Microsoft has explained the microtransactions system in Xbox One launch title Ryse and moved to calm fear that it is a "pay to win" mechanic.
It emerged this week that Ryse includes Booster Packs similar to those in FIFA Ultimate Team. You can buy these packs, which include armour items for use in multiplayer, with in-game currency and real world currency. The revelation caused some to accuse Microsoft and developer Crytek of allowing players to buy an advantage.
This is how microtransactions in Ryse work: multiplayer progression is an armour-based progression system. In the arena, the mode in which multiplayer takes place, players earn experience and gold. The gold is used to purchase equipment in packs, similar to those in Mass Effect and FIFA Ultimate Team. These packs come in tiers, which can be purchased either with in-game currency or real world currency.
The reason experience is also given is because Crytek has gated entrance to these packs. You have to play to the individual tiers in order to gain access to them. So, if you buy Ryse at launch, you cannot purchase tier five packs straight away. You have to play to that point first.
"We specifically do that so you cannot pay to win," Microsoft producer Justin Robey told Eurogamer at Gamescom today. "Microtransactions are merely there as a convenience thing for people. It's completely optional and is not required in any way shape or form for gameplay. All content is accessible without using it."
"Microtransactions are merely there as a convenience thing for people. It's completely optional and is not required in any way shape or form for gameplay."
Microsoft producer Justin Robey
Following the negative reaction to the news, we asked Justin Robey if there was any message Microsoft would like to issue gamers about Ryse's controversial microtransactions.
"The message is very simple: it's optional and it doesn't give you really any major benefit," he replied.
"We put it in for people who like to collect a lot of different things. You're probably going to progress to the next tier before you have everything in the lower tier. They might be like, I don't want to grind for this, so I'm willing to buy the lower tiers if I can.
"But in terms of what the perk is for buying stuff ahead of time, it's actually really slim. It's literally a convenience thing. That's it. That's the only reason it's in there.
"I really want people to understand, it's optional and it's just convenience. That's it. There's nothing sinister, we promise.
"That's why we looked at systems like Mass Effect and FIFA. They have very unobtrusive ways of doing it. We said, hey, their system works really well. People didn't seem to have a ton of complaints about it. Let's do something that is unobtrusive.
"We were trying to be as hidden and non-blatant about it as possible, and making it easy."
Erik Olsen, multiplayer producer at Crytek, added that Ryse's progression system was designed without microtransactions. They were implemented when focus test players called for a way to obtain items without grinding.
"It came up in focus testing and it was recommended," Olsen said. "What if I wanted to buy this? Well, you could grind. Well, don't have grind be your answer. Okay, fine. Then you can pay a few bucks."