It’s been a long time since a major game had microtransactions that were so bad, it created a global gaming incident where everyone from fans to YouTubers to the gaming press lambasted a company for going too far. But that’s precisely what’s happened with Apex Legends’ recent limited time Iron Crown event, and it is not terribly shocking this is a game in EA’s stable.
The problem? The Iron Crown event has 24 new items, 12 epics and 12 legendaries. Every item is placed in a randomized loot box, where you only get one per box. Unlike say, Overwatch, where you can earn an unlimited number of loot boxes from grinding during the event, Apex caps the amount you can earn at two. After that, you have to buy 22 more loot boxes at $7 each to get everything in the event, and on top of that, there’s a special heirloom axe that you can only get after you’ve acquired all 24 other items. The grand total for the axe when all is said and done, and you’re buying currency in bulk? About $170.
Everyone has been yelling about this all week, and Respawn is finally taking action.
Very, very weird, bad action.
The only change to the Iron Crown event is that now, Respawn is saying that they will rotate all 12 legendary skins into the store, priced as normal legendaries at $18.
This technically solves the problem of having to gamble in loot boxes to find the exact skin you want, if you pay more than double the price of a loot box, but it does nothing to change the system of having to buy 22 loot boxes to complete the “set,” or the final, ludicrous cost of the heirloom axe. That part is exactly the same, because this fix isn’t offering any alternatives to grind for items or boxes, though Respawn says that will be considered for future events.
This “fix” also creates an additional problem, because since the event has already been running a little while, people who didn’t see this change coming have probably already spent some money, potentially a lot of money, chasing the legendary skin they wanted. Now, all the legendary skins are going to be in the store, and if you just spent $80 chasing that Wraith skin, you now realize that you could have just waited and spent $18 instead, though Respawn never gave any indication that they would be changing the loot system to this until now. In theory, players who shelled out for loot boxes before this change should be issued refunds, and yet there’s no word of that happening in Respawn’s update.
This update has generally not gone over well with the Apex Legends community, and here’s a Respawn dev, dko5, responding to someone on reddit saying they feel like Respawn is trying to squeeze money out of them:
“We’ll leave that to other games that do things like provide methods to pay for power. We are not a hugely monetizing game – we just need to make enough money to keep the game going and make more stuff for everyone. When we decided to make Apex Legends a free-to-play game it was imperative that free-only players still can get access to all gameplay while also having the chance at earning the coolest looking cosmetics.”
This is a strange statement, as I cannot name almost any other AAA multiplayer game in the industry where microtransactions let you pay for power, outside of perhaps some recent COD shenanigans. So he’s comparing Apex to what, mobile games? I’m not sure.
Also, the “we are not a hugely monetizing game” statement is weird, as I’m not sure if he means “profitable,” but if he really does mean “monetizing,” this is a game with a paid item shop, that sells characters, that sells loot boxes, and that sells a battle pass…with loot boxes in it. And is selling a $170 axe.
I also take issue with the whole “we just need to make enough money to keep the game going,” as I have literally watched EA’s stock go up and down in big swings when Apex was a sudden hit, or when investors realized it wasn’t going to be at the same level of Fortnite. It’s a hugely important game for a multi-billion dollar company. EA needs it to do more than earn enough to break even.
This has been a bizarre situation which has not been resolved by this most recent fix at all. We’ll see what happens with the next event, which has to be better than this, but I really don’t understand why Apex keeps pushing its fanbase like this, as you would think EA would have learned from Battlefront 2 and other similar issues in the past.