Hello friends, it’s been a while. I know I haven’t written here in some time, instead focusing on the weekly Cookie Sheets podcast (available on iTunes and Google Play 🙂 ) and avoiding even more time spent staring at a screen.
Today that hiatus ends. Because today I need to warn you about an impending scam. A cash-grab. A straight-up heist. I’m here to warn you about Square Enix’s Marvel’s The Avengers game, arriving to consoles and PC on September 1st.
When we first saw gameplay footage many moons ago, I was pleasantly intrigued. A unique narrative Avengers experience wrapped inside a blockbuster AAA title with an expansive cast of heroes I love? YEAH. I could even forgive the “near” likenesses of the characters to their MCU counterparts. Uncanny valley or not, I love me a good superhero jaunt.
However, as the release date has drawn near and more information has been released, it’s very clear what this game is: a blockbuster budgeted cash grab that aims to continue to take money from players even after they’ve plopped down $60 up-front by shoving micro-transactions down your throat at every turn.
A few days ago, Square dropped a long-ass post explaining “Everything You Need to Know about Gear & Cosmetics.” And it definitely gave me everything I needed to know in order to NOT buy this game.
Hard and Soft Currency
You know when a game’s economy needs to be explain in this level of detail, it’s a bad thing. Avengers will feature a soft currency called “Gear” that has no “real world value.” In other words, useless BS currency that won’t get you anything all that important besides stuff in the game proper.
What really will matter will be “Credits,” which is the game’s hard currency which is purchasable with real life dollars. This currency will certainly be used to buy all the cosmetic skins and fun items for your favorite Avenger. If it’s going to look REAL COOL, it’s gonna cost you REAL MONEY. Credits are exchangeable at essentially a 1 for 100 rate. So the level of 500 credits (which likely won’t buy you much) will cost you $5. Higher tiers of credits will cost proportionately more, but will have a “bonus” built in which means spending $20 will net you 2,000 credits + 200 BONUS credits or some vague shit like that. This essentially renders the conversion logic useless because this in-game currency could have whatever value they want. It could have been $1 for 1,000 credits, but that wouldn’t be greedy enough.
We also recently got word that if you’re an Intel, Verizon, or Virgin Mobile customer, you’ll get access to special skins in which to deck out your Avengers. So if you ever wanted to know how low Tony Stark would sink, here’s your chance to see him in all his Virgin Mobile glory.
Whether or not these are locked exclusively to these brand’s customers, this is still shameless in-game advertising that makes players walking billboards.
All the Battle Passes
Battle passes were brought into the gaming forefront thanks to Fortnite, the PVP money machine from Epic Games that, despite slowing down from its billion dollar craze, is still a behemoth in gaming, with having tie-in’s from major movies and companies, being the first game to really force cross-play across consoles, and launching a war against Apple and Google to force them to take a lesser percentage of their in-game currency sales.
Fornite’s battle passes are essentially the game. You spend approximately $10 a season (seasons typically last ten weeks) and you get some instant unlockables alongside a ladder of rewards that you can earn through normal (but varying) gameplay and some specific challenges. If you get your time in on it, one dollar a week will net you multiple skins, emotes, gear, and other “cosmetic” items. It’s not a system without its flaws and problems, but the ROI is certainly there for a game that is technically free to play.
Avengers has taken that concept and shoved it into the Money Printing Manipulator and it crapped out a way for a game to have multiple battle passes at once. It won’t be enough to just have one battle pass for the game, each unlockable hero will have their own specific battle pass.
These “Premium Hero Challenge Cards” (god even the marketing talk for this game is gross) are being graciously given to players for free for the first six heroes with which the game launches. From then on out, Square has decided you’re on your own, charging 1,000 credits for every hero that follows, which essentially means you’re spending $10 every time a new hero comes out if you want all of their extra add-on’s. And they’re hiding behind the fact that while the hero pass is $10, the hero itself is free. *groan* And remember, you don’t get the extra items when you pay. You’re only paying for the privilege of grinding away to get 40 tiers worth of items, of which likely 5-8 of those things are actually going to be cool. Let’s be fair. I don’t know anyone who actually gives a shit about a virtual sticker your character can launch into the air like a DORK.
For a $60 game that has multiple add-on playable characters coming down the pipeline (Hawkeye and the PS-exclusive Spider-Man to name a couple), telling me I need to spend even more money is an insult. You might as well charge me $120 and give me everything, Jerks.
Rotating Cosmetic Shop
Just like Fortnite, Avengers will have a weekly rotating selection of items to spend that “hard currency” on. These items will surely be overpriced (judging by their provided screenshot of the marketplace, skins could be nine bucks or more) and will be justified by Square saying they are COSMETIC ONLY, which means they are doing the bare minimum and not selling items that affect “gameplay.” But that ignores the very real -in-game FOMO and social pressure surrounding not having “base” skins. Running around with just that normal Cap skin? Ha, NEWB.
Don’t Do It
This is a horrid mix of Anthem, Fortnite, and whatever other “games as a service” title Square has seen in the wild, combining all their different pay features in a Voltron of money-sucking the likes of which the gaming industry has never seen before. Are there loot boxes? No. But if there hadn’t been such a vociferous backlash to EA’s Battlefront II, you can rest assured they would have those lucky loot boxes too.
Marvel’s The Avengers obviously isn’t the first game to try any of these cash collecting methods, but surely they’ll be the first to take as many of them as possible and cram them on top of an already full-priced game. I haven’t seen any other mainstream title try to do this at this ballsy scale. I miss the days of paid DLC that gave me immediate access to whatever I bought, not to mention missing the times when games just came out FINISHED.
If you’ve read all of this and haven’t been dissuaded from buying this game, then congratulations because you apparently have more money and free time than I do. I’m not interested in the grind or the unending money pits. Unless this game undergoes a drastic overhaul (unlikely if its even remotely successful), I won’t be getting anywhere near it. And you should do the same. All gamers can do these days to tell publishers what we want is to vote with our wallets. If this game flops HARD, then the studio will need to pivot, change things, and they’ll actually learn to never try this ish again… for at least six to eight months until they think they can do it better.
And this isn’t even addressing if the gameplay will actually be FUN or not! It looks eh so far. Cinematic and pretty, sure, but it seems a little clunky and like one-size fits all for the characters. But even if the gameplay is the BEST, Square has already made the choice that you’re going to be spending most of your time in menus, breaking down items, buying clothes, and keeping up with weekly challenges. Hard pass.
If you want more of these soulless corporate games with micro-transactions up your ass, then go drop however much money you want. But I’m guess and hoping that most gamers out there don’t want this. So go vote… with your controller. And your dollars.