Yesterday, the developers of Battlegrounds announced plans to start charging for in-game clothing through a crate that can only be unlocked by a key that costs real money. The move has led to controversy, with some players declaring it "anti-consumer," among other labels, in angry threads across the internet.
Since Battlegrounds' early access release in March, players have asked for skins, or outfits, to customise their characters. The game's developer, PlayerUnknown, has said several times that purchasable cosmetic items will be added to the game, but only after it leaves early access. (PlayerUnknown says that will be before the end of 2017.)
But PlayerUnknown's Steam update yesterday seemed to go back on that: "On August 3rd, we will be launching three new crates. All three crates will contain items inspired by the Battle Royale movie, some of which you may have seen in our older artworks," it reads. "While the Wanderer Crate and the Survivor Crate will be free to open, the Gamescom Invitational Crate can be opened with a key which you can buy for $US2.50 ($3) each."
Proceeds from the key sales will support Battlegrounds' first invitational, held at Gamescom in Germany on August 27th. Its prize pool will be $US350,000 ($438,086), which will be divided among tournament winners and charity organisations. The skins look amazing.
"I think the main issue is trust," /r/PUBattlegrounds frequenter IAmAnAnonymousCoward told me in a Reddit message. The subreddit has exploded with negative posts about the Gamescom Invitational Crate, and most prominent was the post "JUST SAY NO to real-money keys. Keys and Crates are an ANTI-CONSUMER means of distributing DLC content," which garnered 12,500 up-votes and over 2,000 comments. Players have expressed their outrage on other forums, too, including the Battlegrounds Steam page.
"There was a promise not to introduce micro-transactions until after early access and they broke that promise as if it was worth nothing," he added. "Are they still going to keep their other promises, such that they will only ever charge for cosmetics?" Of course, these skins won't give anyone a gameplay advantage. Mostly, he says, it's a bad look.
Even though some of the keys' proceeds are going to a good cause, a lot of Battlegrounds players remember all too well Counter-Strike: Global Offensive's controversial approach to microtransactions, which helped bolster a reportedly $US7 billion skin gambling market.
Crates with real-money keys that unlock random cosmetic items, to many, feels less fair than Overwatch's comparable system, in which players simply earn free loot crates with random skins and things by playing.
Not everyone thinks a few paid skins are such a big deal. Redditor IlongboardandplayCS says fans are blowing the issue "way out of proportion." It's only one crate. It's temporary. And it will be funding a tournament. He's excited about the game's future: new maps, vaulting and climbing systems, a first-person mode and bug fixes. "All of these combined are too good for me to think the devs have gone full micro-transaction money milking mode."