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PlanetSide 2 Tackles 'Pay-To-Win' Problem

The best things in life are free. Evidently, these are some of the best things.

Redundancy police, beware. I’m about to commit a heinous crime the likes of which will make you physically ill even after your 30 years on the force. I will now use the word “impressive” until it loses all meaning. Here goes: PlanetSide 2 is an impressive game. It’s impressively large, yet also impressively free-to-play, and that impresses me. Not only that, SOE’s been impressively open about the development process and its intentions for the gigantotronic shooter behemoth. And now, based on a new post from creative director Matt Higby, I get the impression that SOE’s impressively dedicated to steering clear of pay-to-win’s slippery slope.

Granted, Higby immediately (and rightly) notes that ‘pay-to-win’ is a nebulous term. His goal, however, is to ensure that all content is available whether you’re ponying up or hunkering down in a microtransaction-proof bunker.

“In Planetside 2 we don’t restrict your character from any type of gameplay based on paying money. No weapon, vehicle, attachment, continent, class or certification is unavailable to you as a free player. Everything and anything that can affect gameplay is available to unlock through gameplay. It would be extremely easy for us to make tanks and aircraft restricted to members only, it would be very easy for us to sell exclusive guns on the marketplace for Station Cash. We wouldn’t do those things because we have a commitment to ensuring that the game remains legitimately competitive.”

“Another thing that I believe keeps us pretty firmly in the ‘not pay-to-win’ column is the way characters in Planetside 2 advance. Unlocking a new weapon or ability in the game should never make you straight up more powerful. Rather, a new unlock should give you access to a new gameplay style which has trade-offs. This is the concept of sidegrades, if I spend Auraxium to unlock a Skyguard turret for my Lightning, hell yea it makes me a lot more powerful vs. airplanes, but it makes me a lot less powerful vs. tanks.”

He did, however, note that there are still some instances in the game (secondary weapons on aircraft, for instance) where that’s not entirely true right now. But then, that’s what betas are for, and Higby promised that changes are on the way.

Real money, then, grants players access to two things:  convenience items and cosmetics. So basically, unlock things faster and look ravishingly attractive while doing it. Beyond that, Higby also detailed membership benefits, which include 50 percent boosts to experience, cert point, and resource (think grenades, spawn beacons, and medkits) gain. The goal, then, is to only increase the speed at which paying players can nab new toys – not their ability to rain down orbital strikes on your parade.

Granted, I’m still seeing a potential schism between the haves and the have-nots. I mean, we’re looking at a hypothetical situation in which members and people who buy boosts can obtain far larger quantities of some fairly potent consumables significantly faster than their less wallet-happy counterparts. To Higby’s credit, he went on to address the concern directly, saying, “They won’t suddenly have a super tank that lets them crush all the puny free player tanks, their success on the battlefield is still entirely player skill based, they’ll just be less impacted for re-deploying to the battlefield. That is a huge benefit, no denying it. Is that ‘buying power’? Well, that depends on your definition.”

So then, I’ll turn it over to you wonderful and ravishingly attractive (especially without any cosmetic items – oh yes) folks. What’s your definition of buying power?

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Nathan Grayson

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