There was a time where I admired Tripwire Interactive. Red Orchestra remains one of the most interesting multiplayer shooters I’ve ever played, and Killing Floor is an excellent alternative to Left 4 Dead in terms of pure, unabashed zombie slaying. It was because of this that I took a risk and purchased Killing Floor 2 for early access. I knew the risks, but surely a well reviewed publisher like Tripwire could do what so many indie developers, or over-hyped Kickstarters fail to do right? Maybe this was going to be one of the few Early Access success stories we always hope for?
As it turns out, no, not quite. Not only did Tripwire completely drop the ball with KF2, but with it’s most recent update they may have just signed it’s death sentence.
For those not in the know, probably a lot given KF2‘s relatively low playerbase and sales reports, KF2‘s most recent update, the Trading Floor Zedconomy update, added in, among other small updates, a new micro-transaction marketplace for cosmetic weapon and character skins. Players can spend real-world money to unlock these skins, or hope to unlock skins via drops in-game.
Before we delve any further, I do want to stress the point, and Tripwire and their supporters, are eager to do this as well: the paid content is purely cosmetic, and does not affect the gameplay at any point. Tripwire VP Alan Wilson has been quoted
“Q: Will I have to spend money to remain competitive?
A: No. All of the content added in Trading Floor at launch will be cosmetic only and not affect gameplay in any way. In the future we may be adding weapons with new gameplay for sale, but this will appear in the “Shared Content” area on the server. This means that, if any player on the server has a weapon (like the Chivalry Zweihander now), then every player on the server will be able to use it. No-one gets any “advantage”. Co-op game – everyone starts out equal! Our goal is for any such weapons to be side grades anyway, so they won’t provide an edge over the current tier of weapon power.” -via Destructoid
Fan reaction, regardless, has been overwhelmingly negative, and rightly so. Unlike most other games that add or feature a micro-transaction market, KF2 is not a full released product, still sitting in the nebulous release window of Early Access. It currently features only a small handful of maps, and about half of the proposed perks. Updates have also been painfully slow since launch, and while the game is incredibly stable, players are likely to get bored of the meager amount of content quickly.
In fairness, this isn’t the series’ first foray into this sort of micro-economics. The first Killing Floor has nearly $200 worth of DLC available through Steam, everything from weapons and character skins to new content. The difference, however, is all of this was added after the game was completed to 1.0, at a time where most games these days are all but expected to release DLC content.
If that wasn’t enough, all of this is coming hot on the heels of the Pay Day 2 fiasco created when Overkill Software added in weapon stat balances as paid, than paid/unlockable purchases. The fallout from that has been devastating, with Pay Day 2′s Steam reviews and forums overrun with negative feedback. That situation was compounded by the disastrous, and with some reports ongoing, issues with the Pay Day 2 console ports for X1 and PS4 are expected, never mind the pre-existing slew of DLC packs available in the store already. Overkill have since apologized, but as of this writing the micro-transactions are still part of the game.
Perhaps neither of these, however, reach the fever pitch that was the Skyrim paid mod situation of this past April, where over a very long and tiring weekend Bethesda and Valve attempted to monetize the long free art of game modifications. That got so bad that, thanks to negative reviews, Skyrim dropped from the top 100 games on Steam, to out of the top 1000, a herculean shift considering the game’s popularity. Both Bethesda and Valve later recalled the idea, although Bethesda seemed disappointed, and they have hinted they’d be interested in bringing the concept back later.
It’s becoming more and more clear, between the overwhelmingly negative backlash to Pay Day 2 and Killing Floor 2‘s micro-transactions, or the complete disgust people have against EA’s $70 season pass for Battlefront 2015, that gamers are becoming tired of the nickel and diming of content in games. DLC has been a tricky subject for a while, but it seems that in 2015-2016 consumers are finally starting to become disenfranchised by the concept. Games are already expensive enough, and the constant push to buy more is becoming more and more annoying, between micro-transactions, Day One DLC, pre-order DLC, and season passes. The $60-$80 price of a game seems less like an “all access pass” and more like an “entrance fee”
What do you think? Should developers and publishers continue to push micro-transactions and DLC in games? Should an Early Access beta like KF2 be allowed to sell extra content when the promised game is still unfinished? Let us know in the comments below!