Foamstars is facing a controversy this close to launch, that’s entirely of Square Enix’s making.
As reported by Tech4Gamers, early players have realized that the title’s suite of microtransactions is incredibly expensive. Some limited edition sets are going for 11 euros, while some are going for 45 euros. To put this in context, Foamstars is currently bundled in with PlayStation Plus. Once it launches as a retail title, it won’t be priced any more than $ 30, and it will likely be at or close to 30 euros in Europe as well.
Microtransactions are only cosmetic in Foamstars. Many of these cosmetics are unlockable in the course of playing the game, and they won’t have any effect on gameplay. But these facts do not reduce how potentially exploitative this setup can be.
As is the case with many other live service games, Foamstars puts a lot of emphasis on customization. The reason to keep playing games like Foamstars and Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League for days, weeks, months after finishing the main game, is to chase after costumes and other cosmetics.
Since we brought it up, some fans have also pointed out that it feels like the cosmetics in Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League are also somewhat exploitative of the players who will be swayed into chasing them. They are selling some costume variants where you have to pay to get the version where the character isn’t wearing a mask.
But even with those complaints, Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League isn’t charging this much for their microtransactions. There’s something particularly egregious in how much Square Enix expects their players to pay for Foamstars.
The unfortunate reason we have to talk about these monetization models in this way is that game designers have become very good at enticing players to spend. We have to talk about these systems this early, before players get so invested in them that they are unable to criticize them properly, much less, wean themselves away from them properly.
It’s the uncomfortable reality we have to recognize about the live service model, that they can face the harshest criticisms, and see player numbers drop, but if there are enough whales spending, all these problems and issues would have still been worth it.
This is not a difficult issue for Square Enix to fix. They can lower the prices accordingly, and find the price point which balances their profit margins and keeps fans satisfied. They can also look to other live service games for a frame of reference for that.
Square Enix may decide to risk backlash and see if they will come out ahead on this pricing, or they can choose the gamer’s goodwill and dip their prices, in the hopes Foamstars will build a bigger following in time. And now, we wait and see what Square Enix decides to do.