Electronic Arts/TheKoalition

Publishers have tried fishing the micro-transactions waters for a while now, but this time it has gone too far. These stores defeat the very root of survival horror, a dying genre. And sadly, the end could be nearer than we think.

My most distinct memory of any Dead Space game is hearing a good friend shriek over Xbox Live just at the twitch of a broken light. Even though she’s naturally jumpy, her experience is reflective of many others playing through Visceral’s sci-fi series. Early Dead Space games were defined by two aspects: the many frightening and gory ways Isaac Clarke could get torn apart, and the series’ nuances deviating from traditional survival horror.

But monetization has started to pollute the genre landscape, where publishers test the limits of player tolerance of slight micro-transaction options. For one, the ability to purchase powerful weapons early, eradicating the term “survival horror”. A genre that relies on low ammo, weapon scavenging and tense scenarios is easy when you can blast away enemies rendering Isaac untouchable.

In free-to-play games, micro-transactions are plausible and even expected. It’s how these titles receive their funding to continue existing. A game you pay a hefty cost for upfront is where things get cloudy, and in that the only reason to include an in-game store is to let consumers who don’t have the time handy to complete a 10 to 20 hour experience have their fun.

Fairly, the in-game store for Dead Space 3 is optional. Components to build weaponry are collected through the campaign, through Isaac or by scavenger bots, at least according to that Eurogamer article. How a survival horror should be played. However, just because the option is there, it doesn’t make it right or plausible.

An in-game store and purchasing weapons early undermines the many ideas of survival horror: the eerie strangeness and direness of many situations; that uncertain feeling of what lies around the corner; scavenging for ammo and other supplies; restarting after checkpoints to figure out the best course of action. The genre overall relies on how vulnerable a protagonist is, thus consequently a player’s emotional state, but that feeling is gone when the player has a shiny, Necromorph-massacring weapon.

The character and player must be weary to the reality of the situation, that death (and in Dead Space a gory end) could come at any second. A new weapon, however, provides the player with a boosted sense of confidence. Necromorph slaying becomes easier, not tougher, and turns Dead Space 3 into another generic sci-fi shooter instead of part of a dying breed.

I haven’t tried Dead Space 3 nor do I plan on buying it on release. Not out of protest or some other slimy reason either. But I can confidently state one fact: publishers are lopping off the limbs of survival horror, and with micro-transactions now invading every genre, it’s only a matter of time before the good old days of Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark are left to history.

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  • Patera

    I get that the idea of adding in microtransactions into the game (any game?) and having people take advantage of them, may, ruin the title for them. I know for myself personally I agree with you whole’heartedly. I want the drama and tension of scavenging and not being armed to the teeth. That being said we can’t really lay out our idea of fun as being the only way to have fun. Some people may want to run around with the latest and greatest gun they can buy pushing back the nightmares the game throws at them. That may be a great deal of fun for them.

    I think, the only time I would be up in arms about microtransactions being added to a title is when it not possible to accomplish the same goal in game without paying additional funds into it. If I can pay for it and get it right away fine, as long as it is possible to achieve the same results in game without paying additional funds and without taking a ridiculous amount of time to do so.

    Really though I am straying from the topic, which is the horror being removed from horror games by buying upgrades with real world cash. The way I figure it everyone likes their horror in greater or lesser degrees, why not let them have it the way they want it? If they feel inclined to part with an even greater amount of real world cash to tailor that experience so be it. They only thing it is really hurting is their pocket book.

    Keep in mind I agree with you about it ruining the horror of things, I like it tense and awful but you know some of us get that everyday at work and sometimes it is nice to just come home and blow away some monsters with a shiny new gun.

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