– Tom Heath
By now you’ve all probably seen the early reviews for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain hitting the internet, and like me you’re probably fuming that we have to wait a week to play it. It’s my most anticipated game of the year and I missed out on a review copy, so I too am reading about how the game is the renaissance and lamenting the week long wait.
However, while covering the game, website Gamespot reported that the infiltration/tower defence online multiplayer portion of the game, dubbed Forward Operating Base mode and showcased in this amazing trailer, will be blocked behind a paywall. Specifically, Gamespot wrote that FOBs required the spending of Mother Base coins to unlock areas to build your bases, and the game refers to MB coins as a “paid service” and that they weren’t earned at any point during the single player campaign.
Now, since posting that article, Phantom Pain publisher Konami has responded by clarifying that MB coins are indeed purchased through microtransactions but can also be obtained in another unspecified way without the use of real money. In their statement, Konami says the microtransaction system “primarily acts as an accelerator,” and is not compulsory to play FOB mode.
As far as microtransation policies go, that’s all well and good. You don’t need to hand over any money to play through the game, you just get quicker access to better materials if you pay some dollars. That’s how a good free-to-play game works, the people playing for free get a slower experience than those who pay.
Except Metal Gear Solid V isn’t a free-to-play game. It’s a $90-to-play game, and I feel I must side with my good friend and game critic Jim Sterling (once we actually meet and he becomes aware of my existence) and agree that microtransitons, in a full priced game, are not excusable.
Before you all start typing your rants that I’m dumping on Metal Gear Solid V despite having not played it, that the microtransactions could be as minimal as Konami are suggesting and the unspecified process to coast through the FOB mode “for free” might not be a huge deal, let me clear something up. Even if FOB mode is a mess of microtransactions, I have no doubt that it will hardly affect any of our enjoyment of the main game itself. Metal Gear Solid V is not ruined because of this fiasco, but it is the latest in a long line of games trying to squeeze extra cash out of players on top of what we’re already paying just to have their game.
I mean, we’ve bought the game in question, are already paying a subscription fee (on consoles) to play the online features and are now being asked to give over more money just to get content quicker than whatever time limit they’ve imposed on it to better incentivise you to pay for it! Because that’s the reason the lengthier “free” wait time is there: so that paying money to avoid it seems like a good option.
I am struggling to think of a justifiable reason, whether artistic, consumer friendly or otherwise, to implement such a system in a full priced game. In a free-to-play game it makes sense, as you might want to expand your player base by not having an upfront cost to play but also earn some money from those who enjoy your game, but in a big budget triple-A release like Metal Gear Solid V it just reeks of “because we want to take whatever we can from our customers.”
This isn’t the same as DLC, where you pay more money to gain new content like more maps, a new campaign or different player character. That is content outside of the main game you’ve paid for, most of the time, so you pay more to get more. In this case, you’ve paid for the game, but if you want to access some of it sooner you’d better pony up the dough.
We’ll have to wait until the game launches next week to get the full details of how much of a time-saver/advantage paying for MB coins will give you, but the very fact that there are microtransactions in my Metal Gear Solid V at all just makes me sad. I love this series, have done for nearly 20 years now, and I thought it was better than this.
I’m still super excited to give FOB mode a shot though. Here’s hoping it doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg.
Tom will be incommunicado once MGS V drops on September 1st, but he’ll update you all on his progress on Twitter, @tomdheath. Be sure to follow LoadScreen on Twitter, @load_screen, and Facebook to keep up with all the gaming news you can handle.