Going through the feedback everyone shares on latest multiplayer beta, I have noticed lot of confusion and bafflement about these draconian free to play measures such as: overpriced cash shop, very slow progression, absence of playlists etc etc. As someone who have some experience with designing monetizations system for mobile apps, I figured I could share my opinions and my feedback and maybe it will help everybody to better understand the inner workings of business side of game development.
First I want to stress out that 343i staff did a great job to create fun game loop. i really like the core gameplay. these are intelligent and talented people, they know what they doing, and if you think they have missed these big issues during their testing you are wrong - they havent missed anything, this is by design. At some point in the development, I am sure decision was made by leadership to make multiplayer portion free to play. Yes, nobody asked them to do this, but free to play games makes overall much more money than their paid counterparts. They want it to be a next Fortnite, next CoD. Problem is, when you make this decision, every single gameplay mechanic must be complementing or be subservient to applied monetization scheme - that means roadblocks and limitations - they need to create problem to sell you a solution. So keep this in mind as we go through 6 biggest complaints and, what is in my opinion, reason behind it.
1. Overpriced Cash Shop - If you think $20 bucks for piece of armor is too much, you are not target demographic. These aggressive cash shops are designed for “whales” - aka players who have access to lot of money and dont have any patience. As good armors and dyes are locked behind 70 -90 levels of gruesome battlepass leveling, these whales have no problems pay 40-even 100 bucks to get decent cosmetics right here right now. It works. Maybe they will tweak the pricing a little down the road, introduce in game currency, once poriton of whales will move to another games.
2. Slow Progression - Because progression is way how to get some decent cosmetics and dopamine hits, it needs to be monetized and hindered. Again to entice whales to buy xp levels and skip insane grind they have implemented. The other reason is control of engagement and pacing of rewards. This is a 6 month long season. They have decided their seasons wont be front heavy and they need to spread rewarding fro months and months. Same could be done with lots of events, but thats more work and more money.
3. Flat XP gains - You have noticed there are no xp gains for medals and wins. That is by design. From business standpoint you need reliable forecasting, reliable way how to control and tweak distribution of monetization system. This is one of the way how to flatten the curve. By putting too many variables and gains towards progression, it would introduce unwanted spikes into the model. Everything needs to be brought down to lowest common denominator and heavily exploited on that level - that is the “charm” of F2P models. everybody needs to progress in similar pace, so everybody is enticed to open their wallets.
4. Missing Playlists and Filters - Another way how to flatten the curve and, in my opinion, it is directly connected to weekly challenges. You need 5 CTF matches done to progress? Well, boot up Quick play and pray to gods of RnG to make your wish come true! Its just one more roadblock to hinder the progressions and getting challenges sooner. Yeah, its creating incentives for quitting matches, but remember the mantra of F2P model - every gameplay mechanic needs to be subservient to applied monetization scheme.
5. Armor Customizations - Ok so this one is pretty straightforward - you cannot mix and match armor sets, have MKVII chest with MKV shoulders, right? Well, again, its done to increase the time you will spent in game ,or spent your money, on the ideal look for our character. If you could mix and match your first two cores, you could potentially get the look you want sooner and not be enticed to continue running the hamster wheel - we cant have that
6. BATTLEPASS will never expire - Of course it wont Because normal player wont be able to finish it in time. And it will create a backlog for consumer to chase, after another battlepass is introduced. Its all done to make sure you always have something to grind for and create even more urgency to finish and buy as the backlog of unfinished paid battlepasses grows and grows - its quite genius frankly, but please dont bring this as a positive…it just clearly complements the implemented system.
So thats my take on this whole controversy. It all boils down to executive decision making the multiplayer F2P and I believe their system designer went a little bit overboard to implement that decision. I am sure whales are already buying and fans are grinding, but it could have been done much better for sure. Even Destiny, the king of overpriced and meaningless DLCs and Seasons, has done this progressions better, although their seasons are pretty front loaded. At least you can finish what you have paid for, by actually playing the game and not completely ruin it for others by chasing overt challenges, which are usually hindering the team success.