Extra Credits’ latest video has some insightful things to say about free-to-play mechanics, focusing largely on the Witcher 3 card game Gwent and also referencing an old minigame in a classic RPG.
The introductory way-too-long title sums things up nicely:
Free to Play mechanics actually work brilliantly as mini-games so long as you don’t actually have to spend money and the game’s “microtransactions” are paid for with currency you earn by playing the game.
The video then goes into the Witcher 3’s Gwent as a great example of this, with cards being obtained largely through purchases made by Geralt in the game with coin he/the player acquired through playing the main content of the game. In other words, you get to do the “fun” action of playing the game and can use the rewards from that action to play the card game mini-game therein.
The issue comes in translating that mini-game — which Extra Credits admits resembles a pay-to-win game — into a standalone game with its inevitable microtransactions. Gwent in the Witcher 3 doesn’t have any real-money microtransactions and it’s exclusively PvE — traits that won’t carry over to the standalone game, where you’ll get stomped by people named “yologeralt.” The standalone Gwent will likely be as pay-to-win as any online card game, like Hearthstone or Duelyst. You can earn cards through gameplay, sure, but you can also spend money to obtain cards more quickly.
In fact, Gwent would seem to have bigger “pay-to-win” issues than most card games. Not having card costs, bigger is almost always better, making expensive decks even more dominating than in other games, where that rare 8 power card is at least balanced by costing more than a common one that only has 2 power.
Anyway, watch the video for yourself and see what else you can gleam from it. And do you think the points raised about the standalone Gwent are good ones? Will it still be successful and well-loved once real money is injected into the system?