Thursday, February 6, 2020

Fire Emblem Heroes Introduces Scam Pass

multiple heroes burning Feh with fire magic
Burn, you greedy, little owl.

If you thought that adding Byleth to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was a terrible idea, then you might find some schadenfreude in how badly Nintendo and Intelligent Systems are currently screwing the Fire Emblem fans, at least the ones playing the mobile outing, Fire Emblem: Heroes, with the introduction of the "Feh Pass".

I'm one of these fans, though I wouldn't call myself a big Fire Emblem fan, at least not on the sames lines as Zelda and Metroid, but I'm playing Fire Emblem: Heroes on a daily basis and it got me more interested in the franchise overall to a point, where I was actually happy about Byleth's inclusion in Smash. So, that's something.

Fire Emblem: Heroes also made me a "free to play" mobile gamer, which is something I never thought I would be. I've already praised this game a couple of times on my blog, despite the fact that I never was a fan of its monetization. Gacha is always horrible and the orbs are extremely overpriced.

Even with the best volume discount you pay 80€ for 140 orbs, which is way too much for too little. I can easily earn this number of orbs within a month or less by playing the game, but get only junk out of it. If you're really lucky, you might get one or two five star heroes and maybe the one you were hoping for, but it's not guaranteed and certainly not worth the price.

For 80€ you can buy a nice Limited Edition of a Switch game and I just couldn't support a pricing like this, nor gambling in general. If it were like a tenth of the price, I might be buying some orbs every now and then to support the game, but not like this... And this is still fine, because one of the goals of Nintendo's mobile games is to get people interested in their core products. And the money that I didn't spend on orbs ultimately went into some Fire Emblem Limited Editions, which was the much better investment.

And not spending any money in Fire Emblem: Heroes never felt like an issue. I could keep up just fine for the most part and I'm even in the 21+ ranks of the ever hated Aether Raids mode, I have an army of valuable units and the game never felt unfair in a way, where I was at a massive disadvantage as a f2p player.

However, as of today this will change. With the "Fire Emblem Heroes Pass" they expect you to pay 11,50€ a month (that's a staggering 138€ per year) for the following features:

  • Access to two refurbished units per month with better stats
  • Summoner support for three units instead of just one
  • Re-wind and auto-start features
  • Special quests with valuable items

All of these are even good and necessary quality of life features and buffs, but none of this should be behind a costly paywall.

The refurbished units solve a problem with the other monetization, where units kept becoming more and more powerful over the years, because Intelligent System wants the players to spend their orbs on the new guys every time. But because of this the year 1 units might not be as valuable any longer... So, the refurbished units are a good move, but it's a bad move to lock them behind this paywall.

Summoner support for three units would also be extremely helpful in competitive modes like Aether Raids, but you have to pay for it... It's basically pay to win. And the new options should be accessible to all the players and not just the ones buying the pass.

The worst and most scammy part of it are the quests, though. They show up like normal quests and they are very easy to fulfill, where the rewards are quickly waiting to be collected in your quest menu... But when you want to collect them, it prompts you to pay for the pass. This is no joke, I'm not making this up. It's dark UI patterns from hell, the worst of the worst, and everyone involved should feel deeply ashamed about this.

And it's not even understandable, why they are going this route, if you're looking at the numbers...

Fire Emblem: Heroes is by far Nintendo's most successful mobile game and it's not even by a small margin. In fact the game accounts for more than half of the total revenue, completely stomping Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Dragalia Lost, Super Mario Run, Mario Kart Tour and Dr. Mario World into the ground.

Why it now has to copy the horrible monetization strategies of the far less successful Mario Kart Tour, also known as the worst Mario Kart in history, is beyond me... It's almost as if they want to milk the Fire Emblem player base even more, because the other mobile games are so unsuccessful. In fact, DeNA – the company most of Nintendo's bad mobile games – is even looking at a massive loss of nearly 50 billion Yen (source)... And now Fire Emblem might have to pay for it.

In any case this was a horrible move and the shitstorm is without any surprise gigantic. Even if such a monetization were necessary, it should be much cheaper and should not be of disadvantage for f2p players. Give the pass players some five star units, which are available otherwise. Give them some orbs. Let them have the easy bonus quests... But don't lock buffs and new options behind this and don't trick players into buying the pass via dark patterns.

Now, this only confirms my worries about a mobile Zelda these days. Two years ago I thought this would be a good idea, but now a mobile Zelda game is the last thing I could ever want. Please don't blemish the Zelda franchise with such awful practices, Nintendo.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Man, I am so glad that when it comes to Nintendo, this kind of stuff is at least restricted to mobile games, which I can do without. I'm with you that it sucks that it's a thing at all though.