It seems that any developer or publisher who’s recently dared to utter the word “microtransaction” has been met by the unbridled rage and contempt of the Internet gaming community. Earlier this week, Bungie and Activision gave the community beehive another whack with an expensive looking stick when level boosts for Destiny characters started appearing on the Xbox Live Marketplace and PSN store for $30 bucks a pop. These boosts (that only work on one of your characters) “contain a Level 25 boost…, a Subclass Boost, and Telemetries,” effectively allowing people to skip the roughly 20 hour grind up that was previously necessary to get up to level 25.
Now, I understand the outrage about the $30 pricetag. It’s cheaper to buy two copies of the Destiny Legendary Edition than it would be to buy all three character upgrades, not to mention that these level boosters don’t even boost characters to the level 40 cap. For the sake of comparison, in Battlefield 4 you can unlock every weapon and gadget for any particular class for $7 or for every class at once for $25. I don’t know how these prices got approved, but either Bungie and Activision waaay overvalue their products or there are a lot of players that don’t know what money is.
However, some of the outrage for these packs has come out not for the price of the boosts, but for plain fact that these boosts are even a thing in the first place. For example, Destructoid came out with a piece, written by Chris Carter, titled “Bungie introduces level boosts for Destiny after it said it wouldn’t.”
“Gone are the days of ‘only’ cosmetic microtransactions,” Carter said. “The floodgates have been opened, and the water is expensive.” These statements may be a little over dramatic and a bit hyperbolic, but it’s his statement about subclass boosts earlier in the piece that concerns me the most:
“Players who opt to pay will inherently have access to new abilities for PVP that another player otherwise wouldn’t, unless they opt to grind.”
Here, let me try and use the same logic that Carter is using here: “I have no access to food and I’m going to die of hunger, unless I go to the pantry and get some food.”
This article isn’t even subtle about it sophomoric attempt to drum up artificial controversy. Here, he’s attempting to frame these level boosts as “pay-to-win” packs in order to boost up his soapbox just a little higher. Even the URL of the article is a just begging for controversy (and presumably an earlier title of this article, but that’s just my guess); while one url matches the articles title, another URL that brings you to the same page includes the phrase “bungie-introduces-pay-to-win-boost,” unlike the published titles that just says “Bungie introduces level boosts.”
“Unless they opt to grind?” You mean like every other Destiny player has done for the last year and a half? Player’s don’t gain exclusive new abilities that other’s can’t get, they’re only skipping the 20-25 hour grind that comes with getting to level 25. Players who do not opt to buy the pack and play multiplayer anyway are destined (he he) to face a bunch of players level 25 and over; should the more experience players be punished for having access to abilities that new players don’t have access to? In addition, level 25 isn’t even the level cap! Even if you buy the level pack, you’ll still get crushed by the level 40 players who’ve been playing this game for a year and a half and you’ll still have to grind in order to be competitive.
Furthermore, why is paying to skip the grind an inherently bad thing? Grinding isn’t really meaningful or enjoyable content, it’s more a means to an end; it usually involves doing the same menial task for hours and hours just in order to achieve some level of experience or some other form of in-game currency. While grinding may not come with the $30 price tag that the boosts come with them, grinding does cost a giant bundle of wasted time. The grind often isn’t full of valuable content or riveting experiences, it’s just a means to an end.
What these boosts really do is give the player to give up money rather than their time. These players don’t get an advantage over players who chose to grind, they just chose to use another resource to reach level 25. You may value your money over your time, and that’s perfectly fine! No one is forcing you to buy these packs, and if you don’t support them, vote with your wallet and don’t buy them! Some players may take pride in their hours played (hell I’m one of them) and there’s nothing wrong with that, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to.
The boosts also have the potential to expand the game’s population and extend it’s life expectancy. If the only way to reach the max level in Destiny is to grind your way to the top through hours and hours of grind, it creates a large barrier to entry in order for new players to get into the multiplayer aspect of the game. If you require a huge amount of time investment just to reach competency, that’s going to turn off a lot of potential players, and without new blood to keep the game alive, Destiny would go the way of the Titanfall just a little earlier than it may have had to.
I was happy to see that many in the comments were focused more on the ridiculous price of the pack rather than what seemed to be the meat of Carter’s article, however it’s still sad to see this kind of muck being published on a major gaming new outlet. I’m not supporting the actual execution of these packs because they’re certainly not worth $30, but in theory the idea of a level boost absolutely works. It’s been done in games like World of Warcraft and Battlefield and it will certainly happen again. Maybe we should try and find some actual news stories and talk about some worthwhile content instead of acting like high school kids trying to start silly rumors.