How A Game Studio Totally Bungled A Controversy And Lost All Good Will

How A Game Studio Totally Bungled A Controversy And Lost All Good Will

For years, Payday 2’s developers insisted the game wouldn’t have microtransactions. That changed last week, and the community flipped out. The outrage got them to slightly change the way it works. But most importantly, the way they handled criticism — ignoring it — only stoked the flames.

As part of Payday 2‘s Crimefest event, developer Overkill Software introduced two safes that could only be unlocked with specials drills. These safes would randomly reward players with weapons featuring unique skins, stats, and skills. However, it wasn’t possible to obtain drills by playing the game repeatedly and getting a lucky drop — Overkill wanted players to spend $US2.50 per drill. It’d be one thing if players were only paying for access to different looking weapons, but it was quickly revealed some of the paid weapon drops were superior to the weapons regular players had access to. In a sense, the game was introducing pay-to-win mechanics on top of a game people had already full price for.

For example:

How A Game Studio Totally Bungled A Controversy And Lost All Good Will

Bullshit, right?

Even if you’re not into Payday 2, it’s easy to get pissed off about that.

Bizarrely, Overkill let the anger fester for days. It’s one thing to make a mistake, another to ignore it. The community was enraged, with nearly every topic of discussion on Steam, Reddit, and other places focused on why Overkill went down this path. Rather than foster a dialogue with fans, it told them to wait:

We’ve read a lot of your feedback. We’re aware that there are those of you who are unhappy or concerned about the Black Market update. Once Crimefest and all its content is out we’ll discuss this with you along with the other new features that were added. While we usually get back to you straight away when you have feedback, right now we’re busy as hell making sure we finish all the content we prepared on time.

That happened on the fourth day of Crimefest, an event meant to last 10 days. On the sixth day of Crimefest, otherwise known as yesterday, the studio snuck an olive branch to the community through a set of patch notes for the game:

Added Drills to the Card Loot Drop reward table. Players can now be rewarded with Drills that can open Safes after successfully completing a heist

No explanation, no apology, but it did point out the change on Twitter:

Overkill hasn’t responded to my requests for comment, either. I’ve asked twice, but so far, I’ve heard nothing. Onto the seventh day of Crimefest, I guess?

Having players who did pay for a drill getting screwed doesn’t help matters:

How A Game Studio Totally Bungled A Controversy And Lost All Good Will

Worse still, the patch doesn’t really address the core problem. You can still buy better weapons, and it’s unclear what the drop rate is for drills. If Overkill makes it low enough, players may never see them. This “fix” isn’t as egregious, but it still sucks. It’d be one thing if Payday 2 was a free-to-play game that made these design choices upfront, but it’s happening two years after the release date. The kinds of people who are still playing are your most hardcore fans.

The response from players has been, unsurprisingly, pretty mixed:

How A Game Studio Totally Bungled A Controversy And Lost All Good Will

Even if Overkill completely drops these changes from Payday 2, it’s poisoned the community. Built into the relationship between developer and player is trust. It’s possible for both sides to break that trust, but in this case, it’s on Overkill.

The biggest problem for Overkill is a GameSpot quote from Payday 2 lead designer David Goldfarb. Asked if the game would get microtransactions:

“No. No. God, I hope not. Never. No.”

Goldfarb left Overkill to build an independent studio earlier this year, prompting him to poke fun at the tension with the fans a few days ago:

He clarified, however, that microtransactions didn’t prompt him to quit.

Players have reason to be cynical these days. Games have been released broken, taking nearly a year to become reliably playable. Kickstarter projects ask for money, then don’t deliver. Some companies ask players to shell out $60 for a season pass that doesn’t detail the content you’re paying for. And even if you decide to gamble on one of those passes, it’s possible all the content sucks.

To keep making new levels, weapons, heists, and other content to ensure Payday 2 stays fresh, Overkill has to, of course, keep making money. But there ways of talking to your community about such changes. This time, they got it wrong.


  • I was saying almost the exact same thing the other day.
    Sometimes it’s as important a skill to know when you’ve f*cked up as it is to make the right decision in the first place.

    Business’s don’t always need to make a “moral” choice, but you don’t have to be a moral crusader against P2W to see that the way they handled this was just terrible business.

  • You make your game enjoyable enough, take the time to build and nurture a loyal fan base, manage your community effectively with frequent ‘events’ and updates, and you will make plenty of money from cosmetic microtransactions. DotA 2 is proof of this.

    As soon as you introduce P2W, which this is a blatant example of, then you lose that community you worked so hard to build. P2W should never, ever be a part of a paid game.

    • To be fair, dota2 had an event where it was obviously pay to win, the year beast event. Any other event was bases purely on your ability to play th game but this event was impossible to play and win if you didn’t spend as much as the other team did.

      • People playing the yearbeast mode were, in general, pretty awful at the game. Generally only 1 or 2 players on each side had any idea what they were doing, so that reduced the P2W element somewhat. If you got a team with a bit of coordination, it was almost a guaranteed win

    • Dota is a bit of a different beast though – it’s F2P, which means it can have a much bigger user base from which to draw that cosmetics cash from. Payday, on the other hand, is a paid game, which basically guarantees it won’t have the same user base.

      While Dota is a good example, LOL and HOTS have different models that involve elements of P2W (for new players, at least, until you have all the heroes/runes/whatever unlocked).

  • But most importantly, the way they handled criticism — ignoring it — only stoked the flames.

    Wait, so people have an awareness of this concept? Why is so much criticism generalised, patronised and ignored here, then?

  • Played a few missions last night. After more than 100 hours playtime, the only thing I noticed that was different? Pistols are stronger than they once were.
    I kept waiting for the the game to stop working, to throw micro-transactions in my face, for something, anything that would justify all they crying and screaming a la “This game is ruined!”, “The devs have destroyed this game”; there had to be an indication that all the petulant foot stamping wasn’t just a community of players who demand everything be done their way and when they bloody well demand it.
    Nothing, not a peep.

    I enjoyed jumping back into the game and playing with friends. Sure, getting angry about a company adding micro-transactions after they that had developed a stable playerbase two years out from launch, all the while offering free DLC and supporting further development with paid DLC. I could have loaded up on the rage and made a bunch of specious arguments. Instead, I’d rather pick my battles and play the games that I enjoy.

  • What’s the opposite of the “Golden age” Because I’m pretty sure we’re in the anti-Golden age of Video Games. I’m waiting for Friday when it’s revealed that Ac:S is a buggy mess just to re-enforce this opinion.

  • This headline is completely deceiving. Spend 5 minutes with the Payday 2 community and you’ll realise there was never any goodwill coming from the community. Remember, there were boycotts from day 1 because OK delayed the release for 10 days because they wanted to ensure it wasn’t buggy on release, and got absolutely crucified for it. Sure, this was handled badly (any fight about microtransactions will be bloody) but even the most charitable gestures from OK are greeted with scorn and contempt. EA barely gets the levels of vitriol OK gets on a daily basis.

    • OK do so much for their players and the new weapons don’t seem to make a huge difference.

      With the game being free for new players a couple of weekends a year, not too bad DLC (some of the weapons are pretty fun), new heists added in pretty regularly, new sound tracks, collaborations with other games and updates that would take a huge amount of time to improve the menu’s and ai among other things, they do far more for the players of Payday 2 than I’ve seen a company do for a game post release and nevermind the fact that it’s two years later.

      I’d buy the occasional drill even just to know that they’ll still be releasing map packs and weapons and to support the developers.

      My only niggle would be receiving the safe’s instead of a weapon attachment sometimes. If it was additional it’d be nice as there are still quite a few attachments I’m trying to track down.

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