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Wednesday, 26 March 2008 06:54

Battlefield: Bad Company microtransactions, a victory for the rich

Microtransactions are the way of the future, a way for everybody (consumer and company) to win.  But for some they are an insidious blight on life in the digital age, a way for big business to make even more profit on content that traditionally was delivered as part of the original package.  Electronic Arts(EA) have responded to queries about  purchasing extra weapons for the upcoming Battlefield: Bad Company

Over at gaming site Kotuku writer Brian Crecente has received an official response to the planned microtransaction scheme to be incorporated into the sure-to-be-popular Battlefield: Bad Company.

It reads;

Hey Brian,
Per our conversation, Battlefield: Bad Company features numerous weapons in the core game. In addition to the core set of weapons, Battlefield: Bad Company will release five unique weapons free of charge through five different promotional programs prior to launch. EA will again make these weapons available to players free of charge after launch, in case anyone missed the pre-launch promotions.
At launch, EA will release a Gold Edition of Battlefield: Bad Company which will feature an additional five new weapons. For players who do not purchase the Gold Edition of the game, they can still buy the five weapons at a small individualized price per item. All weapons are balanced for gameplay. More weapons offer players more choices but do not create an advantage/disadvantage for players who do not opt to buy new items.
Currently, the menu in the Battlefield: Bad Company beta notes all ten weapons; the five available free of charge pre-launch as well as the additional five available in the Gold Edition.
We will have more details on the pre-launch campaign and Gold Edition of Battlefield: Bad Company in the next few weeks.

This in its self is not too bad a response; it implies that purchasers of the non-Gold Edition will be no worse off in game balance terms than their richer rivals.  This is good, though I doubt in practice it will work out this way, having a larger choice gives an adaptability advantage surely.

As Creante alludes to later in the piece, “What worries me more is where this is all headed”. 

And rightly so, already we see microtransactions a well established process in the console world, where extra content packs can be downloaded for an extra fee.

In some cases this is justified, quite often there are generous concessions made on behalf of the publishers/developers,  Valve’s Orange Box, though not exactly a microtransaction situation, was great value as a collection of previously released and new content mashed into the one release.

On the other hand, there are download song packs for Guitar Hero which sometimes boarder on the ridiculous when it comes to value for money. 

Games such as Mass Effect with the additional ‘Bring Down the Sky’ add on adventure are even more open to the value for money question as it becomes more subjective than the obvious three songs equals 800 points valuation.

At least in these examples though, the packs are pure additions to games that are not competitive by definition.  With Battlefield however, being a completely online caper, victory going to the best organised and equipped team on the day, the compulsion to have all ‘toys’ available will be strong.

So is it the thin edge of the wedge?  Will competitive online gaming go the way of real world America’s Cup or Formula 1 racing (or many other sports for that matter) where the richest competitors have advantages enough to dominate?  Time will tell, one could already argue that it has already at the hardware and perihperal level.  Gamers who lay out big bucks for quick response Mice, Steering wheels, speedy PC rigs and fast internet connections already enjoy competitive advantages in games.

It could be that market forces will simply dictate that the idea is not sound, that people don’t want to be forced to doll out extra dosh for pithy content.  My gut feeling however, is that this will indeed be successful for EA, and be the start of even more microventures

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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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