Dark Side Of The Prune: Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare

By Adam Smith on April 28th, 2014 at 6:00 pm.

The PC release date trailer for green-thumbed shooter Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare is utterly preposterous. Of course it is, you might be thinking, it’s a video promoting a third-person shooter Plants Vs Zombies spin-off. The trailer doesn’t show the actual game though, choosing instead to put the Origin logo front and centre. This is a video in which a zombie logs into Origin, has a conversation with Origin in which the store offers to load up a Match 3 game, and then finds out that Garden Warfare is due for release on June 24th. The good news about the delayed launch is that we won’t have to speculate as to whether the game was designed to allow for the introduction of microtransactions at a later date – they’re arriving next week.

Most of the reviews I’ve peeked at anticipated the pay-to-progress (or unlock random goodies) option would be incoming as the game seemed to have a shop-sized hole in its design. EA don’t use the ‘m’ word, referring to the payment options as precisely that. Options. They’re opening up the experience to give you freedom:

Starting next week, players will be given the option to purchase coins from the Sticker Shop, which allows players the ability to access new packs and character content more quickly – all the same content that can be earned through regular gameplay. Now you have the choice to play your way; you can play to get new packs and content via earned coins in the game, or you can purchase coins to get more of the packs and content you want right away.

Some people are happier about this than others. I’m all for choice but I’m also wary of any game in which the process of making progress is enough of a chore that I might want to pay to skip it. And if I am going to spend money to unlock things, I’d rather be able to pick and choose than pay for a random selection. What is this – a Panini sticker album?

Preordering Garden Warfare will set you back £34.99.

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53 Comments »

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  1. SillyWizard says:

    What’s the “m” word.

    • SillyWizard says:

      Oh. Microinfractions.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        Misinformation?
        Malintent?
        Manipulation?
        Misery?

        Oh, Microtransactions. They are not too bad… though these do not fall into that category alone. They are purchases, that is true… but what are you really purchasing, and at what cost (apart from the monetary value)!

      • HiFiHair says:

        Matt Fraction!

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      melnificent says:

      Macrotransactions, as the cost of them to your bank account and to gaming credibility is huge.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      “Motherfucker” presumably. I can’t blame EA for chosing to avoid it…

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      Malapropism

    • HiFiHair says:

      Mephistopheles.

  2. KDR_11k says:

    The game seemed designed to support microtransactions (I remember when that word was supposed to mean one cent here, two cents there…) from the start, it was fairly surprising that it didn’t launch with them on the Xbox.

  3. ColCol says:

    There’s a microtransaction on my lawn….

    • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

      “There is option on your lawn..
      There is option on your lawn”

      Seriously, EA, stop making the words dirty.

  4. technophile says:

    If they go the same route Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer does (where you buy packs of random goodies with in-game money, and real money just gets you in-game money, you still have to go through the Weapon Pachinko game) it could be tolerable. It can be frustrating buying pack after pack and not getting the toys you really want, but at least the guy who dumped $100 into the game doesn’t get a guaranteed chance at his toys, either.

    As long as the game is fun enough to make the “grind” enjoyable it doesn’t really matter, I guess.

    • bleeters says:

      I wouldn’t really call the Mass Effect 3 system tolerable either, to be honest. They’d clearly designed the process of actually unlocking (and then upgrading by unlocking nine more times in some cases) weapons, playable classes and the like to require an enourmous amount of grinding, especially if you weren’t able to play on the highest difficulties and therefore make a reasonable amount of credits per game. Before EA stopped caring and you could safely cheat yourself several dozen million credits at a time, actually getting the unlocks you wanted was glacially slow if you didn’t just throw real money at it or get incredibly lucky.

      The idea that ‘well you can just grind ingame money and get what you want instead’ is a legitimate alternative and an indication of a fair microtransaction system is, to me, laughable. Grinding isn’t fun. That’s why it’s called grinding. It’s an attempt to leverage my assumed reluctance to spend against my patience in the hopes I’ll crack out of frustration and start spending, nothing more.

      • Groove says:

        Unlocking guns 10 times to actually have them completed was madness. It made every rare weapon an exercise in futility, since they’d be massively worse than your lv10 basic weapons.

  5. PAK-9 says:

    It’s astonishing how comprehensively they have managed to EA-ify the game. Utterly disinterested.

    • newguy2012 says:

      Aye, I am old enough to remember a company named Popcap that made a charming little game called Plants vs Zombies.

      It was fun.

      Then an evil troll named EA came along and injected Popcap with growth hormones and money. Now Popcap lies in the belly of the beast along with Westwood and the rest wile the troll borked this thing out. Anyone know a trollhunter?

  6. MadTinkerer says:

    So of course a “Popcap” game is on “Origin”. Are there bullfrogs in the game, by any chance? Is there a location called the “West Woods”?

    I WOULDN’T BE SO BITTER IF EA DIDN’T KEEP REMINDING ME

    • SillyWizard says:

      Ha ha ha ha ha ha

    • TechnicalBen says:

      It’s not bad enough killing off the family, no… they must make their skins into totems to worship while doing it all over again with the family pets. :(

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      Gap Gen says:

      You didn’t enjoy their little short story in the trailer there? That… micro… prose?

  7. SillyWizard says:

    Hey, so, apropos of nothing, I just want to mention that Don’t Starve is still awesome.

  8. Tei says:

    I was drunk when I preordered this, and I was lamenting that everybody sort of forgot about the PC release. It seems a game that is already old on consoles. I imagine somebody in EA was looking at the income money and said out lout “WOW, WE FORGOT TO ACTUALLY RELEASE THE GAME!”. So this video, and a date.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Martel says:

    If it’s anything like the mobile version, it’ll be horrendously crippled for those microtransactions.

    • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

      To be brutally honest, most sensible people don’t use the riddled with micropayments mobile apps for the same bloody reason.

  10. Artificial says:

    If this had nothing to do with EA and cost something like £15.99 and was released on Steam with no micro transactions I’d have been all over it.

    But sadly it meets none of those criteria so it’s a no from me.

  11. bengtssonmathias says:

    I’m confused. When I click the last link of the first section, it says they released the game two months ago, but the article states it’s released in June. Which is it?

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      bills6693 says:

      On Xbox One two months ago, on PC in June. (and PS4 or whatever at the same time I think)

  12. Frank says:

    Guess they spent all of their ad budget the first time around.

  13. Palindrome says:

    A £34.99 game with microtransactions? Well done, EA you have managed to drive my expectations even lower.

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      xao says:

      Man, publishers just can’t win, can they? Release paid DLC for a game and people act like it’s the end of the world. Release the DLC for free and they get castigated for the optional microtransactions, as if someone else choosing to spend money will somehow inhibit our joy in playing the game…

      • iseemonkeys says:

        The only reason for this game the dlc are free is because they would divide the player base and make the game unplayable. I cant believe someone is defending a full price game having mistranslations.

      • bleeters says:

        No, but purposefully designing the game in such a way to encourage people to spend money on the microtransactions out of pure frustration is absolutely going to inhibit our ability to enjoy a game, as has been the case with numerous microtransaction titles published by EA in the past, and I have no confidence that this will be any different given that it uses exactly the same system as previously. That this entire game feels like a unecessary cash grab probably isn’t doing it any favours perception wise, either.

        I see people praise this specific game and this system in general by saying it’s great for people who don’t have time to grind. There’s a Kotaku article linked that does exactly this. To which I ask: why is paying to circumvent an annoying, grind requiring unlock system if you don’t have the free time or the inclination to devote it towards this one game just to get the stuff you want a good thing? Why is it better than not having that arbitrarily slow system exist in the first place?

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          xao says:

          “purposefully designing the game in such a way to encourage people to spend money on the microtransactions out of pure frustration is absolutely going to inhibit our ability to enjoy a game”

          Hi there totally unwarranted assumption! Not only are the unlockable features unnecessary to play the game, but they’re actually unusable in half the game modes. Furthermore, the most expensive sticker pack in the game can be purchased with the proceeds of a couple hours of play.

          Man, people’s willingness to castigate others based on nothing more than hearsay and speculation would be disturbing if it weren’t the norm around here.

          • bleeters says:

            An assumption, sure, but it’s an assumption based on my past experience with EA’s microtransaction titles, two of which have used literally the exact same system as this game does. Call it what you will.

          • Phasma Felis says:

            No, that’s pretty much universal to the concept of free-to-play, although some games do it better than others. Excepting games that *only* ever charge for pure cosmetic items (I’m sure there are some but I can’t think of any offhand) , the whole point of free-to-play–the only way you make money at it–is to make a game that requires a frustrating amount of grind to progress, and then allowing people to pay to temporarily alleviate that grind. If the progression rate is fun and satisfying to most players, then nobody pays and the game fails. It’s that simple.

            (And if you’re about to say “but but TF2,” I’ll remind you that that game was wildly financially successful *before* it went free-to-play, so (a) they could afford to experiment and (b) they already had a massive recognition factor and user base built up.)

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            xao says:

            Yeah… Garden Warfare? Not free to play. As mentioned above, the microtransactions aren’t for progression, and are in fact unusable in half the PvP game modes. But other than that (and some incorrect blanket assertions), spot on!

      • TechnicalBen says:

        “Free” is the word of the day. As you can purchase XP boosts to gain that content, it’s anything buy “free”.

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          xao says:

          Ummm… no. You buy the game, start it up, download the free DLC. You couldn’t pay them money for it if you wanted to. But hurray for more unwarranted assumptions!

          • chargen says:

            Oh thank god. I thought it was going to work in the way that it was described in the article and laid out by EA, where you pay more money to avoid grinding for unlockables in the game you already paid for. But apparently it’s going to work in some different, awesome way that only you are privy to. Great news! Down with the assumers!

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            xao says:

            Perhaps you should read the article again? The DLC is free. The microtransactions are for character customization.

      • The Random One says:

        You’re right, publishers can’t win! I mean, when they release a game without nickeling and diming their costumers and then release DLC for free so they don’t split their user base, everyone says that they are nice devs who support their player base! Nope, can’t win at all!

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    Vesuvius says:

    You know how other games used to provide options on “how to play” to their characters? They offered customization options with the base game, no grind or XP required.

    Some journo ought to ask EA why, when all they’re trying to do is empower the player with choice, they don’t choose to go that route.

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      xao says:

      In this instance EA has actually done exactly that. Then they went ahead and added the ability to get even more customization options.

      • iseemonkeys says:

        Wow Xao, are you a paid representative because your comments screamed it.

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          xao says:

          Nope, just someone’s who’s actually played the game and found the content unlockable by the upcoming microtransactions to be easily obtainable and the grinding to be unnecessary. How about you? What’s your basis for condemning the model?

  15. Gothnak says:

    Ah, microtransactions, the bane of the gaming world… I have a question for you…

    I make a levelling up based shooter, like COD, where you gradually unlock all the guns over time. The balance is good, you get an upgrade every hour of play or so and you enjoy it massively, everyone rejoices.

    I then add microtransactions to that game, for people (unlike you) who don’t have 30-40 hours spare, but want all the kit and want to be able to play against the more experienced players at the top of the rankings. Of course, even though they have the equipment, they aren’t as good players as the others at their level, but they can play the element they like. You now hate the game. You say the levelling up system which you previously loved is now broken and designed to monetise the game even though i haven’t changed it and you go online to aim your vitriol at me.

    The third option is that i make a game with no levelling, and that everyone starts with everything. The people who want to jump to the top are happy, but now all the content from level 1 to X is pretty much useless as no one wants it. There is no sense of progression through the game and only the top tier weapons are ever used. You play the game for a while, but without the sense of progression, it doesn’t have the lasting appeal to drive you forwards and you feel disappointed and move on.

    In short, i agree that a game designed from the ground up to make grinding take AGES is terrible. But if a game’s levelling is at a fun level, like COD, Baldur’s Gate, Forza 3 or whatever, why does it matter if someone else pays to jump past it?

    I love playing Ultimate Team or Hearthstone without paying a penny. I enjoy trying to build a deck with limited resources (like MTG of old), but these days everyone wants to jump to the top. Just ignore those people and enjoy the challenge at the start of a game, it’s the best bit, the top tier is so boring.

    • Groove says:

      I don’t think that a multiplayer game with levelling requirements has any inherent problems, nor is being able to pay to jump past those requirements. However, unless you’re very careful, they’re usually both bullshit.

      The game you describe seems to have a huge problem in that the gear that requires 30+ hours or money to unlock is simply better than the starter gear. Why is that? Assuming that it’s competitive multiplayer, then the microtransactions aren’t the main problem there, it’s the fact that new players are weaker simply because their account is new, before skill enters the equation. That sounds rubbish. Do you have a clever matchmaking system where new players will only play against other new players? If not, it’s probably rubbish.

      On the microtransaction side, if you have a levelling system that you can pay to get past, then the natural assumption is that you’ll have padded the levelling out to make people pay, even if you haven’t. Any time someone thinks their next level is taking too long they’re going to immediately assume you’ve padded the grind. Unless the unlock system is generous and totally organic, dropping new goodies at you as you become experienced enough to appreciate them, then people will keep makiing these assumptions.

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      Vesuvius says:

      Your mistake is in presuming that the only way to design a variety of weapons is by a linear progression with each one better than the last- which yeah, makes sense if you want to force grind and get money.

      The other way your hypothetical game could be designed, however, is with a wide selection of weapons which behave fairly differently and which offer tradeoffs which make them all competitive versus each other.

      This is called game balance, and used to be par for the course.

      You know how these old games without hyper monetization kept you interested, back in the day?

      Free new content. The ability to add mods. Player run servers. Custom skins / meshes. Shipping with more than 6 playable multiplayer levels.

  16. Grargh says:

    So is this some kind of joke about the average origin user?

  17. Geebs says:

    Dark Side of the Moon / plant related puns are hard. So far all I have is:

    The Great Twig in the Sky
    Thyme

    little help?

  18. Tom Walker says:

    Microtransactions have not ruined this. It is a microtransaction engine with a popular IP attached to make it more appealing.

    It is exactly what it was supposed to be.

  19. Deadly Sinner says:

    Can I have Peggle 2 instead?