The Monetization Behind Mass Effect and BioWare’s Genius in Doing So

I woke up at about 7 this morning, and right now it’s 11 AM. I’ve played Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer for 3 out of my 4 waking hours, and that’s after playing about 8 hours yesterday and 4 the day before.

Sure, at first glance, ME3’s multiplayer looks like a standard Horde Mode but with Mass Effect. Well, it turns out that Horde Mode set in the universe of Mass Effect is incredibly fun. Multiplayer is the only time in the Mass Effect series that you get to play as a race besides humans, and while all of the characters have pretty humanoid shapes, each race has unique touches that set it apart from any of the other classes. For example, just like in the single-player, geth have less health but higher shields than other races, and the Krogan are extremely durable but lack the agile combat maneuvering that other races have. (i.e. no combat rolls for the dinosaur-men)

Being able to play as any of a variety of races with your friends is incredibly fun

As strange as it may sound, Mass Effect’s multiplayer totally makes me understand why some people like FarmVille so much. You see, with each match you earn credits that you can spend on “packs” of 5 cards. There are various tiers of packs, each with rarer cards in the packs. Naturally, a higher tier pack costs more credits, but here’s where the twist comes in: you can buy these packs with real money.The tiers of packs are Recruit, Veteran, Spectre, and Premium Spectre. Recruit packs are extremely cheap compared to the other packs, and as such, you can’t buy them with real money. However, a Veteran pack is $.99, a Spectre pack is $1.99, and a Premium Spectre pack is $2.99. Of course, you can buy them with credits you earn by playing multiplayer, but that takes time versus being able to just plop down the cash.

The problem here is that even though I’ve spent some actual money in this mode (about $10, probably), I’m not getting a whole lot of what I want. All I really want is new characters to play as, but I’m mostly getting weapons, which I guess are cool, but what I really want is new characters. I guess their hook is totally working though, because I’ve already spent excess of  $10 in addition to having bought the Collector’s Edition of the game.

I can totally see this getting old fast, but to prevent people like me from jumping ship, BioWare puts out free content packs in what looks to be a schedule of every 3 weeks. So far they’ve put out 2 of these, but by this schedule there will be another pack out in 2 and a half weeks. Each of these packs includes a multitude of new weapons, 6 new characters, and 2 new maps. The genius part of this cash cow is that you don’t automatically get these with the free DLC; this new content can only be accessed if you randomly pull those cards from the packs (barring the new maps, who become available to everybody). This means that they keep us on the Mass Effect morphine drip while enticing us to spend real money on unlocking this content in a dastardly scheme that quickly turns free DLC into a nefarious way to get more money out of a hardcore Mass Effect fan like me. The thing is that it totally works.


The new characters from ME3’s first free DLC

By the time I’m done with Mass Effect 3, I can easily foresee having spent over $100 on the game (this, of course, includes the $80 Collector’s Edition that I bought). That’s absolutely RIDICULOUS for me, as I’m someone who usually hates spending money on DLC. I can definitely see BioWare releasing something like this multiplayer alongside the next retail Mass Effect game as a free-to-play game on XBLA or PSN, and I can 100% see them making a buttload of money off of this. If they start you off with the same thing they did in this multiplayer suite and make you pay for new characters or weapons, EA could make more money than Activision did with Skylander’s. Well, maybe not THAT much, but they could make a killing.

All in all, ME3’s multiplayer is fantastic, but if you’re the kind of person that can easily get addicted to games, be careful.

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