There is a very good reason that gamers do not trust game developers or publishers farther than you can throw a parked car today. Companies have been misleading, or just lie to consumers about what they are going to do with microtransactions. Immediate examples that come to mind are Ubisoft® and The Division®. We were promised no microtransactions. Yet one-year post launch, they did just that: – Add microtransactions.
For the consumer, it gets worse. Recall Star Wars Battlefront II, with its immortalized Hero Characters such as Darth Vader, locked behind ridiculous 40-hour grind wall that amounted to a paywall. EA claims that the grind was “…to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.” This is after paying USD80.00 for the title. Compounding the Battlefront II fiasco was EA’s claim that “neither the developer nor [EA] intended to create a slot machine or to take money from people, though that was the perception.” Half baked excuses at best. The gaming public is smarter than this, did not buy in to it, with predictable, unenviable results. Now we come to more recent scandal in the same vein: – Bethesda and Fallout 76.
Bethesda’s Senior Marketing and Communications Director Pete Hines stated that Fallout76 premium currency called “Atoms” would be easy to get as Fallout76 would “thrown them at you all the time,” and they could only be used for “things to customize your character to look unique from everyone else.” A further promise was made that “all the DLCs – the post launch stuff – that is going to be free.”
The Broken Promise
Having promised that no cosmetic would provide any enhancing effects on gameplay abilities, attributes, and entities, Bethesda broke that promise earlier on January 29th, 2019 with the launch of the “Unstoppable” costumes. Between the 29th of January and the 4th of February 2019, having a full party of 4, with each player wearing a different Unstoppables Costume would net you a maximum health gain of +15 per unique costume, for a total health gain of +60 to your maximum health. The description clearly shows a stat gain for purchasing and using a cosmetic item, something Bethesda said they were never going to do with Fallout 76.
The Paid Advantage
Even if it was for only a week, the advantage gained here is a whopping +60 to your maximum health. Using only base stats for comparison without buffs from food and drugs, with a maxed-out Endurance S.P.E.C.I.A.L stat (level 15), your total health of 320. That is a 5% increased with one individual in your party equipping a costume. Therefore, a full party using these unique costumes means a total increase of almost 20% or +60 to your maximum health. Look at it another way: – If you are gaining a maximum of 5 HP per level playing in a full party, the +60 HP bonus you get is equivalent to twelve levels of endurance. by simply purchasing and dressing your character in Unstoppable character outfits.
Pay to Win is Pay to Win
While this was only valid for one week from January 29th to February 4th 2019, this does not change the fact that players were able to, and I am assuming quite a number would have paid for this significant gameplay advantage. Bethesda essentially engaged in pay to win tactics in what was a full price game that cost $60.00 US Dollars. This is in spite of repeated claims that Fallout 76 will never be pay to win and only for paid cosmetic items.
While a +60 hit points or health is certainly not a game breaking pay to win button, it is still a monetization system that gives you a competitive or statistical advantage in the game for spending money, hence justifying the title of Pay to Win. Star Wars Battlefront II Loot boxes was called Pay to Win because you spent money, and gained a significant advantage that put you ahead of the curve (and every other non-cash-spending player).
This is where the promise made by Pete Hines, by Bethesda was well and truly broken. Amongst Game Developers, not so long ago, Bethesda was held up as the game studio that had never used or abused microtransactions in their games. With Fallout 76, that promise is broken and Bethesda is now counted as one of the developers and publishers that can no longer be trusted by the gaming public.
The Triple Bottom Line
No matter what shape or form it comes in – by the company, platform, game or business model, Pay-to-win practices in any form are unacceptable. It defies understanding how Bethesda thought that they could get away with this, especially since the terrible launch of 76, the demonizing of pay-to-boost/pay-to-enhance/pay-to-win systems, and the loot box furor of Battlefront II. There is concrete evidence that Bethesda only makes empty promises to consumers.