Xbox One Launch Titles Plagued By Microtransactions

Posted Mon Dec 2, 2013 at 11:30 AM PST by

'Forza 5' and 'Killer Instinct' different sides of the same coin.

In reviewing both 'Forza 5' and 'Killer Instinct,' similar issues for both games have been a continuing theme. Specifically, both games feature a shortage of content and an abundance of microtrasactions to go along with a full slate of DLC. Because these issues are so prevalent when playing both games, they might easily consume any review of either game and overshadow other review-worthy merits.

What's worse are last Wednesday's 'Forza 5' announcements, which initially seemed like recognition of a flawed strategy.

The entire announcement is available on the Forza website, but here are the highlights:

From Turn 10,

"Your Turn 10 team continues to value the input of our Forza community, and we keep a careful eye on in-game data that shows how players progress through our games. Based on the numbers we’ve seen from our first week of FM5, as well as feedback we heard directly from you, we’re in the process of making some changes to the Forza Motorsport 5 economy."

1) Starting this Friday we’re offering a 50 percent discount (credits & tokens) on every car in the game. This discount is available to all players. This discount will be available between 12:01 a.m. Pacific on Friday, Nov. 29 and 11:59 p.m. Pacific on Sunday, Dec. 1.

2) If you are a Forza Motorsport 5 VIP member, you’ll receive the 2013 Lotus E21 grand prix car as a thank you.

3) Those players who have already purchased the 2013 Lotus E21 as of today (Wednesday, November 27) will also receive the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO as a further thank you.

4) For those players who have purchased the LaFerrari Car Pack or the Forza Motorsport 5 Car Pass we’ll gift the 2013 LaFerrari directly into your Forza Motorsport 5 garage. No need to purchase the car separately with in-game credits or tokens.

5) Finally, we’re dramatically increasing the credit payout available to all Forza players in December via Forza Rewards, our ongoing loyalty program that rewards players with credits and cars for playing Forza games.

In our original description for Forza Motorsport 5’s Limited Edition, we told you that Limited Edition owners would get 1,250 in-game tokens, which we mistakenly said would be enough tokens to afford any car in the Forza 5. It isn’t. As a result, a number of you have pointed this out to us – that there are a number of cars in the game that cost more than 1,250 tokens to purchase.

We’re sorry. In order to make up for this discrepancy, we will soon be offering Forza Motorsport 5 Limited Edition owners the chance to download and own the car of their choice in the game.

Now here's the content breakdown between for 'Forza 5' and 'Forza 4.' 'Forza 5' has 14 tracks and 200 cars compared with 26 tracks and over 500 cars for 'Forza 4.' 'Forza 5' has a marketplace that is "coming soon" and the lack of tracks seems to mean that the single player 'World Tour' of 'Forza 4' mode was replaced with a hollow shell.

Unfortunately, these days, with retailer exclusive promotions, and other bits of content produced apart from the main title, it has become for many games an unrealistic goal to get of all of the content produced for game, even with so called 'Game of the Year' versions. But when looking at games like 'Forza 5' and 'Killer Instinct' where the amount of content in-game is well short of established marks, the situation is made much worse.

Despite many vocal opinions, DLC is not inherently evil. DLC content is often funded (development costs) separately, and even day one DLC can be developed concurrently with main game content without detracting from the game or intending to gouge consumers. But in the case of 'Forza 5' and 'Killer Instinct,' day one DLC exists right alongside content-short titles, whose developers both cite short deadlines as root causes for the their lacking titles.

Despite being an old game franchise, 'Killer Instinct,' would appear to have been developed by Double Helix from scratch on a short dev cycle. Those that opt in for the Combo Breaker or Ultra Editions of the game are promised two DLC characters in addition to the existing six. Still, the game lacks even a basic fight a few rounds of AI, arcade mode. Apart from the main fighters, the few (six) stages, and character content pieces all must be unlocked through a grinding progression. You unlock the ability to buy various pieces of kit using the in-game KP currency, which is earned through normal play and by completing challenges.

Once you play 'Forza 5,' you may be surprised to find that 'Killer Instinct' KP is not available for sale on Xbox Live. Likewise, if 'Killer Instinct' followed the 'Forza 5' model, then fighters would have to be both bought with cash and then unlocked with KP. For now, 'Killer Instinct' starts off free-2-play, and it remains to be seen what free or paid content will be made available over the next two years.

For 'Forza 5,' Turn 10 has made it clear, that DLC tracks and modes are not money-makers (at least compared to DLC cars), which suggests that the game's lackluster track and mode offerings are set in stone. There are few aspects of the game as grating as the generic narrator saying, "we now return to (track)" when there are so few tracks."

So at $60, the game has 200 cars, and a day one ten car pack ($10) that will be followed by five monthly 10 car DLC packs. But set aside those car numbers for a second, because as it is now, acquiring those cars is nothing short of a grind, and one that repeatedly suggest you save time by purchasing (with real money) car tokens. Gaining driver levels in the game no longer features any actually car rewards, nor does winning races.

You can race for an hour and purchase a common car or two, like a Camaro or RX-7, but it will take a few hours to earn something more exotic like a Ferrari F40. It only goes up from there. A three million credit car, would take days of driving or around $30 in tokens.

Driver levels, which merely seem to net some earnings bonuses, are unlocked with XP. Unless you opt for the $20 VIP Membership, which is included in the $80 Limited Edition, gaining XP is a dreadfully slow process. The VIP status doubles the slow speed, to less slow, but players are encourage to purchase temporary XP boosts in half hour, hour, and two increments with tokens (cash).

Likewise, last week's announcement of a half-price weekend is hardly a long-tem solution for a game that wants to crush the joy of playing it right out of your wallet. As for the Forza rewards solution. Hundreds of hours of racing in 'Forza 3' and 'Forza 4' netted me two cars in my 'Forza 5' garage, a Ford Fiesta and an Audi RS7, which is nothing based on 'Forza 4' standards, but is very genrous based on 'Forza 5.' In comparison before Wednesday's announcemnt, buying the Limited Edition/Day One Edition of 'Forza 5' and racing for dozens of hours netted me one free car for the garage, a BRZ, which was given at the start of the game.

If any of this sounds like a free-2-play game, just bear in mind the base costs. Driving a LaFerrari in a normal Forza race, means, buying 'Forza 5,' buying the DLC pack, and then either buying enough tokens or grinding for hours to unlock the car.

For a console game, the idea of paying not once, not twice, but three times to enjoy content mars the game through and through, and what's left is the hope that fan reception will further encourage Turn 10 and Microsoft to scale back the pay or grind nature of the game while restoring content to those who have already paid to play.

Author: Brian Hoss

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Tags: Killer Instinct, Forza (all tags)