Before anyone chimes in with Dungeon Keeper on iOS is the worst example of this, just know that I know. We all know.
The short answer to the question "Has EA gone too far with microtransactions in Plants vs. Zombies 2?" is a yes. That goes for most mobile games, EA or not. And I'd say 95% of the internet is in agreement on this (sorry, I don't have statistics, a graph or pie chart to back it up). But there's one particular post I found on Reddit that caught my attention and got me thinking, "where do we draw the line at which microtransactions are acceptable and which ones aren't?"
Redditor sketchampm's post to /r/gaming is titled "F*ck Plants vs. Zombies 2 and f*ck EA". In short, he's mad that a recent update to Plants vs. Zombies 2 on iOS devices have removed lawnmowers respawning; you now have to use in-game currency to buy them back. That did not used to be the case. He wrote in his post:
In Plants vs. Zombies, you get five lawnmowers as a "safety" in case one of the zombies should happen to reach your house. The lawnmower will mow down the zombie and everything in it's path, but once it's gone, that's it…at least until you restart the level.
In the new update, I noticed that after losing a lawnmower I had the option to "buy it back" using in-game currency. Now this being a "Free to Play" game, the in-game currency takes quite a long time to acquire and can also be obtained more quickly by using your iTunes account to actually buy large amounts it. Interesting, but I wasn't going to use my coins for a lawnmower. They'll be back after I fail the pinata event anyway. NOPE. I used some coins to retry the event (I think this is new as well) and noticed my lawnmowers were gone. Huh. So in the events, doing a "retry" will not respawn the lawnmowers. You'll have to buy them back. Well that sucks.
After that, he tried entering stage 1-4, and still, he had no lanwmowers. In their place were "buy this" buttons, and that was the case no matter what level he went to. So, his main problem with the game:
They fundamentally changed a core mechanic of the game in order to make you pay more. It's not like a level or a part of the game is missing, no, a part of the inherent gameplay itself is gone and if you want it back you're going to have to pay for it. Every. Single. Time.
I've avoided playing PvZ2. Actually, I avoid playing most "free to play" mobile games. I'd rather pay $2 and get a full game that doesn't have an option / need for buying in-game currency than play a free game where you can buy your success. It's not just EA doing it either. I know people always hate on EA, and with some justifiable reasons. They're a business; they want to make money. I get it. They'll try things to make more, even if they're not the best ideas. I GET IT. But I like some EA games. I won't just hate on a company for no reason. I'm not even hating on them. If I see an EA game I like, I buy it. If it has a ton of microtransactions or seems like a poor game or cash grab, I avoid it. Simple as that.
It's worth noting that Android users have reported that they're not having this issue, but other iOS players are. So did EA's latest update to PvZ 2 change a game mechanic so they could get more money out of the players? It looks to be the case. Let's not forget that the former CEO of EA, John Riccitiello, who resigned in March 2013, said this about the future of microtransactions in big games:
A big, substantial portion of digital revenues are microtransactions. When you are six hours into playing Battlefield and you run out of ammo in your clip, and we ask you for a dollar to reload, you're really not very price-sensitive at that point […] Essentially what ends up happening, and the reason a play-first pay-later model works so nicely is a consumer gets engaged in a property they might spend 10, 20, 30, 50 hours in a game, and then when they're deep into the game they're well invested in it. We're not gouging, but we're charging, and at that point in time the commitment can be pretty high.
It's a great model, and I think it represents a substantially better future for the industry.
This already exists in some games — but not to the point that Riccitiello mentioned in the quote. Mobile games are the perfect platform for it and are acting as a testing ground. The thing is, there were already things to buy in Plants vs. Zombies 2 with in-game currency. Did they have to remove free lawnmowers and have people pay for them (if that is indeed what has happened and not a bug)? Where does the line get drawn as to which microtransactions are acceptable? And is it a fair practice to change a game to get more money out of its players?
Dota 2 and League of Legends do microtransactions the right way. You pay for cosmetics. There's no change in the core gameplay, unless you consider winning the "skin war" against the other team a competitive advantage.
Have you had a problem with lawnmowers not respawning in Plants vs. Zombies 2? What do you think of the handling of microtransactions in PvZ 2 and Dungeon Keeper? Let us know in the comments below.