Passionate Star Wars fans and dedicated gamers are screaming, but it appears that in spite of Mr. Abrams' gift, the corporate brass remain deaf to their gamer/fan base. More importantly, they remain deaf to huge ethics issues.
Perhaps a story, non-fiction, would help.
I was in early BETA for Galaxies and in early BETA for SWTOR. And Ive had some super successful SW blogs posts over the years and yes, I played all of the KOTORs several times over. Also enjoyed the Jedi Academy series among others. Which only means I'm a SW nerd.
Is Disney Still About Families? Not With EA
I have been MASSIVELY critical of Star Wars: The Old Republic for some time now for one simple reason- a total lack of integrity. Since getting purchased by EA, a company that has won worst place to work two years in a row (here is the article), Bioware became EA, started acting like EA. And that has deeply hurt the game, the once proud Bioware name and now Disney's brand.
Sadly, it would appear Mr. Wilson's promises were just a PR strategy and Mr. Iger has taken the 5th, as in, Disney is nowhere to be found. Which means Disney is cool with you, its SWTOR customer, being exploited and a gaming experience that soars one moment, then crashes the next.
All in the name of milking Star Wars for every penny you are willing to give them.
Walt would not be happy.
I loved many aspects of Knights Of The Fallen Empire (SWTOR's latest storyline release), probably the best work they have done. One of the chapters felt grindy, endless, a tad borish but most of it really pulled me in, got me invested again. But alas, we find ourselves facing what I have come to call, The Curse Of TOR.
They take (3) brilliant steps forward and then just when I'm standing on my gaming chair screaming, “YES! Finally they get it!”, then they take (5) steps backward. And I collapse back into my seat, grumbling and angry.
Such is the quest, uh, path, uh- reality of being a customer of SWTOR. Their overseas customer service has NEVER, not once, solved a problem I have called them with! But the issues at SWTOR run much deeper than merely being a poorly managed MMO.
Is Star Wars: THe Old Republic Exploiting Players By Forcing Them To Gamble To Get The Items They Want?
At the heart of their implosion is the Cartel rip off scheme, a legacy system that has some nice features but honestly- it's just another way to get money from you, and FPS rates that soar into the 100s only to crash to around 15FPS on Odessian with devs that continue to tell us, its your computer.
Surely, Disney get's the importance of line extending their brand to their games? Surely Disney understands that the integrity their brand stands for needs to also extend, now, to their Star Wars brand? It would appear that is not the case.
Surely Mr. Wilson deeply cares that so many SWTOR peeps continually feel taken advantage of? Or that the service levels of SWTOR are abysmal AT BEST? I mean what of his many PROMISES to turn those practices around? His promises of winning over gamers? Again, it would all those promises were about PR.
To be clear, The Cartel is called that because it's like a drug cartel. Nothing SWTOR has done is about micro transactions. Far from the case. Everything they do is about macro, get as much money as they can, no integrity- transactions.
The examples are endless. Spot an item you REALLY want in a cartel con, uh, I mean Cartel Pack? Well, get ready to keep buying them HOPING you get what you want, essentially gambling with your real world money.
To parents reading this, I want to be clear about how this scam works.
A Cartel Pack contains several items. Let's say your teen wants the blue hat. They have to KEEP BUYING Cartel packs until your child gets their blue hat, rolling the dice each time, HOPING they get what they want. That translates into anywhere from $5 to $30 real world dollars PER ITEM by the time your teen is done gambling to get what he or she wants.
I wonder if Disney is going to open House of Mouse casinos?
You can find a typical rant on this HERE (just random one, there have been many) until Bioware removes it via their manhandling of any voice of dissent.
SWTOR Will Tell You Cartel Packs Boost Their Economy
The idea here, valid on the surface but a scam when you dig deeper, is the best way to beat gold farmers (overseas labor used as gamers to create in-game income and then sell it at a cheap rate to players), is offer players a way to sell each other Cartel Coins.
IE: Hardcore players who spend every waking hour in the game can sell you their excess coins. Well, first of all, that core concept never played out. Second of all, players that buy Cartel Packs are able to sell off excess items they don't want and generate some in-game credits (the currency of SWTOR).
There are SO MANY things broken with this approach, it would take an entirely new post, but here are a few to consider.
- Diminishing returns. There are only so many ways you can make a smuggler or Sith Lord look! There are a limited number of mounts and such, that people are willing to buy. And only so many design hours available at Bioware Austin. Its a horrible business model that is guaranteed to get less and less effective as time goes on.
- It puts the purchasing power in THE DEVS HANDS versus where the purchasing power should be, in the hands of their consumer. There are many types of players and yet only one type of Cartel system that, as I have stated, FORCES you to gamble to make credits or get your item. If someone want to only decorate, then offer them the ability to buy ANY item, just that item. THAT is what a true microtransaction looks like! If they want to buy gold, uh, charge them to buy the gold. Many games have found various effective ways to do this.
- Slash the Cartel Coin costs of all legacy perks and mounts by 50%, they are way too high and exploit players, always pushing them to spend more and more and thus ticking people off and building resentments.
- Your business model is based upon VOLUME. Off the kind of content, the kind of crafting, the kind of experience that generates TONS of gamers then treat them like gold to keep them. Bioware, in this area, you have epically failed.
And then recently, IN SPITE OF THEIR OWN CARTEL CHANGES, they have turned their bronze to gold system of getting gear, decor, etc... into “here it is and now its gone” shell game. Why? Well of course to get more of your money, EVEN if you are a subscriber.
EXAMPLE: A Player Reward System That Is Really About Getting More Money From You Than Appreciation
But hey, at least you’ll get an HK jetpack! Eventually, an HK Droid and EVEN your own exclusive HK chapter! Which everyone knows you will eventually be able to BUY.
Hugs! We love you player base! We wanted to thank you!
Oh, but wait- yeah, the thing is, you need to be with us until August, EVEN if you've been with us since the beginning all these years. I mean, hey, we gave you glowy life trees!
Ok, fine it's yet another shell game to keep you subscribed until August. But hey, we got AWESOME marketing people that told us we should package all this as a reward for being a subscriber, system.
This game could be so totally epic if only the people that run the game, IE: EA via Bioware had any integrity at all. If only they TRULY had microtransaction systems that were just that, thus giving players a REASON to invest.
And Disney allows it to happen- for now. And EA allows it to happen– for now.
Eventually, some 15 year old’s mom is going to get REALLY TICKED at the massive credit card bill and guess what? In law school they teach you the one person you don't want to tick off, is someone’s mom.
So that mom will start organizing and contact the House of Mouse and say, wait a minute- didn’t Walt want to bring families together, not rip them off?
EA - Bioware - Disney - Just Do The Right Thing!
They could have done right by the players. With Fallen it looked like they even might be ready to do right by the players! But then, right away, Bioware went back to their old ways.
We're back to the Cartel shell game in the name of making more money.
I LOVE their stories. And they have crafted some awesome Star Wars experiences! And yet here we are, having to deal with EA/Bioware's total lack of business integrity. The way from which they exploit players and their love of Star Wars for money is a total embarrassment.
Let's hope SOMEBODY wakes up in super senior management and decides, these predatory practices can't continue. No one should have to spend hundreds of dollars per year to play ANY game, let alone a Star Wars game that is owned by a company that is supposed to be about families.