With many AAA games featuring some kind of microtransactions these days, it should come as little surprise that The Coalition’s latest entry to the Gears of War series, Gears of War 4, has its fair share of microtransactions. Like most other games with microtransactions, you are given the option to buy a mystery box of cosmetic items with either real money or in-game currency. Taken at face value, this is a fairly standard affair that is barely even newsworthy, but the rate at which you earn the in-game currency and the fact that you can receive duplicates within the same mystery box (among other things) has apparently rustled some feathers among Gears of War 4’s audience.
As of now, the most basic version of Gears of War 4’s mystery boxes costs 400 coins (or gold, or GearsBux, or whatever it is that you want to call the in-game currency). These often contain some rather inconsequential items such as XP buffs or Horde boosters—things that don’t really have an impact on the competitive multiplayer side of the game. Other packs give you a chance to obtain higher quality items, but they (naturally) cost much more than the basic 400 coin booster packs, with the most expensive mystery box costing 3,500 coins. Any duplicates that you obtain in these mystery boxes can be broken down into a relatively meager amount of Scrap, which can then be used to craft other cosmetic items. Once again, this is all fairly standard, except for the fact that you seemingly can’t obtain any significant amount of these coins short of playing the game obsessively.
Based on purely anecdotal evidence, it takes some 5-8 hours of Horde to reach level 20 or so. Reaching level 20 will reward you with an aggregated amount of somewhere around 3,000 coins (and this is likely an overestimation), which translates into roughly three standard cosmetic packs. If you were to convert every item that you obtained in these packs into Scrap, you would end up with just under 1,000 Scrap (once again, this is likely an overestimation). This may sound impressive, at least until you check the prices for the most rare items in Gears of War 4, which can cost up to 2,400 Scrap. For further reference, there is a $100 bundle of 100 cosmetic packs in the Gears of War 4 store; at the aforementioned rate, it would take an entire week of literal non-stop play for a person to obtain the same number of cosmetic packs for free. Obviously, if you were to compare this to something like Overwatch where you can get a Loot Box every couple of hours, Gears of War 4 is clearly not one of the more generous games. However, it should be stressed that this is based entirely on anecdotal evidence, so your actual mileage may vary.
Now you may be asking why is this such a big deal. If these mystery boxes only offer cosmetic items, then are you really at a disadvantage when you compare yourself to the guy who spent $600 on microtransactions? Frankly, a lot of the cosmetics are rather tacky as well, so its not like you are losing out on much, right? For some, the answer is obvious: no, it doesn’t matter. “I did my part,” you say, as you clutch your wallet tightly and refuse to buy into such things. “I am voting with my wallet, and if enough people do the same, then surely The Coalition will get the message,” you say, as you rant and rave and threaten to boycott Gears of War 4. And yet, for every 10, or 20, or even 100 of you who refuse to buy anything that even resembles a microtransaction, there is one person who says “You know what, I feel like spending an unreasonable amount of money.”
The reality of the situation is that no matter what, The Coalition isn’t losing much by implementing such a user-unfriendly market into Gears of War 4 because there is always that one guy who will spend more than the next 20 people combined. You don’t even have to look far for evidence of this; Destiny, Overwatch, GTA, virtually every modern multiplayer game has some kind of similar in-game store because people buy these $100 bundles, and the worst part is that you can’t even really blame the developers for this when games have become unquestionably more and more expensive to develop. As such, The Coalition will likely never give an official response to any backlash regarding the issue because of the mere existence of (ludicrously stupid and unreasonably popular) things like “Gears of War 4 loot pack unboxing” videos, which gives The Coalition free advertising for these microtransactions at little to no cost to them.
At the end of the day, though, there is little that can be done on an individual level, short of inspiring a mass exodus that would make the No Man’s Sky fiasco look like a normal grocery store run. And at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself “Is this a hill worth dying on, to make a stand on an issue that has so far proven to only matter to those who really want novelty items?” After all, Gears of War 4 is a solid game, and though it isn’t perfect, isn’t the gameplay what matters most?More About This Game