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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Planetside 2 "They nerfed what I paid for!"

First post in a while I know :( I have been on break and enjoying it! Which has rendered me unable to take the time to post due to family and friends. Currently I've played Dishonored, Hitman: Absolution, and Assassin's Creed 3 so expect my next post to be a bit of compare and contrast of these three "super assassin" games. And on to today's topic, nerfing what I paid for!

With more and more games moving to the Free-to-play-but-you-can-spend-cash-to-have-more-fun model (not "necessarily" pay to win) a new common thread I am seeing are games in which one can unlock certain items/weapons/whatever-kills-people-in-this-game through gaining of spending some cash. Some, like World of Camping Tanks/Planes allow you to buy specific alternatives that in the past often got preferential matchmaking and earned you more in-game money (but since that couldn't be traded it wasn't too big of an issue). Here we are in 2013 and I am playing Planetside 2, observing that every weapon in the game can be purchased with experience (often copious amounts required, from 100 to 1000 certs, with 1000 taking at least 10 or so hours of game-time to achieve, and that's being generous) or with Station cash, SOE's currency. So most players tend to use their certs on character upgrades (which can't be necessarily bought) and spend station cash to buy weapons (many, such as myself, having taken advantage of the recent Triple-Station-Cash day).

However, here's the rub...PS2 is one of those games in which balance will be an ever evolving process, and weapons purchased today may have to be nerfed tomorrow. You see SOE considers every weapon in the game to be a "side-grade" to the original starting set (though frankly, this is idiocy on their part, because in 90% of cases the "side-grades" are superior to their counterparts at the role expected of the class).

In the past, people trading items for real money was essentially a "black market" so they had little recourse if the company nerfed their item. But what if the extreme happened...what if one day SOE offers a new weapon and it sell out faster than a hipster rock group, but then, a week later, they realize that this new weapons is "overpowered" or is somehow ruining game balance. So they nerf it...and they nerf it HARD, in an extreme example they could put it down to 1 damage per hit, or so that it does nothing. The only recourse the players who purchased it have now is to quit, they've no remedy for the money they spent on the item (despite it having been offered/advertised to them with specific statistics). I am not seeking to get on a soapbox and advocate allowing us to sue game companies for design/balance decisions, but it does, to me, raise an interesting thought. In the physical world, if a product fails to perform as specifically advertised then one often has a remedy of rescission. So I wonder what is in store for the digital world, as more and more games are moving towards this model.

In PS2 there was a rocket launcher on the market for a time; it did slightly less damage, but could lock-on OR dumbfire, allowing the user to deal with basically any enemy vehicle type (or soldier in a pinch). A few weeks after release, the dumbfire capability was removed, eliminating precisely the impetus for many players to buy it.

Consider some other examples, and perhaps tell me where you draw your own line.

In WoW, the Sparkle-pony's spark is reduced by 50% because it is overly sparkly.

In PS2, a 1-shot 1-kill sniper rifle is released, so many players buy it for that reason. A week later, SOE decides this weapon is to potent, even with other use restrictions, and nerfs it to be on par with other weapons.

In World of Tanks, Wargaming decides that there are simply too many snipers in the game, so to combat this, they take the popular Lowe tank (a $20-40 tank depending) which is known for its sniping, and replace its gun with one more suited to close-range combat.


  1. In World of Tanks they keep nerfing the Type59 tank .
    After they took our money.

    1. I haven't been on WoT for a while but I do recall hearing that it had been hit a bit with the nerf bat. After writing my post one issue I came up with was "What ARE devs offering us? Stats at the time of purchase? A specific look? Specific functionality?" still a question I am wrestling with.

  2. Curious, from a business perspective, you think they do this to encourage players to buy the next upgrade ? buy it , nerf it, buy the next one ?

    1. A bit of my "tinfoil hat" side thinks that least, the incentive is there (and sometimes even looks like they do that intentionally, in PS2 they released a "better" sniper rifle shortly after the game's initial release)...they could continue so long as players buy them.