Not all character level boosts were created equal. Star Wars: The Old Republic
is experimenting with a new type of boost that will offer an interesting alternative to the one that it already has in place to help players skip over the core game and right into the latest expansions.
Instead, the Master’s Datacron boost will instantly advance a character to level 70 while retaining his or her spot in the story. The obvious application of this is to pay to overpower your character so that you can advance through the story without any actual challenge.
At 2,000 cartel coins, the character boost isn’t cheap, although one can be bought and sold for credits on the GTN. The Datacron also comes with a set of level 70 gear and instant access to your ship, even if you haven’t reached it yet in your storyline.
Capping off the Great Star Wars Battlefront II Fiasco of November, Belgium’s Gambling Commission and the Dutch Gaming Authority both began investigating lootboxes/lockboxes to determine whether they constitute gambling and necessitate appropriate regulation. Now, the former has issued its ruling, and unlike the gaming-industry bodies ESRB and PEGI, it didn’t add to the BS smokescreen.
Indeed, the Belgian Kanspel Committee has indeed ruled that the practice is a serious problem. “The mixing of money and addiction is gambling,” it declares. Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Greens told VTM that he aims to have gambling mechanics stricken from games entirely, banned outright, throughout Europe. “But that takes time.”
The US state of Hawaii has joined in the fray too, as state representatives have lambasted EA’s “predatory behavior,” calling the game a “Star Wars-themed online casino, designed to lure kids into spending money.” Is it just one state? Maybe not.
On this week’s show, Justin and Bree bid a sad farewell to Marvel Heroes (and Master X Master while we’re at it). It’s not all depressing news; Secret World Legends is killing it, there’s a new Path of Exile expansion, and Guild Wars 2’s fourth living world season is on its way.
It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.
Listen to the show right now:
KeyBanc Capital Markets financial analyst Evan Wingren, who surely makes more money than you do, wants you to know that he’s a gamer too! And he assures you that you’re paying too little for games! In fact, KeyBanc Capital Markets financial analyst Evan Wingren says the real problem with the whole Star Wars Battlefront 2 monetization fiasco – the one that apparently worried Disney enough into making EA turn off microtransactions – is actually the big scary powerful gaming press, some dudes on Reddit, and their “popular press narrative.”
“This saga has been a perfect storm for overreaction as it involves EA, Star Wars, Reddit, and certain purist gaming journalists/outlets who dislike microtransactions,” KeyBanc Capital Markets financial analyst Evan Wingren insists. “Quantitative analysis shows that video game publishers are actually charging gamers at a relatively inexpensive rate, and should probably raise prices.” Indeed, KeyBanc Capital Markets financial analyst Evan Wingren estimates that you’re paying only 40 cents an hour for the average video game, compared to 60 cents for TV and 80 cents for a movie rental! Shit, guys, I’m going to go write EA a check right now.
It’s a good time to pile on predatory cash-shop models, especially if you’ve got a better one, and in-development hardcore MMORPG sandbox Saga of Lucimia is doing just that. While citing EA and Star Wars Battlefront II as the lead villain, however, Lucimia dev Tim “Renfail” Anderson isolates microtransactions as a whole, not just the lockbox phenomenon that saw EA dragged to the principal’s office.
“While the cash shop model has risen to prominence in the past decade, to the point where the vast majority of MMORPGs have shunned the subscription model in favor of larger profits, it is a system rife with poorly executed versions,” Anderson argues. “While there are some examples of microtransaction systems that work relatively well — I would argue that Elder Scrolls Online is a prime example in this category — the vast majority of them do not.”
To put it simply, it has not been the best of weeks for Electronic Arts, DICE, or Star Wars Battlefront II.
The publisher’s decision to push exploitative and pay-to-win lockboxes as part of the multiplayer shooter’s business model sparked a mainstream headlines-grabbing backlash from the community. After several PR stumbles, EA finally made the decision to reduce the cost of the lockboxes and pull microtransactions from the game (for now) prior to Battlefront II’s launch.
But the real decision for this move probably came from even higher up. The Wall Street Journal backs up last week’s rumors that “alarmed” Disney execs, in particular Disney Head of Consumer Products and Interactive Media Jimmy Pitaro, put direct pressure on EA to improve the situation. Considering that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is coming out in theaters next month, we suspect it definitely doesn’t help the franchise to have a high-profile video game racking up massive amounts of bad publicity.
You know what’s one MMO that seems to be capturing the interest of a lot of gamers these days? Warframe
. It seems to be sucking players in and surprising newcomers even four years after its debut.
“Warframe lends itself to replay in quite a number of different ways,” noted Why I Game in an extensive review. I Has PC is gushing over the various Warframe discoveries: “There is something for everyone here, all wrapped up in a tight, beautiful gameplay package. I have read people on Reddit learning new things about the game after putting in over 1000 hours already.”
Warframe not for you? This week’s edition of Global Chat points you toward MMO essays on the joys of climbing, grabbing free stuff in games, and the pain of healing a group of idiots. Check it out below!
If you haven’t been paying attention to the television market over the past few years, you might have missed the fact that we are in the middle of a revolution of how shows are made and broadcast. Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Disney, and CBS are greenlighting all sorts of fantastic shows with the hopes of strengthening their audience and luring them to these pay-to-watch platforms.
Game of Thrones, Westworld, The Walking Dead, The Defenders, Star Trek Discovery, and Stranger Things are a few examples of how these companies are getting acclaim and major viewership with ambitious projects. Large amounts of money are being thrown around on both the licensing and production of these shows, and companies are frantically looking around for the next big hit. So while Disney is boldly announcing a Star Wars live action TV series, Amazon went to the fantasy equivalent and nabbed a little thing called Lord of the Rings.
Yes indeed. The big news from this past week was that Amazon bought the rights to produce a multi-season Lord of the Rings series. While the exact cost of this deal wasn’t revealed, industry experts estimate that it was somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 to $250 million. No small po-tay-toes any way you look at it. But what will this series mean for our beloved MMORPG? I have a few thoughts about that.
It’s weird to think that I’ve been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic on and off since its release. Seems like such a long time ago. I’ve had great memories in that game and still appreciate the work that the team put into the cinematic stories, voice acting, and the occasional moral choice.
But as of late, it’s been more “off” than “on,” especially following the most recent expansion. I don’t like the subscription-locked endgame system, and pretty much everyone keeps advising me just to finish the story and then ditch the game. That’s disheartening to me. So I’ve been waiting to see what BioWare has in store for the long-term future. Depending on the direction that the game goes, I could see going back. Just not right now.
What’s keeping you from going back to one of your favorite MMOs? Is it a change, a lack of friends, or something else entirely?
Earlier this week, we reported on a move by the Belgian Gaming Commission to investigate lockboxes/lootboxes in games like Star Wars Battlefront 2 to determine whether they constitute games of chance to the degree that they require regulation meant for gambling. Now it appears the Dutch have joined them.
According to NU.nl, the Dutch Gaming Authority is also investigating whether this particular game mechanic falls under the banner of online gambling, which according to the news outlet is currently banned in the Netherlands, while games of chance on the whole are subject to special licensing rules. According to the regulatory group, it is “still in a research phase.”
EA has insisted that Star Wars Battlefront 2’s lootcrates “are not gambling” for all the usual reasons online gaming studios trot out to confuse people about what games of chance are: that players win something, even if it’s lint, and that players can earn crates via play. Last night, the company announced it was disabling all microtransactions while it sorted out the continuing uproar.
This week’s Massively Overthinking topic is a submission from reader and commenter camelotcrusade, who takes the industry’s current fight over monetization in a different direction from lockboxes. “Are modern games too cheap?” he asks, probably slowly reaching into a can of worms with a wicked gleam in his eye.
“When you think about it, many other things we buy have increased in price over the last decade but AAA games are still expected to be a maximum of $60, with many of us waiting for sales (or for free-to-play). Meanwhile, games everywhere are adding shops, post-release content, and DLC galore with increasingly aggressive pricing models. How much of this is to make-up margins they can’t capture up-front? How much should an AA game cost in 2017? $75? $90? Is there a price point where lockboxes, gambling, and in-game stores could focus on value-add instead of survival? And how did we get here? Whose fault is it? And how do we get out of this, or is ‘would you like a game with your store’ the future as we know it?”
Let’s talk money!
Players of Star Wars: The Old Republic
will be able to start taking part in the latest bit of the traitor storyline with the release of patch 5.6 on November 28th. Here’s the bad news, though: The patch will not include the new Yavin warfront
. There are still some issues with the new map, so it’s getting delayed very slightly until patch 5.6.1 scheduled for December 12th.
Everything else that’s planned for November 28th is still in place; that includes Legacy-wide credits, a character boost item to bring a character to 70, a new flashpoint, a new boss in Gods From The Machine, and many more things for players to do. (Also improvements to group finder queues, so it’ll be easier to find other players to do things with.) You can even read some new lore exploring the events leading up to the next set of quests centered around the traitor story. You’ll just need to wait a little bit longer for a new warzone, that’s all.
Whenever you see a studio call fans “passionate,” it’s almost always shorthand for “rioting with pitchforks and torches.” Guess what Star Wars Battlefront 2’s execs are calling its players this week?
DICE GM Oskar Garbrielson apologized to the game’s “passionate” community about the missteps that EA made in locking its characters behind a prohibitive grind and aggressively pushing microtransactions. He said that the team is disabling all in-game purchases with crystals, at least until the company can figure out a better way to implement them:
“But as we approach the worldwide launch, it’s clear that many of you feel there are still challenges in the design. We’ve heard the concerns about potentially giving players unfair advantages. And we’ve heard that this is overshadowing an otherwise great game. This was never our intention. Sorry we didn’t get this right. We hear you loud and clear, so we’re turning off all in-game purchases. We will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning. This means that the option to purchase crystals in the game is now offline, and all progression will be earned through gameplay. The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game. We’ll share more details as we work through this.”