The news that Titanfall 2 will be cross platform is something I have already celebrated as good news. I think a larger audience will be good for the franchise and provide a more substantial budget and development bandwidth for the creation of the new game. Recent news about the first Titanfall, however, has me thinking we may be getting a new model with the sequel. Since EA is the Publisher they are very familiar with innovating new ways to sell an deliver games with their EA Access program, and they are making the first Titanfall free-to-play in Asia. Could this be a test run for how well Titanfall could work in the F2P format? And if so, how would it work?
One of the more creative things that Titanfall brought to the PVP shooter genre was burn cards. These cards offer temporary buffs that can be “burned” when you respawn and last as long as you don’t die. The balance of these cards was always fairly reasonable and marginally influential over the game. So a stronger weapon, or the ability to call in a Titan immediately, or XP boosts were fun, exciting, and just effective enough to add an extra layer of choice to the game. People criticize Titanfall for not having enough weapons and customization, but the burn cards are unfortunately largely forgotten in that debate.
It is these cards that would make for a perfect micro-transaction marketplace, especially if the game is free. If you don’t have to pay $60 for the game, I can see a lot of people dumping $20-40 into burn cards just for the heck of it. Some recent research about in-gaming spending shows a sharp spike after a game becomes free, and that could certainly be channeled in the Titanfall world. But what about the infamous “pay to win” problem?
Pay to win
An obvious concern people always have when micro-transactions are introduced in a PVP game is that it can quickly become what is referred to as “pay to win”. Given that the current Burn Card system doesn’t sway the outcomes in any major way I don’t think it would become problematic, and Burn Card denial kills are very satisfying. As long as they wouldn’t introduce insanely powerful cards and maybe even consider keeping the most coveted cards outside of the marketplace, things should stay pretty balanced. Ultimately they would need to retain a natural and in-game way to earn the cards just by simply playing. But offering special deals or sales to let people scoop up extra cards or a random drawing of a certain type would be a good way to generate revenue and give players some fun choices.
Keep an open mind
I know the free-to-play micro-transaction idea is a scary thing, but it is coming to the console world whether we like it or not. The best thing we can do is embrace good practices and reject and callout sinister and predatory ones. We also need to keep an open mind, because free games could bring a lot of quality to the industry because if the game sucks, nobody will play it, micro-spend, and the game will fail. So to a point, free-to-play games have to be, at a foundational level, better than the hype machine AAA titles because the only thing convincing people to play and spend money is the game itself. So keep an open mind, a free-to-play Titanfall 2 might never happen, but if it does, it could be a really good thing.
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