Monday, 11 February 2013

Dead Space 3 - Microtransactions, Exploits, and Statements, Oh My!

This is going to be a strange one, that's for sure.

I'm not even sure where to begin, to be completely honest. Dead Space is another one of those franchises that I haven't gotten around to playing or really bothering with in general. They seem like good games, sure, but at the same time I've honestly got enough on my plate as it is. That being said the most recent release in the series, Dead Space 3, has been generating a lot of discussion lately, not because of its content per se, but rather one of the choices that EA has placed in how said content can be delivered.

It's been no real secret that EA has been planning on making Dead Space 3, a game with a full retail price tag, also sport microtransactions. Basically, you can either get the parts you need to upgrade weapons in game, or you can also pitch a few dollars and wind up with the same end result. It should probably almost go without saying at this point that people were far less than thrilled with this development. EA has often cemented itself as a company that seems to care more about making money than actually treating gamers with any degree of dignity.

The game only hit the open market recently, this past week to be precise. However, it didn't take people long to discover that even with the microtransaction system you didn't need to pay to win ... rather, you just needed to exploit. Guides sprang up telling players the locations of rooms that held infinitely respawning items and resources.

With the ability to farm what you needed there's no real need to invest anymore money than what you put down to purchase the game. Predictions abounded as to when EA would catch wind of these goings-on and patch the loopholes into oblivion. Would further action be taken? Would those who used the exploit be found and punished? People waited for an answer, and they didn't have to wait long either.

Brace yourself. This is where it gets weird:

“The resource-earning mechanic in Dead Space 3 is not a glitch. We have no plans to issue a patch to change this aspect of the game. We encourage players to explore the game and discover the areas where resources respawn for free. We’ve deliberately designed Dead Space 3 to allow players to harvest resources by playing through the game. For those that wish to accumulate upgrades instantly, we have enabled an optional system for them to buy the resources at a minimal cost ($1-$3).”

That statement comes from one Jino Talens, who serves as the EA public relations representative. Your eyes do not deceive you; this is the company coming out and saying that not only are there going to be no consequences for what people have been calling an exploit, but that this was in fact that plan all along.

The sound you hear is the jaws of gamers hitting the floor.

This isn't the same kind of "hand caught in the cookie jar" scenario that Capcom might have been in when it admitted that the on disc DLC would be free, but there are some similarities. I wouldn't put it past EA to try and earn back some trust and good reputation among gamers by claiming that this was how things were supposed to work all along ... even if it really wasn't. Perhaps it's just the cynic in me that loathes to give them credit in light of their past transgressions, but if this was indeed intentional, then perhaps it's a step in the right direction.

Don't get me wrong. I still think that microtransactions in a full price game are bullshit, but the fact that you apparently can get along fine without them is at least a small credit in EA's favour. Again, the cynical part of me will wonder how fast they'll squander that. At least it's something pleasant to report for a change.

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