So in hindsight, I think this is going to be a fortnightly blog. Hopefully I can step it up a notch when I find a slot in my week to dedicate it to but, for the moment, fortnightly it is. Which brings us onto this week’s topic!
Whatever your feelings are about Fortnite, you can’t deny that it was a massive games changer in the… well games industry.
I’m not going to be coy here, I got hooked on Fortnite for a while, bought the battle passes, paid for a few extra V-bucks and unashamedly had a great time doing it.
As a game that was free to play, cross-platform, looked attractive and was mechanically sound, it’s no surprise that it was the first of the Battle Royal games to go interstellar*.
So it’s interesting that the majority of the news that circulated about it was about how people (largely kids) were spending hundreds of pounds on a free to play game.
Being free to play doesn’t mean that it was free to create. People spend hours of their time creating this game, as they do with all games, so money needs to be made somewhere. Micro-transactions were already a thing and had been in the sphere of common people news since before 2015’s Overwatch so they had that revenue stream. But to make it completely free to play, they introduced the battle pass.
Instead of paying a set price for the game, you paid for a period of time where your precious hours of gaming would earn you better rewards than if you didn’t pay. They were all cosmetic so these players weren’t at any competitive advantage, but you got to show off your cool skins and have a level-based progression system to work through. Then at the end of the “season” your pass ran out and, if you wanted to continue to collect these rewards, you paid for a new battle pass.
This pairing of battle passes and micro-transactions kickstarted a whole era of games. Whilst the majority that followed were also Battle Royal type games, other games have managed to follow suit. And I cannot thank Fortnite enough for this.
Games like Apex Legends and Dauntless have fought for my attention, and Paladins and Rocket League** are regular contenders in our weekly games group. The reason why, they’re free to pick up and play as a group!
I’d never really given PvP games like Overwatch a real chance before because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to convince four friends to invest in the game with me*** but, whilst Paladins feels like a cheap knock off, I can enjoy playing it with friends. And it cost us nothing to try it out!
Now I know that eventually we’ll move on, maybe even invest in Overwatch now we have the taste for it, so if this was a demo or a free weekend, I wouldn’t be interested in paying the standard £50. But what I can do, to give something back to the studio that created it, help pay some wages and encourage other studios to continue with this trend, is to pay for a £10 battle pass. So for the few months we’ll pay, I get a premium experience without breaking the bank and this doesn’t take anything away from the people I’m playing with who don’t have the money.
I’m not saying that I want every game to work like this. I imagine it’s not financially viable for a big triple A studio to run like this, nor would it work for single player experiences. But I’ll continue to support the ones who can.
Now back to that whole, spending hundreds of pounds thing…
Micro-transactions, essentially in-game credit, has been around for a long, llooonnnngggg time now. You make your real money digital money, then spend that money on skins, dance moves, umbrellas, you name it, there’s probably a game that has it. Unlike a battle pass which is a set amount you pay to unlock a premium element of the game, your in-game currency isn’t capped. This is how you end up with a ten year old maxing out a credit card on aesthetics.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve dabbled from time to time. £10 for this game, £10 for another, but nothing that would draw the attention from a debt collector****. But this is where companies are making the real money. Just go and have a look at how much money EA makes from the virtual card game they added into Fifa… and yes, this is the best link I could find in the hour I gave myself to write this
Whilst I don’t like the fact that a company can earn this much money from a system like this, it’s a free world that allows you to choose how you want to spend your money… or your parents’ apparently.
So in summary, battle passes = good, micro-transactions = be responsible and don’t let your kids have access to your credit cards you idiots!
* My commiserations PUBG
** Technically it’s not free to play yet and adopted the ‘Rocket Pass” after their release, but after they saw the current climate, can you be surprised?
*** I didn’t want to drag down random strangers either
**** I enjoy the use of my thumbs, thank you very much!