Players of Dragon's Dogma 2 annoyed by its many optional microtransactions

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Enshittification strikes again!


Capcom has been doing this for years, Devil May Cry 5 and the RE remakes let you buy consumable items and “All Unlocks” passes that give you instant access to stuff you can orherwise earn by playing. Not sure why people are getting all worked up about it now. To me this is the best way to handle micro transactions, the stuff is there in the game for free and you can unlock it the same way you always have in these games in the past, but if you absolutely need to have it immediately or want to cheat, you can pay to do so.

Meanwhile you’ve got “free-to-play” games like Overwatch 2 charging $20-$50 for individual skins that you can only get with real money when you used to be able to get them for free either through earned lootboxes or in-game currency. People complained about lootboxes so much that we ended up with skins that cost nearly as much as an entire game instead.


For overwatch 1 their generous giving away of stuff became a problem because there was little incentive to spend money, so the devs had to work on a shoestring budget. And while OW2 has expensive skins, other shooters like Valorant have even higher prices for gun skins and the like. I still think that microtransactions suck, but some games implement it in inobtrusive ways. Of the games that I play I like how Deep Rock Galactic and Dead Cells handles their paid content


I wouldn’t say it’s being being “review bombed”, rather the people who have bought the game are now correcting the record when the initial, critic reviews were looking at a significantly different product, before the experience was enshittened with lots of cash grabs.

Of course they’re saying that these are entirely optional, but that’s difficult to defend when actual game features like fast travel are behind pay gates.


Back in the day, a DM would joke that in exchange for snacks he would invoke the favors of the gods, but that was just for a giggle. It’s probably good for my productivity that they have microtransactions, as the nuisance keeps me from gaming.


I have mixed feelings about this. Publishers have been cornered into microtransactions by market forces (driven heavily by entitled gamer demands), but they’re not great for game design. This set of microtransations was quietly slipped in, which feels dishonest, even if they’re not actually necessary. It looks like they largely short-cut bits of the game, which is like paying extra to get a fast-forward button for a movie. But that rather implies someone is making an experience with boring bits you’ll want to fast-forward through. This is complicated by the discussion around this game, where the developers talked about not having “fast travel,” but instead making traveling between points entertaining. Except now you can pay for “fast travel,” which brings into question their assertions.

It’s more complicated than that, and is happening because of a very different set of dynamics from the usual enshittification. In some ways, it’s kind of the reverse. The retail price for video games has basically not changed in over 30 years (there were $70 games in the late '80s), as gamers have been extremely resistant to price changes - even just keeping up with inflation - while also demanding greater and greater complexity from games, in particular “AAA” games. Which means the cost of developing games in that time has increased exponentially. (Gamers also usually refuse to pay “full price” for non-“AAA” games. Which leads to a dynamic where a game that was “AAA” 20 years ago now isn’t, and can’t be priced at what it would have sold at 20 years ago, even ignoring inflation.) There’s also an expectation that the retail price for a game will decline over time, starting months after release. (On mobile, there’s an expectation that games will be free.) The game market has grown enormously, but barriers to releasing games have fallen away, so the number of games released each year has also increased exponentially. So marketing costs, to get the same number of sales, has increased (also beyond inflation).

All of which is to say: because of consumer demands, retail prices have gone down substantially in real-money terms while production and marketing costs continually skyrocket. The number of units a game needs to sell to make a profit constantly increases, to the point where it’s becoming impossible for even sequels to beloved franchises to hit the required sales numbers. If it behaved like a normal industry, video games would probably cost upwards of $200 instead of $70. (At the very least, they’d be upwards of $130 just because of inflation alone.) But they don’t, so publishers have gotten a bit desperate for additional revenue streams. Players claim to hate microtransactions, but it’s one of the few things they will pay for (that doesn’t incur substantial additional costs for developers). Games just don’t have additional revenue streams like the movie industry developed (broadcast rights and home video etc.) that dwarfed their initial way of making money. In addition, video games, like all creative works, mostly don’t break even. So a game doesn’t just need to exceed its own marketing and development costs, but pay for failed games from the same publisher as well.

On top of that, of course, we do have the familiar enshittification dynamics - issues created by publicly traded companies trying to make the line constantly go up, while interest rates on loans increase, etc. etc. (This is having a huge impact on the monstrous number of layoffs in the industry in the last few months, in particular.) But even the absence of all the usual pressures to enshittify, these kinds of microtransactions would still be going on.


Fast travel isn’t behind a pay-gate. You can buy one port crystal which only allows you to place a spot to fast-travel to. You need a separate item to actually fast-travel. You can find 10 of these port crystals in game, making the 11th DLC one kind of a waste of money.

Anyway, the DLC isn’t the problem. The real problem is that it has Denuvo.

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some citations might be needed there.

the big publishers are extremely profitable. and they’re not really even passing those profits down to their developers in terms of adequate salary ( other than programmers ) nor in terms of normal work hours

meanwhile, things like loot boxes ( and micro transactions generally ) are full of dark patterns, encouraging gambling involving minors

i don’t have much sympathy for them. ( smaller, indie devs are a different story. but they’re not helped by the practices of the big publishers either )


Being in the business of selling single-player consumables certainly makes Capcom’s loud fretting about mods much more understandable.

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This can also be simultaneously true, in part because of how the industry responded to to things I talked about. What we’ve seen is a huge amount of consolidation. The industry went from hit games being produced by a single developer over a matter of months, to games that make use of over 1000 developers over a number of years - anywhere from 3 to 10. A lot of big publishers have gone under. To survive making games with AAA budgets, publishers needed to spread out the risk with a greater and greater number of games (and making bigger, more expensive blockbusters to have a better chance of making a profit, because sales are more consistent than with smaller games). This had led to the more successful publishers (their coffers filled with the profits from microtransactions and subscription fees) buying up other companies. So for one, we’re seeing survivor bias in the numbers - big companies that don’t do well don’t exist for long; the big companies are also substantially bigger than they have been in the past, thus their profits are also higher. But also those profits get kept up by slashing costs - e.g. the Embracer group has recently kept its numbers looking rosy by laying off a couple thousand workers. Their profit numbers come from directly mistreating their workforce.

Yes, and unfortunately this has always been the game industry culture and reality, in studios of all sizes. The recent anomalous period of stability made workers start demanding better conditions, something which was long overdue. (Unfortunately, due to the layoffs, the industry suddenly has substantially fewer jobs than developers, so it’s in a perfect position to keep exploiting workers.) It’s not just been about economic exploitation of workers, though, but a dysfunctional culture that engaged in labor practices that aren’t sustainable for more than a couple years (leading to huge burn-out rates) but also are demonstrably counter-productive to work output even in the short term. It’s a culture originally defined by young men with no lives outside games, with an element of hazing (“we went through this, so you should too”), worsened by bad management.

That’s a much, much longer post that would require a fuck-ton of references. The stats are there (look at the average retain prices of games over the last 30 years; the dev team sizes and development times, the size of AAA teams and marketing budgets, etc), though they’re pretty scattered and you need to put them in the context of the history of the industry, which I don’t know anyone has done. I’ve been talking about this stuff with friends in the industry for more than 20 years, and noting during all that time that it’s been poorly documented.

The economics of the industry are pretty fucked - and always have been, it’s just that every so many years things become fucked in a completely different way as the situations change. And yeah, occasionally a company makes some big profits (though it gets harder and harder), but it doesn’t necessarily say much about how things are operating overall.


Yeah, I bought $50 games in the '80s.
But you can’t have a discussion about e.g. inflation without comparing the sizes of the market from 30+ years ago vs. that of today, especially when discussing a good whose marginal cost to produce is zero.


Nobody expects microtransactions! Fear, surprise, and a most ruthless…
I’ll come in again.


It seems…distinctly honest…to have not had the microtransactions rolled out for reviewers or disclosed to pre-orderers and just popped them for release.

You can say that it’s fine, and they’re optional and unobtrusive and whatnot, all you like; but there’s nothing like hiding something to make it look like you have something worth hiding.


Hell Divers 2 seems to deal with it pretty well. I begrudgingly bought it to play with some non “gamer” friends. Turns out it’s super fun. You can buy stuff or grind for it. It’s balanced well enough that the base weapons are still usable in endgame if your skill and team is up to the task.

Yes, leaving aside that AAA dev costs have increased exponentially, and that you can’t release a non-AAA game at late '80s prices, the market is, as I said, many times larger. But hand in hand with that is that you also can’t ignore that the amount of money being spent is being divided between a hell of a lot more games.

The second year of Steam’s operation, they added 136 games to the platform. Last year they added 14,441 new games. Before digital distribution, there were some serious impediments to releasing commercial video games - you needed a publisher and distributor to manufacture and distribute carts or disks. Now anyone can produce video games and the competition is insane.

So while the market is many, many times bigger than it was in the '80s or '90s (almost 40 times bigger, perhaps, than it was in the early '80s, not adjusted for inflation), that doesn’t mean that the sales for particular games necessarily scale with the growth of the market. They don’t, in fact. Yes, the potential number of sales that a game could achieve is much higher for the extreme outliers, but the market is also fragmented across different platforms, markets and revenue strategies, where you’re effectively selling different products. Which ultimately means that the reality is that a top-selling game like Spider-Man 2 is still only getting about as many sales as Pac-Man did on consoles in its first couple years, and the economics of their development isn’t remotely comparable. The original, 1996, Tomb Raider cost £440,000 to develop, and sold over 7 million copies - the recent reboot cost upwards of $110 million to make. It sold 14.5 million copies. Subsequent games in the modern series sold even less than the original game.

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Everything you said sounds like what my pal in the industry has been telling me. Gamer culture, especially the ones more willing to put the hobby above all others (ie spend the most money), have certain expectations for games, and meeting those expectations constantly drives up development costs. Games are expensive to make.

But Capcom’s refusal to give reviewers an accurate experience reflective of the experience the general public would have is shady. They know microtransactions are unpopular, despite their commonality. And they knew they would ruin impressions of a Dragon’s Dogma sequel. I guess it’s not so much enshittification (this is more pay-to-make-the-experience-easier) as it is just acting shitty.


Yeah i’m playing it as well with some friends. And it does seem like the paid stuff can be wholly ignored, but the premium warbond stuff looks great and they don’t really push it on you while playing.

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Yeah, this was a pretty sleazy move on Capcom’s part, but it’s also such a weird move on their part - this strangely self-inflicted wound caused mostly by being secretive about it. It seems like the review copies are the games minus the microtransactions, so if you want to have the experience of the reviewed game, you… just don’t buy the microtransactions and can safely ignore them. So they pissed off a bunch of players who are upset that they can buy some things that they don’t want, nor need to play the game.

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