Ubisoft Explains Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s Microtransactions And Some Of The Maths Behind Them

Ubisoft Explains Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s Microtransactions And Some Of The Maths Behind Them

The presence of microtransactions in a big video game can poison the player’s experience, leaving them to wonder if things have been designed in a way to drive them to pay extra. So it goes with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, a very good $79 game that launched with at least $US80 ($113) in microtransactions.

Odyssey’s optional microtransactions, which range from equippable gear, to time-saving XP boosters, to bushels of in-game upgrade materials, have left a sour taste for some. But the people behind the game point out that some of the mechanisms present in the game — and some that are hidden from players — make it so people don’t need to pay anything to get whatever they want.

Over the past few days, we’ve been looking over how Odyssey’s microtransactions stack up, and how their presence has (or hasn’t) affected those of us who are playing. We’ve also learned a few things about them from the people who made the game.

Yes, There’s A Lot To Buy

Odyssey has an in-game store that is laid out similarly to the one in last year’s Origins. It includes more types of items than Origins’, because there are more types of things in the game.

All are sold with Helix credits, which basically cost a penny a piece,, though the game offers better and better exchange rates if you buy in bulk. Pay $US5 ($7) and you get 500 Helix, but pay $US50 ($71), and you get 7400 Helix.

In the shop players can find two outfit sets (500-750 Helix each), eight melee weapons (250 Helix), one bow (250 Helix), and three alternate looks for the player’s horse (500-750 Helix). Players can buy six cosmetic changes for the player’s ship (250 Helix each) and two ship lieutenants (350 Helix each).

There are also packs of extra resources used for upgrading weapons or the ship (200-2000 Helix), two permanent boosts to the player’s accumulation of experience points (1000 Helix each), and four maps that reveal the locations of hidden items (300 Helix). Some of this stuff can be purchased in bundles that come at a lower combined price.


All of the purchasable items overlap with things you can get just by playing the game. Players can find weapons and crafting resources, obtain alternate looks for their horse or recruit ship lieutenants just by playing normally.

While the stuff sold in the store is classified as “legendary,” which is the highest quality type of good in the game, Odyssey doles out lots of legendary grade gear through the course of gameplay.

If Origins and the early offerings in Odyssey’s store are anything to go buy, the items that can be paid for might not necessarily be better than the best stuff that can be found in the game, but they will be some of the most creatively inspired or fun. For example, you can obtain some decent alternate looks for your horse by playing normally, but if you want to turn your horse into a winged Pegasus, you’ll have to pay.

Origins eventually offered paid-for items like giant Q-Tip weapons and a mummy outfit. Odyssey’s premium items also look to be some of the most exotic items made for the game.

Most Of The Stuff In The Store Can Be Obtained For Free

While store items won’t drop from chests or fallen enemies like standard in-game items, you can still get them without paying. Like Origins before it, Odyssey contains randomised lootboxes that can only be obtained by playing the game and that have the possibility of giving players an item from the store.

In Origins, those were called Heka Chests. In Odyssey, they’re called Olympian Gifts. They look like vases.


All outfits, weapons, horse looks, and ship upgrades in the store can be obtained from an Olympian Gift, a Ubisoft rep told Kotaku. The paid-for XP/money boosters and special maps can’t be. And in a change from Origins, the Ubisoft rep said that items will be put into the randomised Olympian Gift rotation the moment they go live in the store.

In Origins, there was sometimes a delay of several weeks, during which time, if you liked a new premium item and wanted it right away, you had to pay for it.

There’s A New, Rare Currency Players Have To Think About

Origins’ presented its Heka Chests as prizes offered by a boy named Reda who would spread out a carpet and encourage players to go on new, daily quests. The reward for those quests was a Heka Chest, though players could also buy the chests with in-game gold that was obtainable by playing the game normally.

Odyssey offers its Olympian Gifts through a merchant named Oikos of the Olympians, who also sells a changing selection of mid-quality items. He sells all of that stuff, including the Gifts, not for the in-game gold that players get by questing, killing and looting, but for turquoise rocks called Orichalcum Ore.

That Ore is far more rare than in-game gold. Players can collect 10 Ore by completing a daily quest (there to be two offered per day), 40 for completing a weekly. There are also about 600 individual deposits of Ore scattered in the game world (In 25 hours of playing, I’ve found three and picked up 10 more by doing a daily quest.) The individual items sold by Oikos range in price from 20 to 100 pieces of Ore. The Olympian Gifts go for 20, or the payout of two daily quests.

The new Orichalcum economy, at least at launch, slows down the pace at which it’s possible to obtain the game’s lootboxes. While an Origins player could get a Heka Chest each day by doing a daily quest, an Odyssey player has to do two dailies or get Ore through additional means.

Origins players could splurge on more Heka Chests by spending more in-game gold, whereas Odyssey players need to work harder to collect extra Ore. The player’s character even complains about this economic system, asking Oikos why he won’t just take gold.


A Ubi rep acknowledged that “it might take a bit longer to unlock Olympian Gifts than the Heka Chests in Origins,” but described the switch from using regular in-game gold to a special ore as “a great way to reward the most engaged players while encouraging others to regularly come back to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey to discover the most recent changes and additions we’ve added to the experience.”

In other words, if Odyssey’s newly-added, abundant timed bounty missions weren’t already a clear indication that Ubisoft wants to incentivise players to turn on this Assassin’s Creed more often, the Orichalcum Ore should be.

Ubisoft’s PR rep also teased that there will be more ways to obtain Orichalcum Ore in the “next few weeks,” noting that these activities “will make gathering it quicker and the challenges to earn them even more varied.” If that’s the case, getting Ore to open one or more Olympian Gifts per play session will hopefully become a lot easier.

Asked if the Ore will ever be an item players can just pay for, a Ubisoft rep said: “We won’t sell Orichalcum for real money.”

The Maths Behind Odyssey’s Free Lootboxes Is More Generous Than Origins’ 

It’s nice to know that the randomised lootboxes in Origins and Odyssey can contain premium items, but if the odds of them doing so are low, it’s not much of an offer. Ubisoft did not provide specific numbers for how often the Olympian Gift lootboxes pay out a premium item, but a rep did say that the “the base chance at obtaining a premium item is greater than it was in Origins.

Ubisoft also says that Origins and Odyssey’s lootboxes both raised the chances of a player getting a premium item with each successive opening.

A rep added that there were several other improvements made to Olympian Gifts compared to Origins’ Heka Chests: premium items found in Olympian Gifts will never repeat; they’ll be usable across multiple playthroughs; any bundles in the store that contain an item a player obtained through an Olympian Gift will drop a bit in price to account for the item the player already has.

Helper Maps Cost More, Though One Apparently Pays For Itself

Assassin’s Creed games have always offered maps that show the locations of treasure chests and other valuable collectables. Back in the old days, you could get those maps just by playing the game. (Or, you could skip getting the maps and just find stuff by exploring.) Origins made those helper maps premium items, selling them for $US2 ($3).

Odyssey sells its maps, which separately show the locations of First Civilisation Steles, Ancient Tablets, Legendary Chests and Orichalcum Ore pieces, for $US3 ($4) each.

The $US1 ($1) price increase, a Ubisoft rep said, is because “each in-game map time-saver unveils more secrets and ultimately gives out more rewards than any of the equivalent maps that were present in Origins.” They pointed to the Orichalcum Ore map, which shows the location for more than 600 pieces of ore, and noted that that “can be turned in for premium items that are worth more than the map itself”—presumably based on the idea that the 60 Olympian Gifts players could buy with 600 pieces of Ore would pay out more than $US3 ($4) worth of store items.


Ubisoft Denies That The Game’s Difficulty Was Tuned To Drive People Toward Buying Stat Boosters

Game developers have long used the chance to get extra experience points to excite players. Online shooters will have double-XP weekends, for example, and a special $US80 ($113) version of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was bundled with, among other things, a temporary XP and in-game money boost.

Odyssey’s shop also includes permanent boosts to XP and money. These have been the most controversial offerings in the store. Some players have noted that the boosters might simply make the game more fun, as earning XP faster lets players unlock more skills faster, which in turn lets them engage in more varied combat scenarios.

Levelling up faster also opens up more areas of the world to explore more quickly, as the toughness of higher-level enemies is the main thing constraining players’ movements in the first few hours. And some have theorised that the game’s unexpectedly stiff difficulty, including the fact that enemies will often level up as your own character levels up, are a sign that Ubisoft engineered some frustration into the game in order to drive people toward buying the boosters.

Ubisoft denies that. “Time-savers, such as the Permanent XP Boost, are 100% optional for players who want to supercharge their progression, and were not considered in any of the economy or difficulty balancing of the game,” a Ubisoft rep said. “Players have the ability to change the difficulty setting at any time in the Main Menu Options to find the right level of challenge for them.”


Staff at Kotaku who have played the game on Normal and Hard have found Odyssey challenging but not so tough as to need permanent boosters to play or even have a good time.

Some of us have had a harder time with naval combat, where your odds of survival are governed not by gear and abilities but by upgrades purchased with resources that, yes, are sold in packs in the game store for players who don’t want to scavenge for them. Even there, we’ve gotten enough upgrade materials through the course of regular play (and dismantling lots of the gear we find) to get over the difficulty curve without paying extra or even needing to go farm for upgrade materials.

The game’s difficulty, along with the presence of paid boosters, has nonetheless stirred some suspicions among players. Those anxieties are particularly understandable coming from those who have not had had the luxury of being able to spend 20 hours with the game. We shared that anxiety with Ubisoft, who had this to say in regards to the game’s difficulty:

“About the player experience in itself, we set out to create an epic RPG adventure, a true Odyssey that spans many hours and often isn’t a trip directly from point A to B. We want the player to experience a journey into the unexpected involving many characters, stories, regions, choices and challenges.

“True to the game’s full-on RPG nature, we offer a huge amount of content to players at every level of progression. Sometimes that content can be too high level for the players’ current state. Challenging the player with higher level content at the end or beginning of a new region is a core part of our design.

“That design is to give players a challenge in front of them that can be defeated with skill and perseverance, but we suggest and prompt the player to take advantage of other content around them in order to level up, gear up, and power up with new abilities in order to overcome this challenge (ie. taking World and Character quests, engaging in Conquest Battles, completing Bounties and Contracts, fighting in the Arena, or completing POIs).

“We think this type of challenge will encourage players to explore the vast world we have created and find some of the best content the game has to offer. We feel strongly that by creating peaks in our challenge curve, we create more memorable moments, more player autonomy, and more satisfaction in their overall experience than if we were to balance the player experience pacing to make it completely smooth or too easy.

“Again, players who feel the game is too challenging even after they’ve attempted to level up or gear up can change their difficulty at any time in the Main Menu Options of the game.”

For some players, the presence of microtransactions in a $US60 ($85) game is intolerable. For others, there’s at least a right way and a wrong way of doing things. Ubisoft’s approach with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s microtransactions seems mostly geared toward catering to players who want shortcuts, and who don’t want to wait out their chances to get premium gear for free.

Without knowing the rate at which store items drop from the Olympian Gift lootboxes, players will continue to lack crucial information about the truth of Ubisoft’s “get-the-cool-premium-stuff-without-paying-extra” pitch.

Because of that, a whiff of manipulation will continue to accompany this generally excellent game. But the numbers behind the system will become more clear over time, as people keep playing and sharing their experiences. It may turn out to be an ok deal after all, but it’s impossible yet to say.


  • I didn’t buy anything in Origins, and I won’t buy anything in Odyssey. They can explain it all they want, I just wish they’d stop with the microtransactions. To be fair I never felt I was missing anything in Origins by not buying things, but it’s absurd that this game costs so much (and has a yearly release cycle!) and yet is laden with microtransactions. We’re going back to Horse Armour DLC days.

    • For me, the only aspect of their monetization in this game is how unconscionable it is that you can’t buy a set quantity of helix credits that exactly matches the packs you might want to buy.

      This whole ‘left-over currency’ is fully-conscious psychological manipulation horse shit, and anyone who does it is pure scum, well-deserving a fucking thorough bollocking.

    • Yep, it’s still a huge Nope. The fact that some of the best or coolest gear is hidden either behind a paywall or a lootbox lottery is not diminished at all by being optional or non-essential. This is not a free game, the “coolest”, non-essential stuff should be hidden behind sidequests, secrets or crafting of some sort, i.e. game (as in what you bought) mechanics.

      Random lootboxes or paid-for items are perfectly fine and understandable in a free game like Path of Exile. In a purchasable, expensive game, any content not accessible directly and reliably as a result of playing the game is inexcusable.

  • has anyone found the microtransactions in this game annoying?

    I’m 12 or so hours in and have only found the one seller, and haven’t felt like there was any need to pay to upgrade. It’s almost like the microtransactions aren’t there.

    • i completed the game last night, well all odyssey listed quests +lvl 50 and maxed out Ship. according to Uplay thats taken me 84hrs and im at 96% completion. never brought anything in the store, and was never under leveled nor was i strapped for cash or resources. i never even felt like i needed to or forced to any grinding.

      Loot was thrown out at me like candy and thus i had no reason to upgrade gear except for some special legendary bows and that was only because of their engravings. On the level side of things, i was once i got my ship, i was virtually always between equal to 2 levels higher than everything i fought.

      I also did less than 10 randomly generated quests (grey icon) and have done most traditional side quests ( yellow icon)

      IF anything the xp boosters and crafting mats are just paid cheats for console users because they dont have access to things like cheat engine and trainers that we have on PC

    • This. I can’t believe how uptight people are about the microtransactions in this game, some even choosing to boycott it. Let that sink in. They are choosing to miss out on one of the generations best games based on their shitty principles.

      • For some of us just looking at screenshots of bundles of resources you can purchase that look like they were straight out of a mobile game in a game that costs 60 dollars just leaves a sour taste in our mouths.

        I think skipping a game because you are taking a stand against something you despise should be commended and not ridiculed.

        Keep in mind that we are often told when we complain about these things “Don’t like it don’t buy it” it sometimes feels like we just cant win.

        I just don’t understand why a company as rich as Ubisoft needs all this crap in their games and in the long term I am positive it dilutes the quality of the games and franchises we enjoy.

        It just makes me sad.

        • Fair call but at the end of the day it’s those people missing out on the awesome experience

          • I am sorry but your answer gives me zero insight into my question, kind of a waste of time really. I am being genuine here too as I have not played the game so I have no idea about what the game gives me as a consumer. But thanks for the reply. Much love.

          • Well forgive me for taking your question as a smart-arse baiting attempt, it really seemed as though you had played it and disliked it.

            Alas, to answer your question, just have a look at the praise the game is getting (bar the microtransactions, obviously). It truly is a gem of the generation.

          • Hahaaha no worries I can see how my original question may have come across that way. I should have elaborated more. If it is half as good as some of the best games of this generation such as The Witcher will be worth a look.

      • I fundamentally disagree with this statement; how fun would the game be if the experience / loot drop rate was reduced by 10/20/50/200/1000% then this was sold back to you via an ‘exp booster!’ if they create a problem to sell you a solution it’s only a matter of time before they tweak the game to the point you just cant progress without dropping additional cash; just have a look at mobile gaming…

    • I had no idea there was even an XP boost in the store until my housemate mentioned people were bitching and moaning about it… By that point I was already level 40 with not even half the map explored.

      There are some very fast ways to gain XP in the game as it is, contracts from message boards being the big one.

      The bitching about these microtransactions is almost purely another case of “OMG another game with stuff you dont need to buy at all but its still there so its evil!”

      • I’m even okay with microtransactions if they keep the lights on for the devs and help subsidise DLC and ongoing updates. If they’re done right, they’re a good thing.

        • But micro-transactions have never ever been used to keep a studio alive, they are only ever put in by the richest publishers, the ones that have no issue closing studios once they have wrung every cent out of their brands name.

          I don’t get what people have to gain by supporting micro transactions, even if you “don’t care” or they “didn’t notice them” surely you would rather them not be there at all rather than allowing them to get worse over time until you end up with NBA 2K18.

          • But micro-transactions have never ever been used to keep a studio alive, they are only ever put in by the richest publishers
            There’s probably hundreds of shitty games on steam, android and iOS stores that prove that statement false.

            I have “nothing to gain”, other than if microtransactions are in place I hope they’re being used to benefit the devs and to generate more/better content.. and I hope that they aren’t using exploitative practices like loot boxes or are a requirement to ‘win’ like in many mobile games.

  • I still find it weird the game publishers risk irritating the majority of players to sell microtransactions to the literal 1%”Whales”.

  • This game wasn’t for me so I returned it. I didn’t find much difference at all in the difficulty between Normal and Hard. I was constantly getting toweled up by enemies my same level. I’d go and do side quests to level up, only to find the bad guy I was trying to level up and over, leveled up himself. wtf? I never felt more powerful than what I was when I started. Played for about 15 hrs.

    Progression in the game was still artificially stunted at nearly every turn. Couple that with the very poor combat mechanics and I just wasn’t having enough fun to warrant the investment in time. Especially with other games right around the corner.

    Media are giving very high praise for this game, yet I’ve seen very mixed reactions from users.

  • The only thing I bought was the map helper collection, simply because it is a huge game and while i am loving it, some games you less less inclined to spend so much time finding ‘secrets’ (well its not like in AC games they are very hard) as you do others.

    I dont see the problems with microtransactions in this game (Ideally I would prefer they would never exist in any game ever). If people feel the need to pay real money to get things faster, instead of spending time getting them through playing, that is on them. Their advertising on the on the menu screen isnt that obvious or terrible, especially compared to some other games. So its like, i know microtransactions exist but I am not being beaten over the head with them.

    I also dont understand the complaints about the grind forcing them to use the store just to play the game, I am about 30 hours in and already way over level, got more loot than i know what to do with and being thrown gold and purples very often.

    • I’d be very interested to know how many people complaining about the grind, and accusing Ubi of pressuring players to use store shortcuts, are the same players who refuse to set the difficulty to Easy.

      • Sadly a few big youtube people like Skillup made a huge deal of it. Normally I like his reviews but for this one he was complaining that every now again he was forced to grind because his main missions were locked out, but at the same time he was complaining about the side quests and that he doesn’t do them. (then having a dig about how it might have been to help sell the store). But hey maybe if he did those side quests he wouldnt be forced to grind? Grin.

        He isnt the only reviewer who has mentioned the grind, but most who do it, seem to be using it as a political thing about microtransactions.

      • The same people who ignore all the ways the game gives you to make XP I suspect.

        There are ‘contracts’ in the game from message boards in towns where some of them give you nearly half a level worth of XP alone. Generally they all have fairly generic goals of “Kill X amount of Spartan soldiers” or the likes as well, designed to be completed while you’re simply playing the game doing other things.

        At points I’ve had multiple of the same contract in my quest log, so I’d complete an objective while doing other things, two contracts would complete and I’d near skip an entire level.

        • Nothing like loading up on contracts from three regions’ bounty boards then sinking a ship only to discover it checked off half a dozen bounties and you just gained two levels. Love it.

      • Pretty much this – difficulty levels these days are almost entirely centred around bullet sponges and prolonging fights. I don’t want to grind just to spend longer fighting meat shields.

  • So are the engravings on the premium weapons unique to those weapons? That would be a bit shit.

    Also yeah, a pegasus would be able to fly. That, is a horse with wings.

  • There is an XP boost for 2 hours (amongst other things) under the Uplay app. If you’ve played enough Ubisoft games over time you’ll find that you’ll have plenty of points to “spend”.

    I did do the 2 hours XP boost at the start but aside from that, I can’t see a need for it moving forward. It’s a great game and the microtransactions are there for those who want to pay for them, which is fine as it doesn’t affect the game.

    Honestly, I don’t blame Ubisoft for including them. If the odd whale wants to fork out for them, so be it. It’s all about being a profitable business.

  • They can deny it all they want, but that isn’t the point. At the end of the day, there is a clear conflict of interest between balancing the game’s experience grind and selling something that makes that grind at the very least less of a chore.

    This is why purely cosmetic micro-transactions are tolerated, while these micro-transactions with obvious game-play implications cause people to spit vitriol. And yet, people still buy the fucking things, so it’s no wonder they’re still selling them.

  • For me it comes down to this. Man hours build games, how many man hours were spent on these items and the system that support them?

    Why were these not invested into the game that I have already paid good money for?

  • Tell ’em to fuck off.

    No, seriously, Ubisoft and every other “triple-AYYYYY” publisher engaging in this shit out there can fuck off. As soon as you do ANYTHING to deliberately compromise a game’s enjoyment factor in the name of profit, you’re not a game maker any more- you’re a fraud.

  • “A Ubi rep acknowledged that “it might take a bit longer to unlock Olympian Gifts than the Heka Chests in Origins,” but described the switch from using regular in-game gold to a special ore as “a great way to screw over the player base and encourage them to pay with real money to speed up the grind.”

    It’s fine to say “We won’t sell Orichalcum for real money.” that just means you wont sell the boxes for real money; if you are selling the items contained in the boxes via helix credits is that really so different?

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