The ‘Apex Legends’ Community And Respawn Are Going To War Over Microtransactions
Respawn’s recent changes to the Apex Legends Iron Crown event did not really address the root of the problem with the loot box-based limited time offering in the game, as I remarked in an article yesterday. But now, the issues have evolved from the microtransactions themselves to a flat-out flame war between members of the Apex Legends community and Respawn developers themselves.
It is not unusual to see developers taken to task for in-game decisions, which can often spiral from constructive criticism to outright toxicity rather quickly. But in this current situation, playing out on reddit, Respawn is fighting fire with fire in a way that is taking the community aback. Currently, the entire Apex Legends subredditis devoted to this issue, with many of the top posts being screenshots from Respawn Project Lead Drew McCoy’s reddit account, taken after he responded to a number of commenters on the original article about the changes coming to the Iron Crown event.
Here are a few of McCoy’s most passed-around quotes at the moment, most of which are responding to accusations of greed. This has caused a split between many who think Respawn is going too far here, while some are applauding them for finally “fighting back” against toxicity in a forceful fashion.
Some of the heavily-downvoted comments (mild language warning):
“I’ve been in the industry long enough to remember when players weren’t complete ass-hats to developers and it was pretty neat. I forged a bunch of long lasting relationships from back then. Would be awesome to get back there, and not engaging with toxic people or asking “how high” when a mob screams “jump” is hopefully a start.”
“Hey everyone – found the dick I was talking about. Guess what, I didn’t even read your comment except for the first sentence and last. This kind of garbage doesn’t warrant a reply – but lucky for you I already made a comment about this earlier. Go find it.”
“Being that we are (IMO) incredibly generous with the amount of free stuff we give out, including Legendary Skins, yes. There is a pricepoint for any product that the market will bare and we’re definitely in the neighborhood with other games.”
“There is a wealth of data available on how monetization works in free-to-play games, and we ourselves have run tests by putting skins on sale in the store. The amount of people who spend is crazy low, most of ya’ll are freeloaders (and we love that!) and a change in price doesn’t move the needle.”
McCoy is not a community manager, so some are questioning his presence on reddit at all, and yet the actual Respawn community manager, Jay Frechettte, is echoing similar sentiments on reddit:
“So it’s fine for you all to call us liars, full of shit, and other personal attacks when we communicate an apology and update to the event but we’re “immature” when we call people out on it. Got it.”
“You should work on your reading comprehension.”
It’s McCoy’s “freeloaders” line that is being latched onto the most by the Apex community, who has quickly turned it into a meme (someone has already mocked up a potential “Freeloadeers” in-game badge). Apex Legends is a free game which is supported entirely by its microtransactions, and like any free game, the vast majority of players do not spend money on it. But the negative connotations of the word “freeloader” have set players off, in conjunction with these other comments.
While I understand how frustrating is to deal with toxic gamers, there are two issues at play here. First, Respawn is lumping everyone together here, the toxic players and those with genuine concerns about the format of the event and the recent changes, and then there’s the notion that this is the correct way to respond.
I have covered many, many microtransaction controversies in my day, but the format of this Iron Crown event, where players have to buy 22 loot boxes to have the ability to buy a specific cosmetic axe for a grand total cost of around $170, is ludicrous. And Respawn’s fix of simply offering many of the skins for full price ($18) does not address the central issue, and actively harms those who already spent money gambling for the skins, assuming they wouldn’t be offered individually. There are legitimate concerns about the nature of this event that Respawn is neglecting entirely.
Past this, Respawn has now made the story about these incendiary comments, and it would seem they’re actively harming themselves in the process with the community. I am not saying that there are not loads of toxic people in these threads taking things too far, but there is a reason you rarely ever see devs respond like this. Some may consider it freeing and justified, but it’s also easy to classify as unprofessional and unwise. And Respawn is not some random indie dev, they’re a big developer owned by a huge publisher making one of the most significant games of the year, a game that literally can make EA’s stock fluctuate depending on how investors and anaylsts perceive its performance. In short, this is quickly spiraling into a big deal that goes beyond just a loot box-centric event.
I have reached out to EA and Respawn to see if they have any additional comments or clarifications on these comments. I will update if I hear back.