July 14, 2024
Are We Really Surprised By The First Descendant's Monetisation?


Highlights

  • The First Descendant’s monetization policies, including microtransactions and expensive upgrades, have drawn significant criticism from players.
  • Nexon, the publisher, has a reputation for aggressive monetization and potentially pay-to-win mechanics in its games.
  • Players should expect more of the same from Nexon and consider playing other less monetized games instead.



I was pretty taken by The First Descendant’s trailer at The Game Awards last year, though that was mostly because it used a song I really liked. (There was lots of good music that year.) That interest quickly faded as I learned more about the game though, namely that it’s a free-to-play live-service looter shooter published by Nexon. Yawn.

While our own Harry Alston gave it four out of five stars in his review-in-progress of the game’s pre-release version, it seems players are liking it much less after seeing the monetisation in the final release. In fact, the game has received so many negative reviews on Steam that it’s dropped to Mixed, with only 50 percent of players leaving positive reviews at the time of writing.



First Descendant’s Monetisation Is Egregious

As with many free-to-play live-service games, The First Descendant has microtransactions. This is common in the industry because, well, studios and publishers need to make money somehow if they’re giving the game away for free. But this game is drawing quite a lot of flak because of just how many ways Nexon is squeezing money from its players.

We’ve gone into detail here about what specific monetisation policies are making players so rightfully angry, but the lowdown is that there are a lot of microtransactions. In the beta test, skin colours were locked behind a gacha system, and Nexon retooled that. However, in the process, it somehow made it worse. The colour schemes are now single-use, and you can’t use a colour on multiple skins, meaning you’ll have to pay multiple times to use the same colour for different Descendants. Players say the paints look totally different in-game as well, adding to the anger.


Upgrades in The First Descendant are pretty expensive all around, judging from the reviews. According to players, it costs nearly $50 to unlock enough slots to craft all the characters, an ‘ultimate bundle’ for any character is $100, the battle pass doesn’t allow you to earn enough currency to unlock the next one without forking out more money, and people who are shelling out real money for in-game currency aren’t receiving it. Some are even saying that item drop rates are falsified.

But Players Should Have Expected This

I’m not saying that this monetisation is justified: I’ve been pretty vocal about my distaste for the way most F2P games squeeze their audiences for cash and the scummy ways they facilitate habit-forming behaviours in players. But seriously, it’s Nexon.


Nexon already has a reputation with free-to-play fans. Namely, that it’s the worst. Its games often disguise pay-to-win mechanics with power creep and time-gating. It’s well known for aggressive microtransactions. Just this year, it was fined by the Korea’s Fair Trade Commission for quietly lowering the drop rates of popular items in MapleStory and Bubble Fighter, even making it impossible to win some of the most popular ones at all. It then lied about it, saying there had been no changes. It was given the largest fine ever imposed in South Korea as it was the second time it had done this – it had been fined a first time for a similar offence in its game Sudden Attack.

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There’s a good chance that if Nexon is involved with a game, there will be nasty monetisation. A lot of players already knew this – just look at how many reviews say, basically, ‘typical Nexon’. In this case, the game isn’t quite pay-to-win. You can choose to grind and cosmetics aren’t necessary to play the game. But Nexon’s history indicates that it eventually might add pay-to-win mechanics on top of this already terrible monetisation, which would be a big problem.


My surprise is that so many players came away disappointed, because really, what did you expect? My advice is to leave it alone and find another less egregiously monetised game to play, because Nexon is unlikely to ever stop using these tactics. It makes so much money from players that even a huge governmental fine can be chalked up as a minor cost of doing business. Go play something else, preferably a game that isn’t published by Nexon, because complaints, however justified, won’t change a thing.

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