Someone Spent $15,000 On Mass Effect Multiplayer Cards

"You need to understand the amount of money that's at play with microtransactions," says former BioWare developer Manveer Heir.

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Now Playing: Mass Effect Andromeda - Multiplayer Official Gameplay Trailer

The recent shuttering of Dead Space developer Visceral and the planned overhaul of the studio's Star Wars game paints a rather bleak picture for the future of single-player titles, at least from some major publishers like Electronic Arts. Now, a former BioWare developer has offered some firsthand insight on the reason for EA's changing priorities.

In a recent podcast on Waypoint, Manveer Heir, who was a designer at BioWare for seven years and worked on both Mass Effect 3 and Mass Effect Andromeda, discussed the EA's seeming shift away from single-player experiences to more open- and shared-world titles like the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront II. Heir says the reason for this is because the publisher "can monetize" those kinds of games better. It's also this reason that card packs were introduced in Mass Effect 3's multiplayer.

"The words in there that were used are 'Have them come back again and again,'" Heir said. "Why do you care about that at EA? The reason you care about that is because microtransactions: buying card packs in the Mass Effect games, the multiplayer. It's the same reason we added card packs to Mass Effect 3: how do you get people to keep coming back to a thing instead of 'just' playing for 60 to 100 hours?"

According to Heir, microstransactions have become one of the publisher's primary concerns thanks to the sheer amount of money they can bring in. "You need to understand the amount of money that's at play with microtransactions," he said. "I'm not allowed to say the number but I can tell you that when Mass Effect 3 multiplayer came out, those card packs we were selling, the amount of money we made just off those card packs was so significant--that's the reason Dragon Age has multiplayer, that's the reason other EA products started getting multiplayer that hadn't really had them before, because we nailed it and brought in a ton of money." He also said he's "seen people literally spend $15,000 on Mass Effect multiplayer cards."

This move away from dedicated single-play experiences is also the reason BioWare's upcoming game, Anthem, looks so different from the studio's previous output. "If that's what you're seeing from a place like BioWare, owned by EA, a place where I worked for seven years; if that's what you're seeing from Visceral now closing and going to this other Vancouver studio; what it means is that the linear single-player triple-A game at EA is dead for the time being," Heir said.

Anthem releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2018. The game is a "science-fantasy" action-RPG that's "built around a live service" and features a heavy emphasis on cooperative play. The Star Wars game Visceral was developing, meanwhile, was originally going to be a linear, story-based adventure; following the studio's closure, development has been moved to EA Vancouver and the game will be reworked "to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come."

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Avatar image for santinegrete

I played a lot of Mass Effect 3 but didn't pay for a single microtransaction. But with this new focus, looks like my Origin account isn't going to get any card number for some time now. Can't believe this studio published Undying and Dead Space.

Avatar image for ch2423

Like anything else, if you have common sense and are smart with your money, there is a nice benefit to the current DLC/microtransaction landscape.

These studios are trying to get their games into the hands of as many people as possible to up the chance that someone will throw away hundreds of dollars on useless crap. To do this, they start putting their base games on sale way earlier than they used to and offer a bigger discount. Look how fast Madden hit $39.99 (what was it, 3 weeks?).

If you don't care about DLC or buying the best gear/car/gun/horse/player for your game, just wait a few weeks and save 33% to 50% on your games. In a way, these whales are covering our discounts.

So remember: don't preorder, wait for a sale and don't buy DLC or microtransactions. It's the only way to still game while offsetting all the extra money those evils bring in.

Avatar image for chiefwiggum16

Greed...that is all

Avatar image for lionheartssj1

Oh com'on! There's always somebody who ruins it for everybody. Also, I was really hyped for Anthem, but now I'm scared of how they're going to monetize it.

Avatar image for Chizaqui

Don't need Anthem or any other EA title then.

Avatar image for RossRichard

Glad I own stock in EA then. If people are that stupid, I might as well be making money off of it.

Avatar image for trust2112

Just look at EA's Star Wars The Old Republic MMO. They have literally killed it by moving away from the f2p format that made it popular, to a pay as you go, subscriber based game. And that is why they are having a MAJOR server merge, since most of servers are dead. I hadn't played swtor in about 3 years, since they went to the monthly storylines. I re-installed the game and spent all of 30 minutes on it, before I deleted it. It absolutely sucks. And I really loved that game. So now I'm on ESO, and having a good time. I sub every once in awhile for the constant dlc's that come down the pipeline, and while there are always a few bugs that irritate me, I've never once thought about deleting it and moving on. 2 year anniversary coming up soon for my ESO gameplay. I suggest when they have the next round of free weekend, you take a good look at it.

Avatar image for Shantmaster_K

Good lord that's a lot of money lol.

Avatar image for Dilandau88

Vote with your wallet friends. That's all you can do. If you disagree with micro transactions and want to stop seeing them in games, then stop buying them.

Avatar image for thomaswmak

@Dilandau88: Just because we don't like them, there are plenty and rich people that don't care about the money to pay for these microtransactions.

Avatar image for Red_Frog

I don't like Manveer, but he's not wrong about this. I don't like EA either, but for plenty of other reasons unrelated to this specifically. I can't blame them for selling crap to idiots that will buy it, if these things didn't sell they wouldn't bother doing it.

Avatar image for ghost140

Its over ladies and gentlemen it has been for a while. Loot Box based mc will be in most if not all "AAA" games from here on out. Whales, Dolphins, addicts, or just people with money to burn they are spending like never before and pubs dont to be left out. Complain all you want but you know its a lost cause the only thing that will "fix it" is a crash. I do not want to see that happen only cause i don't want all those people to lose their jobs.

Luckily there are alternatives like waiting for dirt cheap sales, renting(not much longer), or just avoiding the game/microtransactions completely. "AAA" is not the only game in town and for me they don't even produce the best experiences any more.

Side note i wonder how long till Nintendo joins the craze.

Avatar image for fraga500

**** that racist manveer heir. **** you!

Avatar image for magnusopus

Looks like EA already have the golden turd award - its Manveer Heir!!! Bitches about apparent "white supremacy" but advocates gambling addiction - good to see he has his priorities straight - err I mean diverse.... Looking forward to seeing which franchise EA entrusts him to drive into the ground next. Posterthing for failure that guy.

Avatar image for bignick217

So I have to suffer through nightmare microtransactions invading my favorite games for no good reason, that I play for the single player experiences because of idiots who just can't take a stand and refuse to give EA money for crap not worth it's asking price. Thanks morons. You are awesome. You're ruining gaming. People have told you for years not to give them money for this crap because you are only incentivizing them to keep doing it, making the situation worse. Now look what you did. You made it standard practice now.

Avatar image for maitkarro

@bignick217: Your only problem is that you can't understand that you're only a minority, you're nothing, a blip in the entire gaming community as whole. You only have opionions. If you wanna create change you have to be extremly vocal and active about it. Create petitions. Create conventions. Do social apps. Votings. Advertise. Stream. and etc. You would need to be a youtube celebrity for that game you like, but hate the micros in it, and "advise" other people also to hate it and stay away from it. So don't blame the avarage joe doing what they want, blame yourself for not doing anything for it. You're only whining and doing nothing. Just not spending money on it, well you might as well not existed. Even if 10% of 1 games playerbase would be buying mirco crap, would be enough for the devs to make a great profit, that 10% would maybe equal the entire playerbase single purchase of the game or more depending how much they spend money on micros.

Avatar image for bignick217

@maitkarro: If my post wasn't evidence enough, I am far from quiet about these issues. I am very vocal about these issues. But you're right, I'm not famous. I'm not a celebrity. Nothing I can do about that. But I do speak out and I do put my money where my mouth is. But I don't only speak up for my games or issues that only affect me. I do it for all platforms and game trends I have issues with. I refused to buy any games from Ubisoft for over 2 years in protest to their attempt to implement always online DRM in their games. Even though there were games I desperately wanted to play like Assassins Creed 2 and Anno 2070. I still haven't bought EA's Need for Speed for that very reason as well. I stood with Xbox fans when Microsoft announced the Xbox One and tried to force always online requirement just to play games on their consoles even though I am a PC gamer, don't own any consoles and had no intention of buying one. But believed it was wrong and Xbox owners shouldn't be forced to put up with such a BS requirement. I took to the comments threads, signed the petitions you name it. I have fought against day one on disc DLC's and DLC's that have blatantly been stripped from a game last minute in order to try to force people to preorder games (like Total War: Warhammer's Chaos Faction). I've been speaking out for over a year now against microtransactions (hither to known as microT, tired of typing it out) and loot boxes.

I'm not an internet celebrity, and quite frankly, I don't want to be. But you can bet your ass that I'm doing my part in any way I can to promote good games and practices (like GOG) and denounce and dissuade bad game practices and trends. But I don't do it just for my games and just my platform. I do it for any game on any platform I take issue with. If they do it on PC and I don't fight against it, it will become permanent on my platform and will end up on consoles. Like with the Always Online DRM. They tried it on PC. We fought against it and it ultimately failed apart from the odd game here or there from the die hard publishers like EA. Then they tried it on console and I fought it there too. Because if they got console gamers to accept it, they would try again to force us PC gamers to accept it. If they try to start a bad trend on consoles and I have issue with it, I will fight it there for console gamers as well and with the hope that if we can stop it on console, it may prevent it from ever starting on PC. Everyone out for themselves and only fighting for or against things that only affect themselves is not good enough. Everyone needs to have everyone else's back regardless of platform. Otherwise, these things will keep getting worse. There are quite a few games I haven't bought because I took issue with a practice they implemented in said game. There are games that I've bought that have microTs, but I only play the single player portion and flat out refuse to play the multiplayer part because of the microT structure of the gameplay. I'm sure some of them have good multiplayer, but I refuse to even connect to them, so I won't ever be tempted to cross that line and buy a loot box. I know myself and I know I can't win against their expensive psychologists, so the only way I can win is by not giving them a battlefield. Star Wars Battlefront 2 might be one of those games. I might buy the game for the single player, but I will never play the MP on it because of the ridiculous microTs. If I really want to play an MP shooter, I have plenty of others that don't have microTs including the other Star Wars Battlefront.

You call me nothing? Maybe you're right. But I'd rather fight and lose rather than submit. At least then I'll feel justified when I call everyone idiots. But for now, I'll keep doing my part. What are you going to do? Fight? Put your money where your mouth is and vote with your wallet by locking it in a drawer? Or just sit there and keep telling people how they are nothing because they took the time to voice their discontent with the situation? Because all they have is an opinion. Here's where you can stick your "nothing".

Avatar image for huyi12

@bignick217: you are so passionate about stopping them good, i'm right behind you although i know just me and you can't stop them altogether, there will always be people out there who will continue to keep buying these games riddled with all this crap, hell just yesterday i talked to a guy who said he spent much more than 15k in microTs it's insane! these are the people EA will always target because they are willing to spend much more than usual.

if you haven't heard of him, subscribe to jim sterling on youtube and join the fight with us!

Avatar image for bignick217

@huyi12: Thanks. Seen a lot of his stuff. Only just recently started subscribing to channels on youtube. Thanks for reminding me about his channel. Already have AngryJoe on my list. Now that I think about it, I should add totalbiscuit as well.

Avatar image for cpdk5

@maitkarro: PREACH! Stop blaming others, and start doing something about it.

Avatar image for jinzo9988

I believe it, because I've worked in free to play and I've seen purchase statistics. I used to have someone spending $1,000 a month on one of the worst MMORPGs still running where the game is half broken and it's little more than a forever-grind. I used to have another person spend $1,000 over the course of a year on a garbage FPS. These people are out there, but at least most of what they bought wasn't rooted in gambling. The big thing with the MMORPG was either buying a percentage chance to positively upgrade your weapon or essentially buying insurance so if you tried to upgrade and the weapon would've broke from that, it wouldn't break but instead would knock you back to a certain upgrade level. Same sort of thing in essence as it relates to gambling... a repeatable chance to get an outcome you want.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller

ME3 was actually one of the very few games that did it right. Microtransactions were only there for the online coop mode for the suckers who were more interested in unlocking the best weapons quickly (completely randomly of course) than in playing the game. I've played the coop mode for about a year until it became impossible for me to find a match and have been loving it, and part of that was that Bioware released 5 dlcs over the span of a year with new maps, characters, gear and more.

The only negative thing you could say about ME3 is that it has shown EA and other companies that there's a lot of money to be made from microtransactions and that that might have affected their decisions and led to the mess we have nowadays, with loot boxes in singe player games and competitive online games. There would be no problem with microtransactions if games kept them confined to some online mode, ideally a coop mode like ME3's where other players' gear doesn't affect you. Or just cosmetic stuff for the guys who like to play Barbie Dressup. Let the morons who have nothing better to spend their money on pay for the dlcs, thats the best approach I've seen so far.

But looking at Mass Effect Andromeda it seems like the reason they made that game was more for the coop mode and the microtransactions, and that one worked rather well at least compared to the rest of the game. Too bad it was a wreck and failed non surprisingly and there won't be any mp dlc coming for it now. I just checked Bioware's blog to make sure and the last entry related to ME:A said there won't be any more sp and story dlcs and "In the coming weeks, our multiplayer team will provide details of their ongoing support and upcoming content, including new multiplayer missions, character kits, and what’s in store for N7 Day." Since then there's only been silence. I guess there might be some news on N7 day.

Avatar image for R4gn4r0k

Yay, they managed to squeeze some guy/girl that has a horrible addiction.

Feels so good, doesn't it ?

Avatar image for Atzenkiller

@R4gn4r0k: Addiction? More like some rich kid that could buy anything it wants with their parents credit card. Or an adult kid that actually has that much money to spend and does spend it on a game. No addict would have that much money to spend.

Avatar image for R4gn4r0k

@Atzenkiller: Except if you buy 15.000 worth of microtransactions you are clearly addicted to buying microtransactions...

Avatar image for Atzenkiller

@R4gn4r0k: I'd say if you manage to spend such sums regularly on games without going broke you're a pretty well functioning addict. I'd worry more about the alcohol, tobacco and other industries that actually cause damage to people with their addictions. If someone spends that much money on a videogame then clearly he can afford it and just doesn't see much value in money, or never spends much time thinking about whether he should buy something or not. Impulsive buyers are every industry's favorite.

Avatar image for cpdk5

@Atzenkiller: you assume that people don't go broke because "if they can spend that much money, then they must also have it". While that may apply for some or most cases, it certainly doesn't apply to all cases. You focus on addictions as something that causes physical pain and that is fair, because in those cases you can actually spot the damage, but know this, Gambling ruins a lot of peoples lives. Gambling is a serious addiction, and i find it worrisome that the gaming industry is allowed to implement loot crates more and more into games because "it's technically not gambling".

All this industry is trying to do now is figuring out how they can turn 'players into payers', that is literally every big publishers main concern. it's how to make people spend more money without upsetting them to much. Just look at Activisions patent that if implemented, would match bad players/new players with good players that had the premium weapons in pvp, so they would be incentivized into spending money in order to get that weapon that just wrecked them throughout the whole game.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller

@cpdk5: Companies will always try to take advantage of the dumb and gullible. Everybody should know by now that gambling is fucking dumb and you can only lose in the long term, yet I know plenty of people who regularly spend time at gambling machines. Should I feel sorry for them? Natural selection used to weed out the dumbest people, nowadays it usually just robs you of your money. We should be glad about that.

Everything bad only exists because there's plenty of stupid and gullible people who support it. According to Opera's adblocker it has blocked 99 ads or elements on this page alone. Why does Gamespot cluster its site with all that useless crap? Because one in a hundred or even one in a thousand is dumb enough to click on some shitty clickbait ad or article so it's worth it to annoy the other 99.9%.

As long as people don't learn nothing will change. But you can learn how to avoid everything that serves no purpose so I'd focus on that. Changing the masses is a pointless task. Change might happen over time or it might not but if one practice stops working or gets banned the industry will just find another way to take advantage of the gullible who just won't learn. That's how it is and you're better off learning how to avoid this crap so it doesn't work on you than to complain about them taking advantage of others, because there'll always be new ways and new morons who want to get ripped off.

Avatar image for cpdk5

@Atzenkiller: Well god damn, that is a really pessimistic approach to have... This would be a lengthy discussion, that would be pointless since we are on a gaming site, so let's just leave it here.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller

@cpdk5: I try to see things the way they are. Focus on yourself and help those that actually care about it if you wanna be more optimistic. Otherwise most people will suck the lifeblood out of you and drag you into pointless discussions, etc. Like what I'm doing right now, wasting my time writing pointless comments on this site. Time to go do something else.

Avatar image for KillzoneSnake

A racist telling us how messed up a money hungry horrible videogame company is... Yet star wars loot crate II will sell good. Sad time to be a gamer.

Avatar image for Paulf001

Some guy will probably spend 20k on Star Wars loot crates once the game is out.

Avatar image for Firosen

Time to boycott EA Games.

Avatar image for RossRichard

@Firosen: Welcome to 15 years ago.

Avatar image for immortaltech6

He may be a racist but he confirmed some truth many of us in-the-know already knew, from an insider perspective.

I said years ago that these business heads who were coming in from other industries (or emulating them) to capitalize off of the growing videogame industry would apply those outsider tactics to one they have no passion for, and deeply divide and scar it in the process; and here we are, seeing that set of actions continue to grow, with many inside it in a constant state of upheaval, by these soulless megacorps following formulas and balance sheets.

EA, voted the worst corporation more than once, killing another good studio they strategically acquired, in Visceral, under a guise of consolidation but with the ultimate goal of financial self-preservation at whatever the cost, because they don't respect the artists(ex: Amy Hennig with Star Wars), the consumers/ gamers or the studios and their legacies.

Get milked suckers.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller

@immortaltech6: Preservation? They're thriving with all those new methods they're employing and it's nothing new, it's been that way since the last console gen when online became a thing. As long as suckers are gonna keep buying all that crap and keep paying them more and more companies will keep looking for ways to make even more money. Obviously it's working pretty well. Ultimately the consumers are to blame for gladly letting themselves get ripped off. No matter how many complain and hate on certain games in online forums there'll still always be all those sheep with too much money who'll keep buying all the dlcs and microtransactions and whatever other crap the industry can come up with.

People are always fucking things over for themselves, and for others. If you wanna avoid getting fucked over it's best to avoid anything that's catering to the masses.

Avatar image for immortaltech6

@Atzenkiller: Yes, financial self-preservation is what led to the proliferation of that capitalistic behavior in an inherently creative industry.

I left a point out of my last comment to keep it short but you're right in that they only succeeded because the masses made those actions profitable.

It coincided with the rise of the industry as a juggernaut and with that growth came an influx of casuals and newcomers who don't know or care about the industry or what or how their support affects it.

That group includes people with more money than sense, not enough skills to compete with the core gamers so they accept the shortcuts dangling in front of them, or don't care to put in the work because they have that mindset of just "buying in" instead of earning.

It happened with other media industries and it's increasingly happening with videogames. We do our part and hopefully make a difference in knowledge and action.

Avatar image for Sorrow_316

So, basically EA is abusing customers with gambling tendencies by giving them the "thrill" of getting a better card in the form of a random pack generator and ensuring the price for the higher chance packs is high enough so they decide to purchase with cash instead of in game points (if applicable).

That's a very dirty scheme. EA hasn't really dished out a quality game in awhile anyway. I'd much rather see rereleases like what Bethesda is doing with Skyrim than see the milking of people in the form of a cheap thrill gambling machine.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller

@Sorrow_316: Nah, in ME3 at least you'd have to be really dumb to buy those packs as you could easily earn enough in game cash to buy the most expensive pack by playing the game for about 20 minutes on Gold difficulty, which is easy once you've worked your way up to it. And how does that saying go? A fool and his money are easily parted? Some people just like to ruin the fun for themselves by paying for it, because buying something feels more rewarding than earning it while enjoying a game.

Avatar image for dashaka

@Atzenkiller: It WOULD be easier to earn packs in game if micro transactions weren’t a thing though. They wouldn’t care as much about giving players the packs, if the “buy with real money” option wasn’t a thing. Micro transactions do negatively affect a any game that has them, no matter how you look at it.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller

@dashaka: Have you actually played ME3's mp mode? I'm never in favor of microtransactions in any game but when it has zero impact on people who don't wanna pay real money and pays for several free dlcs then I can't say anything bad about it. Of course ME3 is the only example I can think of that did this perfectly without affecting the experience whatsoever.

Would it be easier to earn the gear if there were no microtransaction? I don't think so. COD4 was the first game I know of that made you level up and unlock new gear in that way, having random tiered gear packs isn't much different from that. Systems like these are designed to keep people playing a game and they've been around long before microtransactions were a thing.

And aside from that I see no harm in cosmetic crap. I've no interest in useless superficial bullshit like that but if some kids want to stand out by buying some fancy skins or outfits, whatever, let them play dressup. I would get rid of it if I could but it's certainly among the least negative ways to use microtransactions.

Avatar image for Welverin

@dashaka: The only way to make earning the packs in ME3/A easier would be to give them away for free every five minutes.

The only reason to spend money on packs in those games is to get stuff without playing at all.

Avatar image for PSYCHOV3N0M

I know the gaming industry is a BUSINESS but..... the end still does not justify the means.....

Avatar image for R4gn4r0k

@PSYCHOV3N0M: Yeah there is nothing wrong with asking 60 for a product people spent a lot of hard work on.

Getting money from insidious microtransactions and lootboxes hardly seems ethical. Especially when 99% of the people want to avoid them and only a tiny percentage spend huge bucks, as they have some kind of addiction.

Avatar image for dudebropartyyo

Once i said as consumers we can fight micro transactions and dlc that gets ripped out of main game during development but than i remember that majority of players actually support this for whatever reason.

There was a time when i felt bad if i pirated a game from a big publisher but the more time goes on the less i guilt i feel if o do decide to pirate it.

Example of why i gave up Fifa ultimate team. When i bought Fifa 17 2 days after release in Australia (99 dollars) i played offline for one day to build a starting team of gold players. Second day my first online game comes up in starting division, pairs witha dude with a killer team, already had 4 or 5 worlds best players. I asked and he was honest to my surprise, he said he spend another 150 AUD as soon as he bought the game for 99 AUD on Fifa fut currency to get the best team possible because he is able to afford that. Obviously i lost, about 9-0 and i wasnt happy.

Now, i wasnt upset because i lost the game, i dont mind losing if im having fun playing, thats why we game, for fun. I was upset because i lost just because that player was able to spend more money than i could. It seems people these days who play online will do anything just to be certain ranking. In Fifa we have a whole year to play until next one comes out so wouldnt it be more fun to progress and build your team over the course of the year regardless of making it to Div 1 or Div 5.

Now im not saying i couldnt afford to spend 20 dollars on mtransaction but why, what is the fun of that.

People who put that argument about not enough time to play online so we pay let me tell you, online games are for people with more time than an average person with a full time job, you know 45 to 55 hours of work a week.

Microtransactions need to stop at all costs. Dlc is not so bad but lots of it is still overpriced bullshit ripped from the main game during development.

Avatar image for Papa_Pico619

@dudebropartyyo: Amen my brother in gaming. The next crash will send us all to indie games but their prices will double or triple, that will be the next reset.

Avatar image for PETERAKO

All this tells me is that games are slowly but surely become exclusive to players with huge pockets

Avatar image for PrpleTrtleBuBum

@PETERAKO: No they don't want that, they want to nickle and dime everyone, even the poorest of blokes

Avatar image for Papa_Pico619

@PrpleTrtleBuBum: correct, unity is getting a mobile upgrade that checks the persons phone and spending habits to adjust prices to what they feel someone would spend. Crazy huh. The thought rich assholes will be spending more makes me sleep better. Still not right.