Overkill Software’s latest first-person shooter, Payday 2, has gained a veritable following over the past few years. The game places players in the role of seasoned bank robbers and tasks them with cooperatively busting their chops and cops alike as they stage various heists for in-game rewards, such as new weapon parts and cosmetics. Overkill, however, has found itself under fire lately for what many players feel to be a broken promise earlier this month.
On October 15, Overkill introduced an in-game community event called Crimefest, wherein players can purchase keys to open in-game loot chests, not unlike those seen in Valve’s first-person shooters Team Fortress 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
On Thursday the Black Market: Vlads Weapon Deal update will go live which will add new random item drops as you play PAYDAY 2. When a player receives a Safe, the player can purchase a Drill for 2,19€ / 2,49$ that can then be used to open the safe. When the safe opens, the player receives a weapon skin item of varying quality that can be used, traded or sold using the Steam Community Market. The community driven marketplace decides the value on each item bought or sold.
Many players were outraged by this new opportunity for cultivating a microtransaction climate in Payday 2, which seems to contradict a statement made by the game’s producer Almir Listo three months prior to the game’s release in August 2013:
The Steam page for PAYDAY 2 has been updated based on your feedback. We’ve made it clear that PAYDAY 2 will have no micro-transactions whatsoever (shame on you if you thought otherwise!) and we’ve made it more clear that the PAYDAY loot bag is part of the Career Criminal Edition as well.
Coupled with the fact that Payday 2 requires an initial purchase to play, the playerbase’s general rancor is understandable.
But the game development process is fluid, and the decisions a developer makes before a game’s release is subject to change as the game grows more popular. Listo defended his company’s decision to implement microtransactions in Payday 2 in an AMA he posted yesterday on the game’s Reddit discussion forums that discussed Overkill’s plans for the game’s future.
In response to a poster who asked about Overkill’s current stance on microtransactions in opposition to what they said in 2013, Listo responded that since the game’s creation, Payday 2 has evolved to a point where it will need additional sources of income to sustain itself:
Since we released PAYDAY 2 back in 2013, the OVERKILL crew working on the project has more than tripled in size. From 25 developers to today with 75 developers. This allows us to create better content more often across several platforms. Like we’ve said in the past, we do free updates when we can, and paid DLC when we have to. As our ambition for PAYDAY 2 post-launch has grown, we’ve hired more people to help us make it happen. New stuff include everything to the drive feature to the comeback of the First World Bank and Slaughterhouse from PAYDAY: The Heist.
Two years ago people would have us instantly start work on PAYDAY 3, right after we released PAYDAY 2, like developers usually do. Instead, we decided to continue work on PAYDAY 2, because we wanted to make it an incredible co-op experience. 88 updates later, we have to ensure the future survival of the game. We do sales when we can where we reduce the price point up to 75% in order to pay people’s wages and create a buffer for a rainy day. Six months ago, we also made a bold move to permanently reduce the price point of 16 PAYDAY 2 products by 33-43% in the hopes of drawing additional sales. Needless to say, we didn’t see the result we anticipated, and have had to think of other ways to make sure we can continue creating content in the pace we want in order to keep PAYDAY 2 fresh and exciting.
He goes on to say that in addition to creating a stable environment within which Overkill can expand Payday 2, microtransactions can promote player cohesion and fun if the gear locked behind them can only benefit a squad in a player-versus-environment (or player-versus-AI) game.
There are several arguments as to why we think stat boosts are OK to have in PAYDAY 2, and here are three; – The game is balanced around the vanilla experience, that is, the game without any DLC. When we add any new difficulties, enemies, features, heists or otherwise, we balance this in relation to the base game. – PAYDAY 2 is a player-versus-environment game. You and your three friends play together against the AI; you lose together and you win together. Any advantage your friends have will only benefit the success of the group. – Making sure that the boosts are balanced in such a way that it doesn’t impare [sic] on the player’s experience. This is an ongoing effort on our side.
Listo concludes by acknowledging the playerbase’s furor over the matter, and he hopes that players will understand Overkill’s decision to implement microtransactions as the game moves forward.
Microtransactions tend to draw ire from players across multiple games, mostly due to a perception that they are a form of nickel-and-diming players through a constant series of small payments. But as video games draw larger and larger audiences, we can expect to see game studios implementing microtransaction systems as a way to supplement their own personal paydays. How developer studios and players negotiate in-game markets – and how they can come to firmer understandings on what both players and developers need to produce enjoyable gaming experiences – will be the subject of crucial questions for us to explore as we traverse the microtransaction age.