Over two years ago, PAYDAY 2 producer Almir Listo told the community that they would never introduce micro-transactions, and suggested those who thought otherwise should feel ashamed.
Today marks the beginning of the Crimefest, a 10-day long annual celebration of all things PAYDAY. To mark the celebration, Overkill Software has introduced The Black Market, an in-game economy where users, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive style, can open cases with drills. The drills cost money. And the skins aren't cosmetic: they can affect the performance of the weapons.
Fans aren't happy.
"Fuck you overkill." "Oh yeah, we PAYDAY: Skin Offensive now." "We've overloaded Crime.net — we can do the opposite. Let your voice be heard." "I made a new banner" — the banner reads PAYDAY 2: Global Offensive. "I actually hope the hackers find a way to hack the safe-opening drills into the inventories." "Mann-conomy update, with all the worst of CS:GO." "Let's change the titel [sic] ... to Pay2Day."
These are the latest threads on the official subreddit. The sentiment doesn't change much when you scroll down, and those posting on Steam are equally irate. Listo's original thread from two years ago is by far and away the most active on the old forums. Almir's announcement for the first day of the Crimefest celebrations has over 3000 comments, and the fury there is just as palpable.
"Well, it looks like I left just in time to see my most played game become CS:GO," user Jones wrote. "Sure it would be nice to have weapon skins, but A, I thought it was gonna be FREE content this Crimefest, B, Giving the Weapons skins actual stats is a dumb idea, and C, you lied to us, you said that PAYDAY 2 will never have Microtransactions," another quipped.
David Goldfarb is one of the co-founders of indie studio The Outsiders, but before that he was the lead designer on PAYDAY 2. "No. No. God, I hope not. Never. No." That was his response to Gamespot when they asked if microtransactions would ever be added to PAYDAY 2.
There appears to be some microtransaction drama.
— David Goldfarb (@locust9) October 15, 2015
But let's rewind a bit. Why exactly is everyone so goddamn angry?
It's the introduction of The Black Market update, a patch that introduces an in-game economy that introduces weapon skins, safes and drills to open the safes. Two special safes are listed on the site: the Sputnik Safe, featuring two rare skins, two epic skins and one uncommon, and the Crimefest 2 safe, which has one common skin, two uncommon, one epic and one rare skin.
Players are comparing the system to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive because each case can only be opened with the corresponding drill, and those drills cost. Crimefest 2 drills are going from US$3.19 at the time of writing, while you'll need at least US$2.89 to buy a drill for the Sputnik cases.
It probably doesn't help that Overkill themselves made a direct comparison. On their Steam forums, Tessio McTess, a volunteer moderator for PAYDAY 2's Steam forums, described the update very simply. "It's basically an economy system in PAYDAY 2 akin to the ones featured in Valve games such as Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Defense of the Ancients 2."
But what really has everyone's goat is this one simple line on the website. "Aside from looking awesome, a skin offers more than cosmetics," Overkill's landing page for the Black Market update said. "Skins can improve the stats of the weapon, perhaps making it more stable or affecting concealment. Some skins come with associated mods, capable of further improving the stats. Finally, a rare Stat Boost modifier might come with the skin, giving you that extra edge."
If one image could explain the height of the community's fury, it's this one.
The numbers above don't look like a great deal, but Overkill promises the opposite with "a limited supply of truly awe-inspiring weapon skins". Any skin with a Legendary status, according to the developers, will help players "soar above the norm, bringing a stat boost for the weapon and notoriety to you".
Instead of rebelling from the idea of paying money to have better weapons, Overkill is doubling down on it. And while PAYDAY 2 might be free-to-play for the next 10 days and is 75% off for the next week, the standard asking price is US$20. You can get a four pack for US$15, but the philosophy is still there: PAYDAY 2 wasn't built as a free-to-play, pay-to-win shooter. It was a straight shooter that didn't charge customers for guns, and they've now implemented a system that encourages precisely the opposite.
This isn't the first time Overkill has dipped in the monetisation well, either. Early last year the company kicked off an event called Hype Train, which ran for over a month. A range of rewards unlocked as more community members joined the group, with the cap set at 1.5 million for the final reward.
The in-game rewards were unlocked through gameplay, but Overkill offered two DLC packs — a standard Overkill pack and the Completely Overkill pack — for US$5 and US$20 respectively. Both packs granted buyers a large amount of Hype Fuel — the commodity that helped unlock more rewards over the course of the community event — as well as some new weapons, skins and mods.
It's no wonder that PAYDAY 2 fans with hundreds, even thousands, of hours played have begun posting scathing reviews on Steam. And Overkill's volunteer moderators are aware of the backlash, calling on those irate to "remain civilised and constructive". "That does *not* give you the right to misbehave and ascertain to toxic behaviour when displaying your opinion. This is a privately owned forum and non-constructive threads and general toxic posts will be DELETED ON SIGHT WITHOUT PRIOR OR ANY CONSENT," McTess wrote in a pinned post.
But simply acknowledging the issue does not dissipate an outraged community. "The huge controversy that seems to be the main focus is the microtransaction aspect and the stat boosts that some skins will apply when earned," McTess said earlier today.
Fans are outraged because they don't understand why Overkill wanted to go down this path. They're waiting for an explanation — and given the sheer contempt with which a once-beloved game was upheld, that explanation can't be far away.