Following NBA 2K14, which featured a damaging new implementation of “Virtual Currency”, consumers awareness to in-game economies and how they can dramatically alter enjoyment of games has been heightened. 2K14 is not the only recent culprit of taking things too far with Forza 5 being just another example – though Turn 10 at least tried to address the backlash by making changes while 2K chose to ignore it.
As written about in early January, what this has created is a situation where publishers need to get out in front of things and detail how their currency systems work otherwise consumers will naturally assume the worst. There is a healthy distrust towards these companies right now in this regard and bad timing struck SCEA who rolled out promotion for a new “Universal Currency” system in a pre-order bonus during the height of controversy.
While SCEA allowed those concerns to linger they have now commented on what the Universal Currency system will mean in MLB 14: The Show and that’s all anyone was asking for.
We’re simplifying add-on purchases from seasons past, rolling everything into a Universal Currency we’re calling Stubs. We want to be very clear with this, however, since it’s a frequent question and concern among the community: not one cent needs to be spent on Stubs for users to enjoy a full experience in any of our modes.
What’s more, Stubs are earned through general gameplay (just like XP) and tied to your Universal Profile. Most importantly, the rate at which Stubs are earned is intentionally generous. We are not designing the system to pressure players into spending money. It will be the same system it’s been in years prior, just all rolled together with a new name.
Of course 2K Sports would have, and probably still would attempt to, claim the same for how they implemented VC in 2K14. However there is no reason to doubt SCEA here. While having a universal system could still influence the way people play the game to an extent, no one will mind if what they claim in the statement turns out to be true. Clearly the message is intended to assure consumers that they aren’t walking into another 2K14 situation.
The widespread concern over micro/macrotransactions and related design decisions was never just SCEA’s problem but an industry one. All publishers will face questions going forward on whether consumers should be worried over how much of the game they’re actually getting and whether they can play it the way they want without having to shell out even more money.