Most publishers would be pretty satisfied with having a universally-loved golden goose gaming franchise in their portfolio. Not EA, though. EA will fire the guy responsible for that goose and immediately set to work trying to get that bird to lay diamond eggs. Into a Gucci bag.
Plants vs Zombies 2 has now soft-launched in New Zealand and Oz, giving those with access to antipodean iTunes accounts a look at what EA’s imposition of free-to-play has done to PopCap’s cherished franchise.
Over at Pocket Gamer (no relation), Mark Brown has dissected the new setup and it’s basically as bad as I feared. There’s an in-game currency which you use to buy power-ups, and there’s a number of plants (the “towers” in PvZ’s tower defence) that are locked behind in-app purchases. On top of that, there are rare-drop “keys” that unlock certain levels in the game — or you can simply purchase them outright.
Plants vs Zombies 2 isn’t designed for maximum enjoyment — it’s designed for maximum revenue generation. This is exactly what’s so loathsome about free-to-play: it constantly pulls you out of the reverie of gameplay by reminding you that you’re pushing buttons on a thinly-disguised cash register. There’s a reason you don’t go hang around with salespeople when you want to relax.
Making money isn’t a crime, and I get that price discrimination exists. But based on the phenomenal success of its predecessor, PvZ 2 is a game that would have sold like a baldness cure had it been sold with a five dollar price tag. But EA has decided that making $20 from the whales and zero dollars from the overwhelming majority is a better decision. In a couple of years, EA, you won’t have to wonder why your most beloved game franchises aren’t so beloved anymore.