Microtransactions the Warframe way
As we have seen from the likes of Middleearth: Shadow of War and Star Wars Battlefront II, there are many ways to implement microtransactions the wrong way. Each best exemplifies a distinct way of getting microtransactions wrong – one for making gameplay so grindy and tedious that paying to not play seemed like an attractive option, the other for going the Pay-to-Win route. The latter did tweak the implementation so that it’s less Pay-to-Win, but it nevertheless remains so because Epic Star Cards are now part of the Deluxe Edition, instead of loot boxes. But I digress. There is one wrong that these two games have in common though, and that is having microtransactions in a US$60 retail game (approx. RM250) that has its own DLCs, season passes, and all that jazz.
So with all that said, is there a game that does microtransactions properly? Funnily, there are a few, and it’s unsurprising that few have heard of them. But I’d just like to point out one that’s close to my heart, one that’s just gained the gaming public’s attention ever since a heavy marketing exercise for its latest expansion. I’m, of course, talking about Warframe.
Now, I haven’t been playing Warframe consistently, but I was there when it was still fairly new (a few months after it entered public beta in early 2013). The story of its growth throughout these four years is a tale too long to be told in a single page. But through that journey, I’d like to highlight the way the game has handled microtransactions, and why its current state is the best implementation so far.
To start, Warframe is a Free-to-Play – albeit also a perpetual public beta – game. The titular Warframes are suits of armor that grant frame-specific powers to help you progress in the game. The game starts you off with some premium currency called Platinum, and a few inventory slots for more weapons and frames, but even with the free Platinum, you could only have a maximum of three frames at a time, at least back then.
By the time I’ve gotten to the point where that matters, I had to make one of three choices. One, I fork out money, as if my experience thus far was simply a demo. The other is gimp myself by getting rid of frames that I currently own to make space for newer ones, limiting my options for when I face new challenges. The final option is, of course, to just quit and look for something new to kill time with. For a freemium game, I thought it was pretty fair.
The first option wasn’t that hard a decision to make either, since you can get up to 75 percent off Platinum prices for 48 hours as daily login rewards. With the discount, RM50 – about the price for your average game on sale – gets you enough Platinum to play comfortably if you skip all the cosmetics. For the full RM250 retail price, you could be as whimsical as you want. And there’s no loot box nonsense here either – what you see is what you get, honest and simple. Trading was added sometime down the line. Now you don’t ever need to buy Platinum using real money. You can just trade them with someone who has done that, for something that they want. These trades usually involve components for Prime weapons and frames.
So is the microtransaction system found in Warframe the right way to do it? While I won’t say so for sure, one thing I’m certain of is that it’s definitely not the wrong way to do it. There’s no Pay-to-Win, there are no loot boxes, and with trading, microtransactions in Warframe are the dictionary definition of optional. More so than any retail, AAA game that still hold your mind at ransom. And all this, achieved by a Free-to-Play game that pushes out massive updates for free.
And on that ironic bombshell, adieu to y’all.
So with all that said, is there a game that does microtransactions properly? Funnily, there are a few, and it’s unsurprising that few have heard of them.