|simulated gamer rage|
When I first got into pc gaming the notion of digital distribution of games was only a wet dream of people like Gabe Newell and possibly a few others. Sure, there was downloadable content on the net, but very little of it was directly for games. Steam changed all that with their direct to the pc digital distribution of games, and opened the door for independent gaming as we know it today, but it also opened the door for a new kind of game-life model, allowing new avenues of revenue to be approached. That of DLC, the new form of expansions for games.
The other new notion in games is the F2P model, which got it's start with some foreign MMOs. I played one such MMO, Runes of Magic, for 3 years. With that being said I don't consider myself an expert, only an avid gamer with experience in the area under discussion. The f2p model is pretty simple, provide the game free of charge, but have available an item shop or "store" that players use to enhance the game for themselves. It's entirely voluntary (despite the vehement cries of a vocal minority) and can greatly increase the companies profits. The math is pretty simple, a game like WoW with a subscription model has more or less a hard limit on how much they can make a month based on subscription fees (Number of players X subscription fee = gross profit), and yes I'm aware that WoW now has a limited item shop of it's own, whereas a F2P game can increase profitability per customer when that customer now has the ability, and possibly the drive, to spend a lot more a month than they would for a subscription.
It was not unheard of for a player to claim they had spent well over 2k in a few short months on RoM. I call these people idiots but they do serve to prove the near unlimited profitability of the model.
What Ubisoft is talking about doing with their future games, like the highly anticipated Watch Dogs, is an evolution of the item shop, with a little DLC tossed in for flavor. What it amounts to is a unabashed money grab by a company that plans to charge full price for the game with the item shop included. While some of the comments are pretty far out in the field, the fear that developers like Ubisoft will hamper the gameplay in their full-price games in order to achieve better profitability isn't an unjust one, just an unlikely scenario.
Ubisoft charging full price for a full game isn't unreasonable, though we can argue about an appropriate price point until the cows come home, but charging full price for a partial game with unlockable content already built in is a bit much for a game consumer to handle, and rightly so. We don't know from that article what Ubisoft intends to do with their microtransactions, but we can speculate, as the commenters of that article have obviously done already, and that can lead to some pretty scary scenarios.
One scary scenario has already happened within my own sphere of experience. While playing through Mass Effect 2 I ran across an obvious opener for a side-quest involving Liara, which led nowhere. It led nowhere because I didn't have the DLC for the sidequest. While I didn't pay the full price for the game (I caught it on a Steam sale) it still had me pretty steamed that such a thing was even done to the game. I'm all for developers adding content to a game to extend the longevity of the game, but putting it into place before the game is even released strikes me as an unabashed cash grab, bilking paying and loyal customers out of more of their bugdge for games.
Which is why the comments made by Ubisoft are so unsettling. They hint at a future for games that have pushed all the heart out of the industry and replaced it with a drive for more and more profits. Companies like EA, Activision, and Ubisoft have put themselves on the wrong end of public opinion in their drive for more profits, and often the developers working for them are the ones paying the price when the backlash hits.
Watch Dogs is looking to be a great game, though I suspect that Ubisoft is going to create a franchise out of it and then unceremoniously drive it into the ground, but that's the reality of big game publishers these days. Lather, rinse, REPEAT. But I'm not interested, as I'm sure pretty much nobody is, in paying full price for a game only to have to invest more into it to get the most out of it, and investment that doens't involve full-blown expansions but microtransactions in game. Granted, if said transactions are for cosmetic or non-game altering gear (think TF2's hats) then I would approve, because I think that's a great way to continue to profit from a game post-release without drawing the ire of the gaming populous. But if I have to buy a weapon/gear set just to compete with Johnny Basementdweller, there's a problem.