several key experiences, Bungie and Activision effectively took these sequences out of the base game and made them apart of the DLC content.
Of course, Destiny has done this a few times before but with Destiny 2 already struggling to gain momentum – the last thing the title needed was yet more controversy. With fans of the game openly calling for a change in direction, Bungie eventually relented to give gamers their content back.
1. The Entire Star Wars Battlefront II Fiasco
It’s fair to say that EA’s second attempt at releasing a Battlefront game wasn’t the most successful.
Battlefront managed to draw the ire of gamers across the board with its poor implementation of loot boxes. The slow progression and poorly thought out reward system effectively locked out some of the series most beloved characters unless gamers reached into their wallet.
So negative was the feedback to Star Wars Battlefront 2’s DLC and loot boxes that even Disney reportedly got involved – going as far as to demand EA remove the offending barriers until The Last Jedi had been released. EA did relent, lowering the paywall (for a timed period) and promising to do better in future.
It proved to be the single biggest controversy within gaming in 2017 – and one that may yet have a long-lasting effect on the regulation of loot boxes and DLC.