With more and more high profile games embracing various types of free-to-play pricing and subscription models, there are always two key concerns: balance and pricing. If purchasable digital in-game goods add advantages to paying players, the competitive nature of certain types of games, especially shooters, can be tarnished.
The other issue of course, is the pricing. It’s not always “free-to-play” if to progress or continue playing, users need to fork out large or continuous sums of money. After seeing the insane pricing of in-game cosmetic microtransactions in CCP Games’ EVE Online there was understandably anxiety around how’d they handle the free-to-play model with their upcoming PlayStation 3 exclusive shooter, DUST 514.
The brilliance behind DUST 514 – aside from its innovative integration with the massive persistent universe of EVE Online and the PC players playing it – is that when a player’s character dies, they lose what gear they were equipped with. On the one hand, it adds a neat incentive for players to play smart and void death at all costs, but on the other, it creates a slightly slippery slope in that the gear could be gear a played paid money for.
Luckily for anxious fans waiting to jump into DUST 514, the price of these goods won’t be much, relatively speaking. In chatting with Eurogamer about pricing in-game items at E3, CCP Games’ VP of Art Morgan Godat explained that even with the top tier skills unlocked, the high-end kits of gear will be less than 25 cents, but that’s because you’ll need to buy many copies of the kit.
equipment. That’s because every time you die, you lose it all.
“There’s a thing about Dust, which is every time you die, you lose your items, so we’re talking about relatively small amounts of money. You can buy 100 copies of this gun, you can buy 100 copies of this suit of armour. We’ve got to make sure we’re pricing things at the right level, because if you die [you lose these things].
“We’re still tuning prices – the costs will change according to the feedback we get on the beta – but I believe when I calculated it last, at its most high-end – if you assume that somebody came in and had to buy, with real-world money, the best gear for a serious throw down – (they already had the skills, which by the way you have to build up and work up to be able to use the equipment) it was like a 24-cent thing,” said Godat.
“That’s assuming every piece of your equipment, including your dropsuit, was purchased with real-world money, and every time you died, it was a 24-cent cost to assemble your entire fit.”
The good news it that items can be earned in-game as well, we just don’t know how long it takes to get multiple copies of a high-end load-out to compare, but at least the financial damage isn’t crippling for those with spending money to equip or re-equip their characters.
DUST 514 is currently continuing in its closed beta as CCP monitors and a big part of the beta is finding the right formula for pricing goods. The question we have is whether or not the pricing and real-money microstransactions will create a barrier of entry for fans of shooters first and foremost, especially as a new phenomenon for console releases. Everything we’ve seen on the game up close and personal at the last two E3s has been very promising and it remains one of our most anticipated games of the year.
Dust 514 will be released exclusively for the PS3 and PS Vita (companion app) sometime in the spring of 2012.
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