Some say this was inevitable. Some believed in Respawn.
Respawn, what happened? How did we get to where we are now? For the past few years, everybody believed you were the golden child of EA, fighting back against what they seem to stand for whilst reassuring to the world that you were the true good guys. Then everything changed… when the Reddit nation attacked.
Just briefly, lets explain the main reason you're here. Apex Legends is a battle royale first-person shooter game which is also free-to-play. It makes its money through cosmetic items and battle passes, which is fairly straight forward. You buy the battle pass and progress to unlock over 100 levels worth of goods, all for a price of around £7.99 (950 Apex Coins) which is a pretty done deal. You can buy an Apex Pack (loot boxes) for 100 coins each (which is about 70p) where you can earn 3 items, mostly of which are cosmetics. There is also the main store where players can pay ludicrous prices for certain skins that appear there; they’re skins you can unlock via Apex Packs anyway, so you can either buy the skin outright or try your hand at loot boxes where it may drop. People don’t really complain too much about the store though as you’d really just be paying for a singular item for maybe £15, which if you don’t have a problem with doing, then fine. So as you can see, players mainly accepted how Apex worked because Respawn had to make their money somehow.
If you’ve missed the last week of the events surrounding Apex Legends though, this is what happened On the 13th August, Respawn dropped their latest event, titled the Iron Crown event, midway through the current season. In the patch it came with a limited time Solo mode, new map changes and some quality of life additions. What it also came with was a lot of new cosmetics; skins for characters, new banners, new music packs and new gun skins; in total there were around 32 brand new cosmetic items to unlock (33 if you count the heirloom, which I’ll talk about briefly later). The event itself has challenges with it which allows players to unlock a total of 2 out of 24 of the main gear which can be unlocked by loot packs. Players can also earn through the challenges a total of up to 120 Crowns (60 crowns directly, 60 from the free loot packs), a new currency added specifically for this event, which can either nab you a few smaller cosmetic items on the Crown store, or one medium sized one… and that’s pretty much all players were allowed to unlock for free. How were they to unlock the rest of the cosmetic items? By paying a lot of money; we’re not talking £10 or £20, we’re talking around £140 approx. One loot crate would cost 700 Apex coins, which amounts to around £5. In order to unlock all 24 items, you would need to buy 22 more packs (if you were to unlock the two free packs you can earn). That’s not all though, as the update also introduced an heirloom for Bloodhound (heirlooms are the rarest of the rare in Apex Legends), which you could earn once you unlocked all 24 of the main cosmetic items… and you could unlock it for an extra £35. This means that even after spending a tonne of money for all the skins, you then have to pay even more to get the heirloom rather than it be a nice reward for spending so much money. Suffice to say, there was a major outcry because of this, as Respawn had taken an event which normally should allow players to play and grind to earn most of the items and turned it into a cash cow. Things didn’t stop there however...
Over on the Apex Legends Reddit page, Respawn developers are known to frequent and interact with players on a near daily basis. Once this event kicked in, players kicked up a major storm. You could see a whole page of posts specifically complaining on how most of the cosmetic items with the event were locked behind a pay wall. For three days straight, Respawn were silent, and chose not to interact with anyone until the 16th August where they then tried to apologise for their actions, stating “we missed the mark”. What did Respawn then decide to do? Did they add more challenges allowing players to unlock more of the skins for free, while (understandably) putting some behind that paywall? Nope, instead between the 20th August and the 27th August, all the available character and weapon skins would make their way to the main store front and each cost 1,800 Apex coins (around £15). While yes, this allows players to buy the very skin they actually want, in order to unlock all of these specific skins, you would still need to fork out £225 potentially (at this point, if you wanted all the skins, you might as well just buy the loot crates as it would be cheaper, and you would be able to buy items from the Crown shop as well).
Respawn have now shown with recent events that, regardless of whether EA told them to or not, they took too big of a risk and have disrespected their fans. In fact, they’ve begun to disrespect their fans so much indirectly, they’ve begun the direct approach to call them “asshats”, “dicks” and even “freeloaders” over on the Apex Legends Reddit forum, which you can see in the images below:
If there’s one thing you should never, ever do as a developer, is attack the very players who generate your actual income. Now granted, you shouldn’t just take one or two people who work on the game and pass their opinions off as Respawn’s, and chances are these people (though it was believed just to be user dko5 as you can see) have probably been dealt with internally. But many just aren’t going to see it that way, and is how you ruin the reputation of your company.
Let’s now move onto Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order. Respawn is currently nearing completion of their own Star Wars game, which just to be clear, is 100% single player… so why do I get this feeling microtransactions are still going to plague the game? After all, the game is still published by EA, who if you recall, previously received some incredibly harsh criticism with Star Wars: Battlefront II in 2017 with how microtransactions majorly affected the gameplay; so harsh in fact that Disney had to step in.
How exactly could microtransactions be incorporated in do you ask? Well remember when games, past and present, with large open world games allow you to change certain cosmetics with your character? Take Spider-Man on the PS4; there are a number of different outfits you can unlock for him which, for most of them, you unlock only through actual gameplay by putting the time into what was considered a masterpiece of a game. Think that, but instead for Fallen Order, you pay to unlock the outfits. I can just see that Respawn will charge you for different looks to the main character, named Cal Kestis, and maybe even charge you for different lightsaber colours and different looks for your little droid BD-1. Worse yet, if they wanted to go the extra step, they might even have microtransactions affect the gameplay too; maybe you’re struggling with a boss fight, so instead “here’s a bit of a boost to make the fight a little easier”. Maybe they could even charge for some fun game modes which can be played after beating the game, such as a New Game+. If they really wanted to, they could take a certain chapter of the game that might not be so significant to the story and add it as “bonus downloadable content”, when in reality it wasn’t meant to be in the main story in the first place. If you’re thinking “Charlie, why are you giving them ideas", trust me. They would have thought about everything I just mentioned a long time ago; the ideas have been out there long before I even started this site. You would think that after the Star Wars: Battlefront II controversy, EA would have learned something and Respawn would have caught on too, but if it makes money, “why not” they probably think.
Take the Middle-Earth: Shadow of War controversy for instance. Some of the outrageous microtransactions that could be found, before these were all removed from the game, included a bonus ending which, while you could grind to obtain, practically encouraged players to pay to see it. It also contained loot chests with weapons and armour, XP boosts, and even orc followers, all things which a player could grind to obtain; it’s things which should only have been obtainable through gameplay. But instead, Warner Brothers were incredibly money hungry, and just couldn’t take a £40/$60 charge as enough payment for the hard work the developers put on the game. Things like this put players at a majorly unfair advantage; if you have no money to pay for such things, expect to get your ass handed back to you by the players that do pay. And that’s just it: people will pay, whether it’s just 100 people or 100,000 people, because “oh it’s just one item, who is it going to harm?”.
It harms addicts who cannot help but spend money they don’t have on such things before they get themselves into huge debt. It harms gaming as it tears gamers apart; players are taking their money which could go on other fantastic games and spending them on pointless cosmetic microtransactions which they’ll look at for a few hours before wanting to change again. It only took Respawn six months to take everything they stood for and throw it completely out the window. We may never know the true reasons as to why Respawn did what they did, but let’s just clarify something: when Apex Legends released, Respawn told the world that for the most part, they had the most control over what they did with Apex Legends. So unless EA managed to find a loophole and forced them to do what they said, then this is all Respawn and not EA, and if that’s the case, I am not looking forward to this Respawn/EA future (or rEspAwn as people are calling them now).