As a fair warning, Kotaku has already written about this problem primarily focusing on the skin economy. I, on the other hand, see a bit more of a long-term issue with how EA is handling the game’s monetization. It comes down to more than just skins- especially when part of your roster is still locked behind a paywall.
Respawn Entertainment has found itself with a gem of a game. The latest battle royale does away with the issues of previous titles in favor of a more fluid and innovative approach to the genre. Abilities of each legend are not overpowered and most don’t deal direct damage, instead, they serve primarily as utility in a game genre where the player is supposed to be the primary point of survival. Each legend has personality, and the game is insanely addictive and fun to play, evident by the logging of over 25 million users in its first week alone.
Despite all its praise, though, the game certainly has its warts. While there certainly are some on the gameplay/technical side (hello, server issues for PC players), the biggest ones primarily stem from the game’s horrible currency system and the prices for premium items in the in-game storefront. Apex Legends has three (!!!) types of currency: Apex coins, Legend tokens, and Crafting metals. Apex coins are the official paid currency you need to purchase from the store with real world money, and are primarily used to purchase loot boxes or items from the storefront. Legend tokens are earned from gaining levels while playing the game, and can be used to purchase the two locked legends or skin variants of legendary skins in the storefront. Crafting metals are a currency you can obtain from the loot boxes, likely as a replacement for duplicates, in which you can buy skins, quips, banner customizations, and more that are usually available in the loot boxes. Kotaku’s article highlights the ridiculous prices that gun, banner, and character skins retail for in that storefront ($18? Seriously?), but the prices also potentially serve as a signal for worse things to come. EA seems to think that a banner for one character that only you and your squadmates will typically ever see with regularity (a whopping 1/20th or 5% of players in the entire match) is worth… $11. That’s insanity.
Rumors and datamining reveal at least plans for other BR staples such as a battle pass and other game modes. If EA believes a lone gun skin is worth $18 and one single banner image (among over a hundred) is worth $10, what will that battle pass look like? What will a multi-week, extended reward system cost according to EA? We know there will be a free option, but we also know that the free passes typically offer a fraction of the rewards that the paid passes contain for the same mountains of play time.
It’s already a ludicrous chore trying to get any skin you might want, because everything is dictated by loot boxes if it’s not featured in the store. And even those loot boxes cost 100 Apex coins, or ~1 USD. To top off that shitstorm, EA does not adjust the price for differing regions. That means that other countries typically pay more when even wanting to buy coins in the first place. Whether it’s for the crates or to buy the skins directly, other countries- particularly LATAM countries– pay extra. Both Caustic and Mirage need to be unlocked in order to play, so your only options are to either play an ungodly number of matches to get enough Legend tokens from levels to unlock one at a time, or you pony up the coins to unlock them. You’re already being asked to split your currencies multiple ways, and this doesn’t even touch the Crafting metals currency, which is the only currency you can use to unlock specific items for characters (you can’t use tokens, nor can you use coins to unlock specific items). “Common” metal drops are only about 30 or so per drop, so if you’re saving for one of a character’s legendary skins (about 1,200 metal needed apiece), you’re going to be saving for quite awhile.
I personally find it highly unlikely that Respawn decided the pricing structure for their cosmetics. EA is known for wanting direct control over studios and profitable titles, and pushing studios into making bad games and questionable decisions. Are the skins and financial problems enough to drive me away from Apex? No, at least not yet. But, the loot boxes are bullshit (I don’t care if you explain the odds to me, it’s still a bad system) and the monetization is so outrageously expensive that I simply don’t bother buying much of anything. After all, most of the cosmetics will be seen by so few people that paying $10 for the “privilege” feels like someone taking my wallet and emptying the cash before returning it to me and saying I dropped it.
I’m not going to fall for it, EA. If the prices for your cosmetics are more reasonable, more people will undoubtedly buy them. Maybe even me, if there’s something in particular I like in the store. But the price comes first, and if what you’re offering isn’t competitive with the game’s brethren on the market, no much of anybody is going to feel inclined to buy in. Just be reasonable- you finally have a product that people want to financially support, but you need to do that audience justice first.