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Payday 2 players in revolt over micro-transactions

UPDATE: Overkill has made micro-transaction item free via patched random loot drops

Starbreeze is facing a revolt among players of its most popular game, Overkill's Payday 2, following the introduction of micro-transactions in a Crimefest Community Event.

The controversial decision was a random, in-game item drop, which takes the form of a locked safe. Players are then given the option to purchase a drill to open the safe, for €2.19 or $2.49. The weapon skins inside can be traded or sold on the Steam Community Market.

This directly contradicts assurances given by the Overkill team in the past, most notably to Gamespot by then lead designer David Goldfarb. When asked about the potential introduction of micro-transactions in 2013, he replied, "No. No. God, I hope not. Never. No."

Not exactly ambiguous, then, but it should be noted that Goldfarb left Overkill in June 2014.

Starbreeze may already be planning its retreat from the decision, however, following a massive outpouring of frustration among Payday 2's players. At this point, it's necessary to scroll past dozens - even hundreds - of negative Steam user reviews before you return to the positivity that has surrounded the title ever since its launch two years ago.

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On Reddit, the tone has become almost militant. A thread titled "Fuck you Overkill" has now been up-voted more than 6,300 times. The thread's introductory statement points out that Crimefest was supposed to be free to all Payday 2's players.

"An update that adds paid crates and keys like TF2 isn't fucking free. Change it or this is going to be worse than the twitter [sic] challenges for you dumb fucks."

Another Reddit thread, now approaching 2,000 up-votes, is calling for the game's players to abandon it altogether, in attempt to force a dialogue with Starbreeze and Overkill.

Starbreeze has not yet provided any details on its strategy around micro-transactions, but the fact that Payday 2 contributes almost all of the company's revenue is certainly relevant. In the last fiscal year, for example, Overkill's game earned SEK 71.1 million of Starbreeze's SEK 71.9 million overall revenue. The Swedish company has multiple projects in development, but until they are released it is reliant on a single game for the vast majority of its income.

We have contacted Starbreeze for comment.

Update: Both Starbreeze and Overkill declined to offer an official statement regarding the fan reaction to Payday 2's micro-transactions, but Overkill has partially addressed the issue through a recent patch.

According to notes posted on the game's Steam Community page, players can now receive drills through random loot drops following a successful heist. Previously, the only way to acquire a drill was to buy one.

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Latest comments (25)

George Williams Owner 2 years ago
Sometimes you just have to wonder who has such a stupid brain fart. You'd think that they would look at better ways to add MTs to their game without pissing off their community.
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Anthony Gowland Consulting F2P Game Designer, Ant Workshop2 years ago
Will be interested to see the size of this rebellion - SteamSpy estimates the game has ~1/2 million players during a 14 day period, which would make the vocal complainers a very small minority.
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Christopher James Elgar Games Design Graduate 2 years ago
If people have to pay a base price for a game (approx. 44.99) and then pay extra for additional maps, modes and general gameplay content (approx. 39.99), then they should never be expected to spend money for in game items in the form of micro-transactions. If this was a fully free to play game from the get go, and people could unlock everything without the use of micro-transactions, then and only then would the proposed system work. That being said they'd still lose a portion of their player base simply because of how unpopular micro-transactions are.
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Show all comments (25)
Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief2 years ago
Do you have an evidence or rationale for your assertion, or is it an article of faith? I'm genuinely interested in your perspective.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development2 years ago
I have only one example for this, and it's not even that similar tbh, but it's a good one and I'm willing to project it applies across all scales when these "customer revolts" kick off.

Our Yachty Deluxe game on mobile is free with ads and gets about 1,500 downloads a day, every day, with no UA at all A long time ago we changed our main ad povider and at the same time listened to the complaints of "there's too many ads". (too many being one-star speak for "not zero") and dropped the impression rate a fair bit.

After that, our (very good) rating stayed the same, our download rate stayed the same, our earnings went down considerably.

So we thought, "fuck it, there's a paid ad-free version and I'm sick of people moaning about our free game" and put the adverts up again, way up to beyond where we started originally.

Downloads remained consistent, actual rating remained consistent, "this game isn't free enough" complaints increased a little, our income doubled.

Short version, there will always be complainers. If they're complaining about the game itself, you should listen and maybe address the issues. If they're complaining about the pay options though, go with how happy the majority is. If your earnings went up, you got it right for everyone.
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Jamie Firth Video Games Production 2 years ago
I think the issue here is ADDING microtransactions. That's why people are annoyed. Like turning up to a football match that ends in a draw and then charging people to stay for extra time - That's why people are annoyed.
There's a big difference here between mobile games ramping up adverts (although that too is seen as a change, and that too means that some will be aggrieved) and a console game changing the deck once people have already ante'd up (and particular to this case, when it was suggested that it wouldn't happen)

I do think it's right though that it's possibly a small majority that complain- some will in all probability welcome the chance to short-cut their way to better stuff.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 2 years ago
Maybe this was just an experiment by Starbreeze to see what they can and can't get away with in their most popular current game. That way they'll know rather or not to try it again with any games they release in the future.
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Jeremy Meyer VIP Services Host 2 years ago
Yes, the game cost $50 dollars and yes the drill cost $5 dollars. Who cares about it??? If you want it then buy it. The safe does not stop you from enjoying the game as a hole. If you want the extra skin or whatever then pay the price and be the cool kid on the block or stay quiet and continue to enjoy the game.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 2 years ago
Actually, the whole system that they're introducing (of which microtransactions are only a part) do interfere with your enjoyment of the game if you had previously been playing it with "the old rules." The CAR-4 rifle, for example, has utterly changed, and all the work you did to get the right parts and set it up correctly is basically chucked out, since the performance of the same configuration in the new game is drastically reduced. The game looks like it's turning in to something where you need to pay for the weapon skins to upgrade your weapons to "best in the game"*, rather than simply buying the game and some DLC and working from there.

I know that "microtransactions" is what people are yelling, because that's the dirty word of the moment, but it would be interesting to see if people would complain anywhere near as much if the microtransactions did not affect gameplay, but affected only cosmetics. (Or even affected gameplay, but without an accompanying nerf of existing weapons and weapon configurations.)

* By "best in the game" I don't mean that one particular configuration of one weapon is best for everything; I'm talking about a large set of weapons and configurations each of which is suited for a particular situation and playstyle.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Curt Sampson on 20th October 2015 5:13am

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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany2 years ago
@Jeremy
If you include all the paid DLC they've been releasing for the game, it's more around the $150 instead of $50. Not to mention the important detail here: a company promised to never add micro-transactions, in the end adds them and they get surprised when the backslash comes in the shape of costumers feel that they have been lied to.

So I have to disagree with your position here: Given the circumstances, (and use of bad words aside) they have all the right in the world to complain and disagree, and they should totally do that. Always. All the time. The best feedback you can get is always going to be the one you get from your most active user-base. "Be the cool kid or stay quiet" were the "famous last words" for a lot of game studios that thought they could impose their players what they must or must not like.
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Thomas Kennedy Unemployed (Seeking work) 2 years ago
Heres the problem with Payday 2's microtransactions, its paying for power.

this isn't like TF2 where you can buy hats for your class, hell TF2 TRIED this paying for power and it did NOT go over well. I think the rebellion is more down to the fact that these microtransactions and this spcial drill ACTIVLY affects the game, these microtransactions have different stats from the normal guns in the game, even if its something small like have 1 less recoil its still paying for power something that doesn't sit well with many.

Now if it wasn't paying for power would it not have the backlash? of course not anything you do in developing a game will have backlash, couple that with the sheer level of DLC the game has and the promise of no microtransactions its gonna have a profound effect like it or no, but its the way they did it that's causing this particular level, hell they'd have less backlash if they went TF2, make it free to play (Baring DLC) add microtransactions and add cosmetics on those, it would gain backlash sure but people would kind of understand why they added it.

Its a poor move by them, I mean I can see WHY they would do it but it doesn't sit well with me.
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Jeremy Meyer VIP Services Host 2 years ago
After reading your comment and the comments from other readers. I agree with the opinions expressed that it does sound bad for Starbreeze and OverKill. It changes game play and makes the people who buy the drill etc a stronger more powerful player is all bad and yes would and should anger the game playing community of Pay Day 2.

But since the person who said that they would never do Micro transactions has left the company, can we really say that the company as a hole lied to its community???
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 2 years ago
But since the person who said that they would never do Micro transactions has left the company, can we really say that the company as a [w]hole lied to its community?
I think we can, yes. We hold companies to other promises (such as contracts) they've made even after management changes. How would you feel about a company that decided they no longer had to pay your royalties on a game because the guy who originally set up your royalty deal was gone?

Paul Johnson is certainly right that there will always be people who complain about the price, and it is indeed necessary for Star Breeze and Overkill to generate enough revenue to stay in business at least through 2017, since they promised to keep developing and supporting the game until then. Still, they could have chosen to do this in a considerably less offensive way, even if they did still end up bringing in microtransactions of some sort.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 2 years ago
Question: What does the game's EULA and TOS say about the possibility of other paid content coming down the road? While it's kind of crappy that this has been done in this manner, if it's been set in stone from the get go and no one bothered to read all the way to the bottom line, it's not all Starbreeze's fault.

That said, they should have floated the idea thorough the community and let them choose an option to not pay and earn legitimate chances to unlock stuff (some sort of PvP contest?) or allow for other means of earning those bonuses. I'm surprised this has happened at all given how the internet generally responds to developers dropping more paid content into games in this manner.
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John Thomason Studying Computer Science, University of Minnesota2 years ago
Almir Listo, Producer at Starbreeze/Overkill, stated on May 2013 (4 months before the game launched) that

"PAYDAY 2 will have no micro-transactions whatsoever (shame on you if you thought otherwise!)"

His statement was posted on the PAYDAY The Heist (the first Payday game) forums:

http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3127521

Mr. Listo is still with Overkill. He is listed as the person who runs the Overkill Twitter account and also posts updates on the Payday 2 Steam page.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Overkill_tm/
Payday 2 Steam Updates: http://steamcommunity.com/games/218620/announcements/
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Dan Wood Visual Effects Artist 2 years ago
Debating the general effects and acceptableness of microtransactions seems somewhat irrelevant to this particular story.

This issue has arisen specifically because the developers initially traded on the promise of never having microtransactions, and were widely celebrated by their community for their community-centered approach. A *lot* of positive press was generated around the game by the word-of-mouth of its fans, based on the promises they had made.

The issue isn't whether it's right to add in microtransactions. The issue is whether it's right to outright betray a promise made NOT to add them in. A promise that likely netted a substantial amount of extra revenue in the first place.

I think fans have every right to kick up a stink about it, and attempt to negate the efforts they put in to promote the game in the first place.
Overkill were more than happy to trade on that good will in the first place... they should certainly weather the bad will *they* have created without complaint.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Dan Wood on 21st October 2015 3:31am

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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft GermanyA year ago
@dan
Debating the general effects and acceptableness of micro-transactions seems somewhat irrelevant to this particular story.

Well, I think for this particular story the general effect is precisely all it is about it: This article is here because of the effects it causes on the community since they find unacceptable that a company that promised that they would never add micro-transactions end adding them to their product, exactly like you said.
I think fans have every right to kick up a stink about it, and attempt to negate the efforts they put in to promote the game in the first place.
Agreed; little things are more useful than player feedback. I can only ask the question again: If we all agree that "P2W" micro-transactions in full priced games are heavily unpopular and unwanted in general, why do we keep pushing them into our products? There has to be another way.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon DevelopmentA year ago
I too agree that doing it after making a sworn promise not to for the purposes of PR and sales generation is a pretty shtty thing to do.

But lets get over all these greed conspiracy theories. If they back-pedalled in the face of surely knowing they'd get shit for it, it's because they need extra money to keep the game going and deliver on their other promises. Life got in the way, big deal.

So yes, PR disaster. It's not the first. But another takeaway from this is that if customers want their franchise extending then it has to be paid for and it ain't cheap. MT's or paid content packs or out and out sequels are the options, but getting more cash in is the basline feature for getting the staff paid to deliver it. And a AAA-sized team doesn't come cheap.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon DevelopmentA year ago
If we all agree that "P2W" micro-transactions in full priced games are heavily unpopular and unwanted in general
We don't all agree, in fact I thought I made the opposite case.

We've been through this in mobile where there was a ton of "outrage" about F2P games generally, but the airtime had no correlation to the actual fact that the silent majority preferred it, therefore had no need to take to the internet with their pitchforks. I really have seen someone say in one sentence, without irony, "King make a million bucks a day by exploiting players who can't possibly want things that way". Erm. Really? :)

Pay to win is a common rally cry, but this is usually bollocks in practice, just an emotive over-exageration from the "no" crowd. My Combat Monsters attracted these complaints because you can pay to buy heroes for the game that affect how you can play. They do, but one isn't better than the other, there's no actual advantage at all to your ability to move up the leaderboard. So you're paying for variety, not to win.

And in any case, if you keep it away from PVP, which most devs are sensible to do, then it's actually wanted by a lot of people. Monsters is getting a big update soon and one of the things we're adding is a single player cheat boost iap because we've had a ton of requests for one!
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@Paul "But lets get over all these greed conspiracy theories. If they back-pedalled in the face of surely knowing they'd get shit for it, it's because they need extra money to keep the game going and deliver on their other promises. Life got in the way, big deal."

Saying "yeah we made a promise but life got in the way, big deal" sounds fine on a forum post but would have terrifying costs for public-facing studios in the real world. And while it's admirable to interpret Overkill's clumsy, promise-breaking IAP's as a noble quest to feed their starving children, I fail to see how this isn't about sheer fat bank. Payday 2 has sold over 5m copies, the press binged on stories of what a huge hit it was for Overkill. Until we see an equal spread of stories about their bankruptcy & impending eviction, its not crazy to see these new IAPs as purely about the devs thinking they deserve more millions.

Nothing wrong with that, we're all chasing success but especially when you are successful these attempts to extract *any money you can* from your players does not involve desperation, it's a choice, a business decision. We should be allowed to discuss these decisions without hearing that tired "trying to put food on my family" bollocks that gets wheeled out every time a developer gets collared for grasping or abusive practices. Either nobody in business is in it for cashmoney any more, or that line is flimsy rhetoric to deflect embarrassing criticism.
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Paul Shirley Programmers A year ago
We don't all agree, in fact I thought I made the opposite case.
You established the majority of F2P players are very forgiving of even aggressive monetisation and the minority can be ignored. Quite what proportion are as accepting in full price prepaid games is a very different thing, as is the safety of ignoring complaints. Customers don't owe developers a living, annoy them enough and they walk.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon DevelopmentA year ago
Quite what proportion are as accepting in full price prepaid games is a very different thing
Happy to concede that, but what I was self-referring to was the fact that the majority are silent. We actually DON'T know what they think of this at all. All the hoopla is from a tiny percentage of their customers.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing A year ago
10 positive comments on reddit = our giant fanbase
10 negative comments on reddit = some vocal minority

developer editing loot tables = admission of guilt
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Sandy Lobban Founder, Noise Me UpA year ago
in other words, a man who used to be in a job said something, and it turned out the company went another direction after he was no longer in the job. Is this really a story? All there is to learn here is that game designers should never be drawn on monetisation strategies when given a platform to speak, unless of course it is their own business, then they are free to do as they please.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer A year ago
a man who used to be in a job said something, and it turned out the company went another direction after he was no longer in the job. Is this really a story?
It wouldn't be, if that were the real story. A more accurate description might be, "Payday developer nerfs all players' weapons and asks players to pay to buff them back up again."

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Curt Sampson on 22nd October 2015 7:58pm

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