Wolfenstein: Youngblood's Microtransactions Aren't Even Worth Getting Mad At

Image: MachineGames, Bethesda Softworks

Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a video game with microtransactions, which is another way of saying that there are some who will object to its existence out of principle. Some became so angry about microtransactions in the new game that they harassed one of its lead level designers, Mitja Roskaric, on Twitter, causing him to have to lock his account.

In response, developers across the industry tweeted out messages of support that also noted the ridiculousness of the situation, since level designers have almost no input in how games are monetized. Beyond that, the microtransactions in Youngblood aren’t even that obtrusive.

Yes, the presence of microtransactions in Wolfenstein: Youngblood is disappointing when you consider the rebooted series’ staunchly old-school leanings. The Wolfenstein games developed by MachineGames since 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order, eschew everything that’s become commonplace in first-person shooters: Call of Duty-esque on-rails spectacle, regenerating health, weapon loadout restrictions.

Instead, they were clever throwbacks with ridiculous guns, secret-filled levels, and kitschy-yet-difficult boss fights.

Prior to Youngblood, MachineGames’ output had also resisted a number of controversial ideas, like microtransactions and live-service games, that are currently en vogue in big-budget development. Given Wolfenstein’s direct lineage to id Software, the oldest of schools, these games felt like a rallying point for fans of a certain stripe, one that now seems to have been lost.

But the anger directed towards developers like Roskaric isn’t just woefully mistargeted — it’s overblown. Youngblood has what are perhaps the least intrusive microtransactions I’ve seen in some time.

There are 2 currencies in Youngblood: silver coins, which you find through gameplay, and gold bars, which you purchase with real money. Having played 8 hours of Wolfenstein: Youngblood — which breaks down to 57 per cent of the story and 14 per cent of the side quests — I have not once encountered even a tutorial for how to acquire gold bars.

Everything you can buy with silver coins is reasonably priced. Every level is littered with crates full of the coins and full of bonus objectives that will earn you more. You use them to upgrade weapons, acquire cosmetic skins for weapons and armour, and purchase boosters for in-game buffs.

Image: MachineGames, Bethesda Softworks

Meanwhile, the gold bars you buy with real money can only be used for some cosmetics. What do I mean by “some?” Glad you asked! Every weapon has eight skins available to purchase. Five of them can be acquired with either silver or gold. One of them can only be bought with silver. And two can only be purchased with gold. The same holds true with armour skins—out of the dozen you can purchase, three options can only be purchased by gold bars.

You do not gain any gameplay benefits from microtransactions, just new cosmetic skins. (When the game launched, you could purchase ammo, armour and health boosters with gold, but that was patched out in a day-one update. If anyone is telling you otherwise, they’re working with outdated information.)

The clockwork furor over microtransactions ignores the reality of video games in 2019, an industry that is insanely profitable but equally unsustainable, addicted to the long-tail revenue streams that microtransactions provide.

Are they a net good? No. But cars still run on gasoline, even as they kill the planet. That’s not to suggest we should be ambivalent about any and all microtransactions, but there are better, more exploitative targets, and it feels counterproductive to single out a game that barely tells you it even has microtransactions.

The more specific purist disappointment in Wolfenstein: Youngblood also ignores what Youngblood actually is: Not a full-bore sequel to The New Order and The New Colossus, but something new for the series—a cooperative game, one designed from top to bottom for that feature.

Maybe, if there is a proper third entry in MachineGames’ Wolfenstein saga, it will also incorporate these changes. Maybe it will revert back to the style of game we saw before. For now? Youngblood is a deliberate break from the games that came before it, and not all of its changes are going to land.

Regardless, it is never appropriate to harass developers for something that you might not like about a game, no matter how legitimate your grievance may seem. There are all manner of internet forums and comment sections for voicing your opinion respectfully, and if you don’t want to buy games that implement any microtransactions, no matter how unobtrusive, that’s a valid course of action too. Sometimes these things turn out ok. Other times, they do not.


Comments

    I wouldn't abuse a singular person on twitter over it, but I do need to ask why we even needed MT in this in the first place.

      The writer puts a reasonable explanation as to why they believe they're in the game:

      ... an industry that is insanely profitable but equally unsustainable, addicted to the long-tail revenue streams that microtransactions provide.

      Essentially, someone in the chain wants to have an alternative to the upfront revenue.

        Rather, there isn't a current alternative to upfront revenue that the market (read: gamers) will accept, so they revert to an option that's currently accepted (which is microtransactions, based off buying behaviour).

          Valid point. But I think that means we should instead look at better alternatives for financial flows and stability. Evolve or change with the times instead of stagnation.

            You mean like releasing a smaller, cheaper expansion-style game in between the larger AAA releases? One focused on a different aspect of gameplay than the main series while de-emphasising the more expensive story elements? Good idea!

              Not every alternative is going to work. But I didn’t mean it had to be what happened in this scenario, just that if the current model isn’t working then try and find new ways. Evolve with the times.The general consensus seems to be that we don’t like micro transactions so try something different. I think there have been some positive examples. Hitman’s episodic content seemed to work quite well. I also enjoyed farcry new dawn as well. In saying that, the price needs to match the model as well. Or even what we have seen with Assassins creed (even though it still had micro transactions) where they keep supporting the game with quality dlc content long after the initial release.

              Gamers complained that games like Far Cry Primal and New Dawn are asset flips.

              I miss the days of expansion packs because they were pretty much a new game for half the price. DLC/Season passes generally don't give enough value for the money.

                id also like to point out that the majority of the DLC that ive played for various games often doesnt pack the same punch and is often very jarring and feel like it been shoe horned in compared to the old expansion packs like broodwar, Zero Hour etc. I hate to bring it up but the only DLC ive played that really felt like it was made to continue the game was Blood and Wine, even heart of stone felt like it was shoe horned in a bit.

          So why are they saying it's unsustainable? Are they implying that the production costs are too high compared to the sale price? Or do they believe that there are ongoing costs to support the game after it's initial release? Like multiplayer servers or patching and support staff.

          I'd be curious what they think a "break even" price is on the game? $100, $200, $500? And obviously that number would slide depending on the units sold since the initial production costs are the massive portion of the cost. Duplicating and shipping more copies (or selling digital copies) is relatively cheap. I think it'd be very interesting to see some projections from these companies about the number of units the expect to ship, how many they need to break even, how many to make a profit target and what their profit target is.

          As for the whole microtransaction argument. I hate the idea in general, but when it's not gameplay breaking I'm happy to let it slide. I'm also less annoyed if they are genuinely *micro* transactions. ie: a dollar or less. It's when they start becoming $15 for this skin, or $20 for this awesome weapon (that changes gameplay) that they really become gouging. Similarly, I'd give microtransactions more leniency if they keep the initial purchase price down.

            Yeah, that's been the common line from developers for a while. Mostly executive/investor level, although I remember the Skullgirls developers made a huge case about it when they launched on Kickstarter and tried to explain their budgets.

            It would be super fascinating to know what a "break even" price for a game would be, but I've not met anyone who will openly talk about that yet. One day.

              The good kickstarters which have detailed budgets are great for giving a little insight into production costs. The only problem is they're not really triple A products.

              If Kotaku, ever manages to get in touch with a more forthcoming developer it'd be a really interesting article.

              According to an article you guys published in 2017 the cost for manpower alone is $10,000 USD per developer per month. one of the examples given was a Red Dead redemption level game. 400 developers, 36 months and a grand total of $144M and that's without marketing, etc.

              https://www.kotaku.com.au/2017/09/why-video-games-cost-so-much-to-make/

                That wouldn't be including the cost of motion capture/voice acting sessions, casting sessions, time lost in development, delays in the process etc., so the RDR "level" game would be higher, I'd venture. But also the headcount fluctuates on a project over its lifetime too, so it can be difficult to gauge.

      I am pretty sure Youngblood was likely thrown under the bus so Bethesda would fuck off and let ID make Eternal as close to their intentions as possible.

      With 76, Rage 2 and Blades tanking its very likely that the Bethesda suits are pressuring all their studios to generate maximum revenue before the next shareholder meeting.

        I excuse their mircotransaction store for Skyrim and Fallout 4 purely on the basis I like those games and development has stopped and it's the only official content we will ever get for them.

        That said with the latest releases and especially Fallout 76 ($18 power armour skins anyone?) Bethesda and Zenimax are doubling down on money gouging. I half expect to turn around and find a Bethesda employee going through my wallet.

        That said you can't beat EA and Rockstar. I expect this time in 2029 they will be offering a microtransaction where you pay them $50 so they don't send someone round to your house with a baseball bat

    Sounds like their original intentions to monetise the game through ammo and health buff micro transactions have resulted in enemies being bullet spongy if user reviews are anything to go by.

      Or it's because there's 2 people which requires more health or number of NPCs to balance. The other games had reasonably spongy enemies.

      This 1 just has 2 different types of armour which require different weapons to deplete efficiently.

        Well if that is the case, sounds like they messed up that balance pretty badly!

          having completed the game and put in 29hrs according to steam, playing both by my self with the ai or co-op with randoms. the only enemy i encounted that was a bullshit bullet sponge was the final boss in the final phase of the fight. none of the nazis or robots were any more spongy than those in TNO and TNC.

          The only downside to the different armour types is that weapon swapping speed is too slow for it work properly and that there are more weapons for one type than there is for the other type

    addicted to the long-tail revenue streams that microtransactions provide.Yeah, and that's not a good thing. Maybe the average price of games needs to rise with inflation, or maybe devs need to abandon the cash cow of microtransactions? They're awful.. but not to the point where people should harass a developer over Twitter (what the fuck?!).

    Are they a net good? No. But cars still run on gasoline, even as they kill the planet.This is such a ridiculous comparison that I don't even know why it was made.

      Problem is that if game prices rise, people will be less likely to spend the money to purchase them, resulting in higher piracy rates. Catch 22.

      The thing with microtransactions...as much as they are hated, is that many people are more than willing to part with a few dollars here and there. Asking them to spend $100 on a game is one thing, asking them to spend a couple of dollars inside a game (whether it's free or they paid money for it) is another. The fact is microtransactions wouldn't be a thing at all if it didn't make money.

      I personally don't buy any microtransactions. I don't mind dropping money on DLC that adds to the base game's content if I enjoyed the game, like new characters, new missions or even a new story campaign (an expansion pack, essentially), but spending real money on stuff like a new outfit? Yeah nah. I don't mind the concept of players being able to spend money on cosmetic stuff like that if they want to, it's just not for me. I definitely draw the line at microtransactions that are the "pay to win" variety though, or the ones that basically force it upon you to make any meaningful progress.

    I have stopped buying games that have a fake currency for sale on their store pages.

    Its great that the author thinks these arent that bad but when you let them get away with "Not that bad" the natural conclusion are games like NBA2K19 where the gameplay gets designed around you spending to progress.

    Micro transactions apologist article, yeesh...

    And the cars running on gasoline comparison? Are you daft?

    Micro-transactions only make sense in games as a service, games that continue to release content long after initial release. If game developers continue to give me stuff, I am more than glad to continue to give them money. I didn't think Young Bloods is supposed to be that kind of a game though, so why the heck would I buy micro-transactions in it?

    Did I just read a comparison between micro transactions in videogames and cars running on gas? Wow..

    Attacking anyone online is not ok for anything, especially in regards to a video game. Personally I vote with my wallet and refuse to buy any single player (or co op) games containing micro transactions.

    From the Steam Store page:
    About This Content
    Contains Gold Bars, an in-game currency used to acquire new power armor and weapon skins, gear, pep signals, and consumables to help you and your friends battle through Nazi occupied Paris.

    Odds of the current limitations on what can be purchased with Gold Bars changing once the majority of reviews are in?

      its all shit that isnt actually needed which makes it even worse because it means time was spent just add this crap in. and to be honest, when i first played the game what i saw was that is honestly looked like i needed the ingame currency (silver coins) AND gold bars to unlock other skins which honestly was not a good look

    This headline is all I need to know about this article. Anyone saying that in a headline needs to re-think why they said that, and the work out how dumb that is to say.

    Micros in ANY game at ANY level of implementation is shit. Saying one game implementation is 'ok' compared to the rest only gives them a newfound refacing to say 'Well, where just gonna do what this game did and a little more, then it will be fine' and in no time at all, we are back to Battlefront 2 Pay-To-Get-A-Chance-To-Win bullshit.

      I'd disagree, case in point being Team Fortress. For that matter WoW has microtransactions in it (though they're not really micro!) and none of them are mandatory.

      The only time microtransactions are absolutely wrong are when they are mandatory for gameplay. eg: more powerful weapons, better vehicles, crafting speed-ups, buying a bigger health-pool and similar.

      As long as microtransactions are cosmetic then there's not a big problem since they remain a choice.

        I get your point however for me personally if I'm paying full price for a single (or co op) game I don't want any of that rubbish in my game.

          I don't disagree with you. I'd rather not have a ton of microtransactions in games because they are always a temptation. But if they're not mandatory for gameplay I can ignore them, or consider them a treat if I do buy one.

          I think the ideal approach would be to have microtransactions that are purchased with an in-game currency that you can either earn in-game or buy for real money. That way you have the option to work towards getting the items purely by playing the game or purchase with real money. But again, they should remain cosmetic not game-changing.

    I will get mad at microtransactions because they are cancer to the video game industry. Game makers proclaim they need them because their profit margins are so low yet they record billion-dollar profits each year.

    I will not, however, direct my anger at devs. They are the shitty human beings implementing this shit. The publishers like EA and Activision are.

    "When the game launched, you could purchase ammo, armour and health boosters with gold, but that was patched out in a day-one update"
    Annnnd that's why people hate this stuff, it's designed to screw over the player by creating a problem to sell the solution. Don't be a microtransaction apologist for a full price game. It has, and will always be, crap

      I don't know about you, but when I look at the Xbox store, Youngblood is only $50. Given new games (especially Bethesda) are usually $100 digital / EB Games, that sure doesn't fit what I'd call a "full price game". Even retail pricing looks around the $70 mark and includes a guest pass to play with a friend.

      If microtransactions like these are offsetting the base game price, I accept my MTX overlords.

    Sorry but this is crap. Mircotractions should not be defended in shape or form. What started as just being mobile only, became pre-oder bonus, that morphed into retailer exclusive bonuses, that then again mutated into just being cosmetics, and finally into Either Loot boxes or ingame stores in full priced games.

    Im at the point now where i dont even trust the industry to do mircotransactions for charity things like Pets and Mounts in warcraft because i can see companies like EA and Activison trying to exploit them as an option

    On the one hand, sure it's shitty that people are being abused for shit like this.

    On the other hand... Part of me is disappointed that these rage mobs are always too stupid to pick a target that is even remotely responsible for the shit being complained about.

    I mean... If you're going to be a dickhead, at least do it 'right'? I guess?

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