Go back 5 or so years ago and the so called “battle royale” genre of gameplay was barely existent. However, thanks to the rising prominence of games such as Fortnite and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, the format is currently all the rage amongst both hardcore and casual gamers. Back in February, Respawn Entertainment released Apex Legends to the world and the game had a player base of 25 million within the first week of release. While it’s not difficult to see why the game has become so successful, Respawn have scored a number of spectacular own-goals within the last couple of weeks. With this in mind, we’ve decided to take a look at what’s been going and assess the damage the controversy has caused to both the game and the brand.
The Iron Crown debacle
Earlier in the month, Respawn launched the Iron Crown event within Apex Legends. While the event introduced some impressive-looking new skins into the game, the comestic featues were all locked behind an expensive and punishing loot box mechanic. Quite rightly, there was an uproar from fans of the game as they felt that the developer had gone too far in trying to monetize the event. Last week, Respawn’s Drew McCoy explained that changes would be made to the availability of the cosmetics in that they would no longer require loot boxes (although the option was still there). Crisis averted? Not by a long shot.
Following the backlash from fans, developers took to Reddit to explain the situation and the changes that were being made to the game, only for the whole thing to devolve into petty arguments and name-calling. McCoy waded in on the debate, musing that he’s been in the industry long enough to remember when players treated developers with respect. In reality, his statement was actually worded a little bit more strongly than that and sparked a strong rebuke from the Reddit community. As things got worse, McCoy went on to explain the game’s notoriously expensive microtransactions but ended up labeling the large majority of players as ‘freeloaders’.
Free-to-play done right
Games such as Dota 2, League of Legends and going back a little further, Team Fortress 2, are fine examples of free-to-play done correctly. For example, outside of the video gaming sphere, Respawn entertainment should look to the online casino industry as a sector that embraces the free-to-play aspects of their sites. Thanks to free deposit free spin bonuses, there is no need to pay any money to play many online slot games, with various online casino platforms encouraging players to utilize these offers, gaining many gateway customers as a result. In any case, calling out your consumer base on a public forum is a huge no-no. Especially opting to call them ‘freeloaders’. Ultimately, the credit that Respawn gained from altering their loot box mechanics was almost instantly forgotten due to the Reddit debacle – and fans won’t forget that in a hurry.
What’s the damage?
The ridiculously expensive loot box mechanics behind the Iron Crown event certainly hurt fans of the game – and their pockets. However, those bridges can always be mended with an apology and a corporate fingers-crossed promise to change in the future. Unfortunately for Respawn, the public slanging matches, name-calling, and playground insults took everything to a whole new level. A quick perusal of the internet suggests that many fans are now looking to boycott the game and anything Respawn-related for the foreseeable future. But for how long, and can the damage be repaired? Only time will tell.