Respawn Entertainment’s Apex Legends has taken the gaming universe by storm since its almost out-of-the-blue launch in early February. Few had confidence in the project, given its trend-following nature and association with Electronic Arts, but the new battle royale contender has proven many wrong and served as both a multiplayer mainstay and a Twitch titan. That said, this is EA we’re talking about, and players are beginning to take issue with the game’s microtransaction system.
Microtransactions are far from anything new in the gaming space, and just about anyone familiar with triple-A gaming will know that extra monetization options have been packed into virtually every major release for the past couple of years at this point. In all fairness, Apex Legends seems to take the high road in that the game doesn’t hold gameplay-vital elements behind loot boxes ala Star Wars Battlefront II or tie the best weapon skins to an outrageously long tiered progression system like Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.
Plus, for the low price of absolutely free, it’s difficult to complain about the relatively unobtrusive nature of these extras. That said, if EA could be just a degree less conniving, that would go a long way toward maintaining the meager amount of customer respect they have so far retained.
Loot Box Controversies
That doesn’t seem likely, though, as the publisher seems eager to manipulate players via a duplicitously-constructed in-game storefront. The loot box ship has sailed as gamers have long been sick of the practice, and certain countries are working to ban or restrict their inclusion in certain games. Yes, the game may be free, but that doesn’t make the experience of paying for randomized loot any less stomach-churning.
While this is certainly a step removed from the aforementioned Battlefront II loot box controversy or the oft-ridiculed watch-your-friends-open-loot-boxes scam employed by Activision with Call of Duty: WWII, it’s hard to label this a step in the right direction for the industry. At its core, the system is designed to badger discontented players into spending real-world cash, which makes the whole thing feel a lot less palatable.
What's The Issue?
The real meat of player’s concerns, however, stems for the awful pricing system employed by EA in the Apex Legends storefront. Players can craft skins via a convoluted and annoying material crafting system, or they could circumvent that by forking over some money in exchange for Apex coins. Apex Coins cannot be earned in-game, though players can earn over 40 free Apex Packs (the loot boxes) just by playing. It's a long process, though.
The kicker here is that the cheapest coin bundle goes for about $10 and grants the player a thousand coins. Yet, most of the epic and legendary skins available on the storefront cost 1100 coins, which means that they are conveniently out of reach for those hoping to buy one small pack of coins and be done with it. Never mind the fact that a single skin is worth around eleven real-world dollars, this means that players will be strong-armed into making an extra purchase to afford a measly cosmetic item.
Naturally, the Apex Legends storefront is rife with Apex coin purchase options ranging from a tenner to a Benjamin. The presentation here is almost laughable as the in-game store looks like it’s been ripped straight from a cheap mobile game, and that isn’t a good look for Electronic Arts. Of course, given their history, they aren’t all that likely to care as long as a few skin-savvy fools are up for spending hundreds on their petty virtual currency. Are they just counting on whales (a term originating in casinos for people who spend enough money to keep the business running all by themselves) to buy up all the cosmetics?
Apex Legends has certainly done some good for the gaming community and finally provided Epic Games’ Fortnite with a worthy competitor that isn’t PUBG. That said, while Fortnite’s constantly-evolving service and battle pass system revolutionized the way DLC is doled out to players, EA seems content to do whatever will maximize revenue and forget the rest. While the game certainly gets a few things right, its days are numbered if these blatantly predatory practices remain a mainstay of the experience.