Payday 2's Microtransaction Nightmare Just Got Worse

Payday 2's Microtransaction Nightmare Just Got Worse

Payday 2 developer Overkill Software has been eerily silent about the game's controversial microtransactions, a move that's had the community upset for more than a week. Yesterday, Overkill finally spoke out. They apologised for bungling communication, but the microtransactions are here to stay.

If you haven't been following this story, here's the quick version: Payday 2's developers once declared the game would never get microtranscations. Then, it did! For $US2.50, players could buy drills to potentially unlock specially skinned weapons that could also have better stats than standard weapon drops. Though Payday 2 is not a competitive game — it's players vs. AI — it felt unfair, especially juxtaposed against the comments made by the developers. After much criticism, the drills were introduced as an item that could randomly drop for players, but this was many days after the developers pretended nothing was going on.

When Payday 2's 10-day Crimefest promotion came to an end, the developer held an AMA on the game's subreddit, a source of fandom that has not been kind to Overkill's recent decisions. It's not a surprise that players immediately started grilling the developer on the microtransactions question. To Overkill's credit, they didn't avoid it, and decided to address the issue head-on.

Overkill producer Almir Listo has been working on Payday 2 for years. He was part of the braintrust that publicly declared the game would never include microtransactions, a quote that's been used to hammer Overkill for days now.

"To make sure there was no confusion, we said what we did [at the time] to make things absolutely clear," said Listo. "If you asked me then, there would be no way we would have added a system like we just did."

But more than two years after the release of Payday 2, that's changed.

Payday 2's Microtransaction Nightmare Just Got Worse

Listo first pointed blame at various media outlets — Kotaku was not specifically named — for "uninformed, clickbait articles about things that matter a lot to a lot of people, instead of doing some serious legwork to get their facts straight."

(So far as I know, our pieces on this story have been considered accurate. Please let me know if that's not true.)

A huge reason we've written several stories about this ongoing controversy is because Payday 2 fans have reached out to Kotaku, time and time again, asking for answers. When I'd look at the Payday 2 subreddit, I saw anger and confusion. When I'd load the Steam forums, I saw that same anger and confusion. A big reason people were upset was Overkill's lack of communication. I tried to help. Instead of holding this AMA immediately, they waited 10 days to open up.

Listo revealed how the Overkill team has grown in size since the game's release in 2013 — it's tripled from 25 to 75 developers.

"As our ambition for Payday 2 post-launch has grown, we've hired more people to help us make it happen," he said.

Listo pointed out Overkill's desire to keep supporting Payday 2, while having to earn enough money to actually pull that off. Six months ago, the game's price was permanently reduced in an attempt to spur sales, but it didn't work out.

"We didn't see the result we anticipated," he said, "and have had to think of other ways to make sure we can continue creating content in the pace we want in order to keep Payday 2 fresh and exciting."

An interesting wrinkle: Overkill signed a contract with publisher 505 Games to keep supporting Payday 2 through 2017. Listo claims Overkill wanted to deliver more than what the contract required, explaining the dramatic increase in team size. But to pay those people, they turned their eyes towards microtransactions.

It'd be one thing if Overkill came to the community and plainly explained the situation before Crimefest kicked off, breaking down their rationalization for going back on a previous promise. That's the exact opposite of what happened.

"The reason why we didn't want to discuss this was that it wasn't fully launched until after Crimefest," said Listo. "Not in our wildest dreams could we anticipate the type of reaction that the update received during the first few days."

Salary considerations aside, Listo doesn't think the criticism is warranted:

There are several arguments as to why we think stat boosts are OK to have in PAYDAY 2, and here are three; - The game is balanced around the vanilla experience, that is, the game without any DLC. When we add any new difficulties, enemies, features, heists or otherwise, we balance this in relation to the base game. - PAYDAY 2 is a player-versus-environment game. You and your three friends play together against the AI; you lose together and you win together. Any advantage your friends have will only benefit the success of the group. - Making sure that the boosts are balanced in such a way that it doesn't impare [sic] on the player's experience. This is an ongoing effort on our side.

While it's true Payday 2 isn't player-vs-player, Listo's explanation conveniently sidesteps why folks were upset in the first place: the changes came out of nowhere and weren't justified to the community. Potentially upsetting the balance of the game was part of it, but that ignores what was really driving this.

Despite "a lot of fury, anger and disappointment," the microtransactions aren't going away. According to Listo, they're working.

"From an economical standpoint however, completely based on statistics, we can already see that the Black Market update is working as we intended," said Listo. "Going forward, we hope we can convince the parts of the community that resist this change that this was the right decision to do to ensure the stability of Overkill as an independent developer and the future growth of Payday 2."

In other words, people are buying the drills, and Overkill has bills to pay.

The reaction to Listo's comments, at least in the AMA, have been disastrous. The AMA itself didn't even receive a single upvote:

Payday 2's Microtransaction Nightmare Just Got Worse

0 upvotes, 2534 comments? Not a great sign.

The most popular thread right now is a moderator resigning over all this.

Based on the recent developments and Almir's stubbornness, I've decided it's best that I distance myself from everything. And this sucks! Payday was one of my favourite series and I was one of the people who preordered the first game. But I can't support how Overkill is playing every one of the people who have already spent hundreds each towards the series only to be told that we don't know what's best for us.

To Listo's credit, he stuck around and answered a ton of questions, despite just about everyone pushing back on his explanations.

It's not looking good over on Steam, either.

Payday 2's Microtransaction Nightmare Just Got Worse

Elsewhere, fans have launched a parody website called The Road to Greedfest, an attempt to both send a message to and rally fans behind certain objectives.

First up? Stop playing Payday 2 and get it under 10,000 concurrent players. Next, tank the Metacritic userscore. After that, apply the same tactics to the game's review score on Steam. The "challenges" after that haven't been revealed.

Payday 2's Microtransaction Nightmare Just Got Worse

We'll have to wait and see how this ultimately impacts Payday 2 going forward. Even if some of the most hardcore leave, will the microtransactions make up for it? Right now, that's what Overkill is gambling. According to them, it's working.

Payday 2's Microtransaction Nightmare Just Got Worse

Comments

    Jesus christ... even EA has never screwed up this badly... it's like they WANT their game to die.

      Maybe they are doing it on purpose to get out of their contract for continued support. Musicians have done it to get out of record deals in the past so why not developers?

      Even Ubisoft apolgises after screwing their customers!

        To be fair that only happened because their stock took a dive. Their usual tactic is to ignore.

      The list of companies that have screwed up is so long now... Its sad but years ago I use to have a list of companies I no longer preorder from... Today however I find it easier to keep a mental list of companies I still bother with preordering their games (about 3 companies).

      While this is microtransations and well after release, its a sign of the times.

      Last edited 27/10/15 2:08 pm

      In terms of 'ethics' I think that cutting out part of a game to resell is much worse than charging people for the work done after a games' release. EA is a larger company. They can afford to get away with much more.

    Everything else aside, what kind of company TRIPLES their workstaff and then cuts the price of their game in an attempt to get the money needed to pay them? That's a quick way to the next article about a lot of redundancies in the industry

      I think they hired new staff when looking to port the game to a thousand different systems; that said they should've used the momentum from the game's successful launch and create a new game.

        I'll wait for the Ouya version

        But yeah, I'd've thought that with the industry as it is it's quite hard to keep a game going for a length of time and be profitable, let alone a pve game, a new game would make much more sense.

        Last edited 27/10/15 11:43 am

    Lol it's funny thinking back when Payday 2 was launched there were heaps of articles patting them on the back for making a great game that shot past all sales expectations. I guess Overkill will now be one of those studios PR firms quote as a warning when looking to get clients on board =P

    I know I'm nitpicking a bit here but the 0 next to the topic isn't the upvotes although I'm not sure what the official term for it is. I believe it's an aggregation of the upvotes, downvotes after some fraud detection is done. You are certainly right that his responses weren't well received though.

    Almir can claim that we're just the "vocal minority" but at some point he has to realise that we do matter.

    Last edited 27/10/15 11:35 am

    I can't fathom how stat boosts don't "count" as potentially impairing the player experience, regardless of what the game's difficulty is calibrated against. In a PvE game, the whole point is the challenge, right? So making things (optionally) easier is explicitly removing some of that challenge, ergo directly and negatively affecting the player experience.

      Agreed, which is why I only use the weakest weapon available in any game. Can't have that experience diminished by choosing to use elements provided to me by the developer :|

    Overkill if you are struggling to pay all your employees then laying people off is EXACTLY WHAT YOU DO. Too many workers, not enough money? Then sack some people!
    You don't add micro transactions and spit in the face of your customers. How dumb are these guys?
    Crash and burn Overkill, you deserve it.

      Maybe it's just my brain trying to play devil's advocate or something...... but your comment seems particularly harsh towards what is, objectively speaking, something optional.
      Saying nothing about whether or not they went back on promises or whatnot, how has the optional microtransactions ruined the experience of the game for you? To the level which you would wish the company to crash and burn?

      Serious question, btw. I've been a bystander for most of this, and so I'm still not entirely sure why it has blown up to this level of contempt for the devs.

        Its just pretty insulting for a game you have paid over 100 USD for to then make it so you need to pay real money to have the best weapons in the game.

        I know I can just choose not to buy them but when I spent that 100 USD it was under the impression that I would not later be disadvantaged without paying extremely large sums of money.

        LOL, ok, you're really dense so let me explain it slowly...with big letters.

        THEY SAID THEY WOULD NEVER ADD MICRO TRANSACTIONS.

        THEY WENT AHEAD AND ADDED MICRO TRANSACTIONS.

        They literally said "You should be ashamed for suggesting we will EVER add micro transactions."

        The stat boost is irrelevant, they lied, oh but that's ok right?
        You somehow don't understand the backlash? Sorry but are you actually retarded? What is there not to understand?

        Oh you don't play the game? SO WHAT? What a pathetic mindset you must have... "It's only a bad thing if it affects me personally, I don't even play the game so it can't be that bad!"

        You're that kinda guy huh?

        Slow clap...

          This is a spectacular freakout. Well done!

          You do realize things change over time right? The market changes, the conditions change, salaries change.

          If you're so upset about a company saying one thing and doing the opposite 2 years later then you have some very unrealistic expectations.

          Also if the Payday community is as rage-filled as you then the reaction to this issue is no surprise

          Last edited 27/10/15 3:41 pm

            Settle down everyone. (This is a general comment to the whole thread, not just the post above.)

    " The game is balanced around the vanilla experience, that is, the game without any DLC. When we add any new difficulties, enemies, features, heists or otherwise, we balance this in relation to the base game"

    Yeah, I call BS; there is a significant power creep; enemies like the Swat Van and Captain have massive health/armor and really need DLC weapons to take them down...

    wah wah wah wah wah is all i hear. FFS bitches. if you enjoy the game before microtransactions, guess what? you still can enjoy that same game without having to buy microtransaction items.
    i jumped in a few days after reading articles and seeing people bitch and moan. and you know what, it was just as fun as it always has been for me. and ive never had an issue with my gun selection prior to microtransactions. and i dont feel pressured to purchase anything, at all.
    dick move, sure it is. does it warrant stopping playing a game, not at all. if you dont purchase the new transactions, they wont make extra money off you. ive loved this game since it came out and ill continue to do so.

    I'm not sure what players are expecting from tanking the game. If they drop microtransactions, the game loses support. If they keep them and people stop playing, the game loses support. As players, we don't win through either reaction.

    I'm not trying to defend Overkill here. If they just spoke to their fan base well ahead of time this reaction would have been so much smaller. Hell, they could have followed Valve's approach with TF2: communicate ahead of time, make the game cheap/free, give a free item to people who buy it, and also add microtransactions.

      Hypothetical months-early release:

      "We've been providing a lot of content that hasn't been paying for itself, and we're faced with a situation that to meet our contract requirements, we may have to fire people and/or produce less content or support. We don't want to do that, so we'd like to turn our eyes to something we've previously dismissed: Microtransactions. One of the problems with conventional payment is that die-hard fans who might want to pay more for the value they've received for the game... can't. We're selling at less than AAA, but some people have over a thousand hours and would gladly have paid triple... but couldn't even if they wanted to. Microtransactions allow us to give someting relatively minor but potentially fun as a way of deepening your investment. The numbers we've run on this make our future support look sustainable, whereas it's currently not. This is something we have to do, but we're looking for your feedback in advance on the best implementation that allows this shift in monetization to benefit both us and players. We've all seen examples of microtransactions done right, and we'd like to be one of the examples people point to as 'done right'."

      So simple. So quick. So easy. So effective.

      Such a thing never materialized. Which was, frankly, stupid.

        So really the problem is with poor communication (which lets face it, is stupidly common) rather than the actual micro-transactions.
        A bit of a PR fluff isn't as big of a deal as people are making it out to be. Seems like a massive storm in a teacup.

        Personally I don't play Payday anymore so I don't care. I had my fun and I moved on.
        However this poses an interesting question.... why do developers and games these days insist on staying around forever?
        Keep servers running? Sure, that makes sense. But why must a game continue to get updates? Why must a game continue to get new DLC?
        Why can't we as consumers play a game, finish it and move on? Why can't developers release a game, support it for a bit, fix issues and then go make another game?

          Because their pathological need for control (and anti-piracy bullet-points to investors) means that servers are all-too-often central instead of user-maintained dedicated servers, and need to keep track of perks and upgrades for the RPG progression elements.

          If they could package this shit to something local before they do hand-off, that would be fantastic, but 1) no-one pays to code up resilient hand-off when they're in the middle of shutting it down anyway, that's wasted money in their eyes, and 2) Publishers seem to hate hate hate hate hate the idea of user-run dedicated servers these days, just on principle.

          Last edited 27/10/15 4:02 pm

      The only problem with your suggestion that OK should have consulted the fan base first, is that you're making the assumption that Payday's fan base is capable of acting and conversing with reason. They are absolutely incapable of this.

    Just read the comments...I'm disgusted by how many idiots STILL support this company.

    No wonder they lied and did a complete backflip, there is always enough stupid sheep out there who will defend a company no matter what.

      Dude, chill out. Its done. Micro transactions are not going away.

      Its not the end of the world.

        How about you chill out? Idiot. I NEVER said they were going away, and who cares? Overkill are the ones who screwed up. I guess you're another one of their stupid fanboys?

      Maybe, and I know this a pretty huge maybe but maybe, there are people out there who are more interested in simply playing the game for what it is regardless of the companies benchmarks changing as opposed to flying off the handle at the first sign of change and declaring everyone who disagrees with you as idiotic, uninformed, selfish or lacking in foresight.

      You are literally woe-as-me-ing the future of gaming because one small company decided to add micro transactions to one small game. Get a grip.

    People are defending Overkill....I don't even....

    God help the future of gaming.

    This is such a shame, Payday 2 is one of my favourite games ever. People are overreacting just a little bit I think.

    Well if they wanted to start microtransaction. How about just make PayDay 2 free to play from now on and give benefit to all legacy players?

    Every game so far used that route to change from pay to a free to play model. It will still be going against their word but at least not as bad as how it turns out to be right now.

    They are practically just saying. "Wait we hired 50 more staff and we need revenue to keep going, game is not selling well so let's do microtransaction that indirectly forces player to pay to upgrade their weapon"

    Does anyone else think it's hypocritical that this article tries to seperate itself from 'uninformed clickbait articles' while the title claims that the 'Microtransaction Nightmare Just Got Worse'?

    Personally I don't think it's greed to want to be able to pay your workers, if the number of staff has in fact increased and they're working on making new content on a technically complete game. I've never bought into microtransactions or dlc myself, but there's a distinction between cutting out parts of a game to sell back to you (Mass Effect 3) and charging people for new content that otherwise would have never existed (Team Fortress 2).

    This is one of the more artificial controversies I can recall. There are no victims in this. The only things that the payers are gaining an advantage over is AI.

      I think a large problem is the studio wanted to create more content than was required, so they made a business decision to triple the size of the studio. That didn't quite pan out, so now they're having to implement microtransactions to pull enough money in -- after telling people they should be ashamed for thinking Overkill would ever do such a thing -- so they don't have to let staff go.

      It's nice that they are taking moves to keep developers employed. But that's only because of, so far as can be gleaned, a bad decision on management's part to begin with. And there's also the other element where they deliberately chose not to communicate any of this information beforehand -- not even during the Crimefest event when the community absolutely lost their minds. Bring that all together, and it's kind of understandable why fans are so pissed off.

    One thing that companies could take away from all of this is "never make big promises to your user base, no matter how well intentioned you are, especially if you expect your product to be around years from now". Times change, audiences change, the industry changes, and your well-intended promises (which maybe, at some point, seemed as though something you could keep) will have to clash with new realities that may actually make them unsustainable. Then there will be much rage.

    Magic the Gathering made a foolish promise, too, long time ago to what compared to their current player base is a handful of people. Unlike Overkill, they have chosen to honour that promise through the decades, but the game has clearly suffered from it.

    I keep seeing reference to a promise the producer made 2 years ago that Payday 2 would never have micro-transactions. Here's the quote:We've made it clear that PAYDAY 2 will have no micro-transactions whatsoever (shame on you if you thought otherwise!) That's quite a cut-and-dried statement.

    What I'm yet to see is any of the authors in these articles interpreting the statement in the broader context. From the relevant quote:The community forums have been booming. We read it all, we've listened and - in what I would dare to say is becoming a classic OVERKILL way - we've reacted.
    Let me explain.
    The Steam page for PAYDAY 2 has been updated based on your feedback. We've made it clear that PAYDAY 2 will have no micro-transactions whatsoever (shame on you if you thought otherwise!) and we've made it more clear that the PAYDAY loot bag is part of the Career Criminal Edition as well.

    From the expanded quote it appears clear that consumers were concerned Payday 2 would contain micro-transactions on release. One could read the response as a clarification of prior information, that the game will not release with micro-transactions. Alternatively, one could interpret it as an entreaty that the game will never contain micro-transactions. The statement in context is not open enough for the latter to be a firm interpretation.

    I see the idea of the publisher's promise to the community as a small but important detail. It's annoying to see details like that thrown to the wayside in a series of articles where the tone has leaned slightly toward fueling the flames of a controversy. Even though I disagree with the presentation of the articles, credit should definitely go to Alex and Patrick for keeping on top of the subject.
    The community, however, should stop being so damn volatile and reactionary to every. single. little. thing. they don't like. It doesn't hurt to take a few breaths, think about the facets of a situation that don't feed outrage, exercise some empathy, and then take to writing out a message that can foster conversation.

    Last edited 27/10/15 6:26 pm

    Meh... people will get over it.

    Internet outrage tends to burn out rather quickly and people move on or just keep playing because they don't care about the drama (or just bring in the "whale" type player)

    Don't get me wrong it's a douchey move to pull... but I've seen lots of internet game rage just end up fizzling and forgotten and people move on.

    Tanking the Metacritic score is such a shitty thing to do. Gamers are so self entitled and childish sometimes. It's infuriating.

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