The Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag "Time Saver" packs aren't expensive—$1 for the Collectibles Pack and $2 for the Resources Pack —but it's the principle of the thing that's so outrageous, at least among those who remember that cheat codes used to be free. Yet according to Ubisoft Vice President of Digital Publishing Chris Early, there was no outrage. "There was no resistance," he told GamesIndustry . "Maybe there were 12 guys somewhere who said something, but whatever. As a whole, there wasn't a problem."
Early sees that lack of resistance as a sign that the industry is figuring out how to best handle post-release monetization of games. He said that DLC and season passes are "pretty much accepted" these days, because publishers have been able to make players feel like they enhance the game rather than leave them at a disadvantage if they don't pay for it. He also touched on what many people see as a potential problem with microtransaction-based games, even though in his eyes it's a positive development.
"I know people who've spent five digits or more of money in Clash of Clans, spending in the tens of thousands of dollars," Early said. "Who would think of that? But nobody's really angry about that. That's how that guy chooses to play, and he's playing against other people of the same caliber, whether they got there through spending hundreds of hours playing the game or tens of thousands of dollars. Good design, that's what it comes down to."
But is enticing people to spend tens of thousands, or even hundreds, of dollars on a game an example of good design, or is it really just exploitation? Maybe it's a matter of perspective—"good" is often a question of which side of the table you're on—and game makers don't necessarily have an obligation to protect us from ourselves. But I'm not sure that predatory behavior is going to work out to be a long-term win for the industry, either.