The last time a developer got a little too snarky with their audience over microtransactions, it resulted in a massive PR blunder and an embarrassing amount of back-pedalling.
That hasn’t put off one of the Melbourne developers behind the arena shooter Reflex though, who invited fans to get physical if they don’t follow through on their promises.
It’s been a hard slog for Melbourne developers Turbo Pixel. Reflex was originally conceived as a Kickstarter project last year, but the game was pulled from the crowdfunding platform and thrown into Early Access instead after a lack of interest.
The game hasn’t been an immense success there either. While Steam Spy estimates sales of the arena shooter at just over 32,000, the average amount of players has been hovering around 30 for the majority of 2015. For a Quake-like shooter, that’s an absolute kick in the teeth. It’s a small, tight-knit player base. And if something happens that those players don’t like: well, it’s not like the developers can pretend they’re dealing with a vocal minority.
The recent problem has been the introduction of cosmetic microtransactions, something that’s unlikely to sit well with a bunch of old-school Quake fans. Players have asked: why are the developers introducing any microtransactions into the game before its finished, and, if you’re introducing microtransactions now, what else are you going to want us to pay for?
In the Steam announcement, the developers said now was the right time and the introduction of paid cosmetics lets fans offer their financial support without them having to regularly pitch to the community. (This is besides the fact that the game costs US$10.)
They also added that all microtransactions would only ever be cosmetic. “If at any point in the future we break any of these promises, you are encouraged to track me down and punch me in the face,” the notes read.
The sad thing about all of this is thinking back to the PAYDAY 2 debacle earlier this year. They expanded the size of their team and then had to resort to paid microtransactions — which did you give stat boosts — to keep everyone employed.
Reflex has a vastly smaller community, far less momentum and a significantly tinier target market — fans of classic, Quake-esque shooters. Who knows what they might have to resort to in the future to keep development going?
But yeah, if something awry does happen, please don’t go and punch developers in the face. Even if they encourage it.