Dead Space 3 Producer On Microtransactions, And Why EA Doesn’t Want To Alienate Smartphone Gamers

Dead Space 3 uses micro-transactions to top up your in-game currency – you’ll know this. Basically if you don’t have enough resources in your inventory to spec out your next weapon, you can use real cash to buy your way through the obstruction. Will this affect the game’s ‘regular’ gameplay routes, or will this (possible) circumvention spoil the flow?

In an interview with CVG, Dead Space 3 producer John Calhoun seems to think that because it’s optional, nobody really needs to be too concerned. But he also says that this method of progressing in a game is well known to smartphone gamers (indeed, he’s absolutely right) and wants to try to echo some of that with Dead Space 3.

The issue, as previously highlighted, is that smartphone games tend to cost a quid or so, if they’re not free. Dead Space costs £50.

“Not much has been spoken about that,” he says, referring to the micro-transactions applicable when on the in-game workbench, “but I can tell you the details now. The way the micro-transactions work, is that there’s only three things that you can buy, and they’re basically tiers of different resources. Resources are extremely valuable in Dead Space – we got rid of credits entirely. Everything that you can find in the game can be constructed from resources, which includes Tungsten, Semi-Conductors, Somatic Gel.”

“Combining these in different ways will create either a weapon part, an ammo pack or an upgrade to Isaac’s suit. There’s a lot of players out there, especially players coming from mobile games, who are accustomed to micro-transactions. They’re like ‘I need this now, I want this now’. They need instant gratification. So we included that option in order to attract those players, so that if they’re 5000 Tungsten short of this upgrade, they can have it.”

Thankfully, Dead Space 3 is also hoping to appeal to regular console gamers not used to this way of thinking. Calhoun concedes that most of the dev team are “hardcore Dead Space players, who are reluctant to spend money outside the purchase of the game,” so everything can still be achieved with whatever resources are available in-game.

Calhoun is keen to address the inevitable accusations that this model is simply “pay to win,” gouging customers and devaluing the accomplishment of beating the game. He says “We would never make a game you have to pay to win. There are genres of games where that is the answer, and you know what? The world has spoken, they suck.” But he also acknowledges the desire to make games that people “keep on their shelves.”

Wether or not microtransactions will make Dead Space 3 more attractive to the legions of gamers more used to the smartphone model remains to be seen. It’s difficult to imagine that, in the comparison between an AppStore game and a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 game, it’s the microtransactions which are putting off mobile phone fans. Surely it’s much more logical to think that the price of entry being between ten and sixty times greater than that of paid smartphone games is a bigger discouragement.


  1. So, in order to attract mobile gamers (which won’t happen, as mobile gamers are attracted by free games, not microtransactions), he alienates current gamers. Smart move, if you want to kill off a franchise that is just starting to bloom.
    Not only do I have problems with those in-game purchases in a full price game for obvious reasons, there is also a practical problem with it: Even if I don’t want to use it, I will keep getting reminded of THE POSSIBILITY of purchasing. I am pretty sure Isaac doesn’t have access to the PSN store built into his suit, so getting those reminders and options will constantly remind me that I am just playing a game. That’s so counter-productive…
    The entire idea of microtransactions is based on a wear-out strategy: keep wearing the gamer down until he caves in, and buys. A bit like Jehova’s witnesses of telephone sales companies do. I don’t want that in my game.

    I bought DS 1 and 2 and found those games absolutely brilliant. But no, I won’t be picking up DS 3, because of the, until it hits the bargain bin. That is the only line of defense I have against the further embedding of microtransactions in my otherwise favorite pastime…

    • I’d have to disagree and add a “speak for yourself” about the free games on mobile platforms. I usually look for games that actually cost money as I want to make sure they’re up to scratch and coded by people who’ve put in some serious effort (and think it’s worth something). Additionally, I’m happy with IAPs if used sensibly. Only yesterday, I was playing Saints Row the Third and fancied grabbing a bit of DLC. Sure, it was called DLC but I would’ve liked to have done that in-game as oppose to in Steam. Mind you, I might’ve been able to but couldn’t see an option.

      I think we can all see that it’s an additional revenue stream but hope to hell that it’s used sensitively instead of nagging IAP messages that will ultimately drive the likes of you and I away.

      Keep in mind that some IAPs aren’t about wearing the gamer down until he/she doesn’t have a choice. Just recently I played a game like that on the iPhone. I was hovering over an IAP every time it was difficult but realised I needed to plough on and then revisit the levels with my pimped out character who could then manage three gold stars on the levels that were too tricky first time around. A bit frustrating but nothing more than that.

      Just to reiterate… if they push IAPs in my face then I’ll leave the franchise quicker than children from Savile’s basement!

      • The ingame purchases I refer to are not your regular DLC, but the type of “Sorry, you don’t have enough materials to produce this. Grind until you have enough, or.. Want to buy 5000 units for $5?

        That’s what’s happening in DS3.
        That’s what’s bad.
        (and yes, the iPhone example is EXACTLY what I mean. Fine on the iPhone, because those games usually don’t cost more than a dollar, but on a $60 AAA game?)

      • Oh, the nasty IAPs no one wants. The ones that feel like moderate gouging of money are highly questionable. However, there are gamers out there who truly want to enjoy the game the way they want to and IAPs can form a part of that if used sensibly and sparingly. If IAPs are to show-up everywhere, fingers crossed it’s dealt with in a manner that makes us happy (or at least doesn’t make us angry). :-)

      • Exactly. As I’ve tried to convey, this isn’t DLC. This is repeated microtransactions for in-game currency. Regardless of what they call it (resources, LOL) it’s cash. And you’ll be asked to pay real cash in exchange for fake cash.

        More than once.

  2. That he says the resources are extremely valuable tells me that yes, you can play the game without paying extra, but when you get stuck at a boss with a conveniently placed upgrade terminal just before it, its pretty clear what they expect people to do. Shall I try for the 20th time to beat it with my slightly upgraded rifle or shall I pay £5 and beat it easily?

    I wonder how long it will be until “pay to unlock achievements/trophys” is introduced. You know it’ll happen sooner or later.

    • Oh and good article by the way, especially the point about the price difference between pay to win mobile games & console games. The casual mobile gamer is simply not going to even consider spending £50 on 1 game. If they were serious about attracting mobile gamers they’d sell it for £10 maximum.

    • It wouldn’t surprise me if there is a trophy for making an in game purchase. Most likely these purchases will have a minimum spend too!

  3. “i don’t need this now, i don’t want this now”

  4. What an utterly ridiculous excuse for what is clearly EA being greedy.

    • Exactly what I thought when I read that.

      Typical corporate post rationalisation for a controversial, money grabbing mechanic. And this is the thin edge of the wedge.

      • “post rationalisation”

        EA are masters at this.

        Just look at the change in tact over SSX from that ‘survive the mountain’ bollocks to tugging on nostalgic heart strings. Their initial reveal of the game tanked & as it was bashed from pillar to post by every single gaming outlet… the game never changed… but everything EA mentioned was so carefully managed that it got tons of positive coverage in the run up to release.

        Fuck project ten dollar, fuck their DLC obsession, fuck changing games to bring project ten dollar to forefront, fuck them bringing DLC to the forefront… their long term dripping tap effect is coming to fruition as by & large they’ve kept people onside all the way through, but all these extra costs will be unavoidable. Fuck EA

      • SSX is a quality game really enjoyed/enjoy it.

  5. Nope won’t be buying it out of principle they won’t learn if everyone bought it. To buy a game is like buying a film for me to sit down get involved in the story line and enjoy it not to be reminded that its a game and to be able to get past certain hard bits it would be easier to pay money to do it.
    EA are getting ridiculous with this type of micro transaction in almost all games so now they can stick FIFA, sims, dead space, tiger woods and whatever else they push out every year where the sun don’t shine.

  6. EA are a bunch of idiots. Carry on by all means, I’m out though.

    EA have just over taken Activision in terms of money grabbing bastardness.

    • Activision: Releases a franchise every year.
      EA: Releasing a franchise every year, sometimes several times a year when an alternative game under the same franchise lands in between.
      Single use online codes for online features such as multiplayer, leaderboards & ghosts, no doubt whatever else can be shoehorned in.
      Games require sign-up to their own service
      DLC obsession
      DLC becoming more integral to main experience
      DLC will be the only way to access main experience

      There’s no comparison & I’ve always struggled to understand the Activision hate, a new game is easy to miss if it’s too soon for your expectation, everything EA do lives & breathes opening your wallet to take more out of it… They’re the ultimate pay2play company & that’s on top of the increasing price of the game.

      • Activision aren’t exactly saints. They know people are addicted to their games and release sequels above regualr RRPs because fuck gamers, that’s why. Not to mention the ridiculous prices they ask for map packs.
        EA is trying to cash in on a broader but more shallow scale while Activision is milking a specific demographic and I’d say both are pretty good at what they’re doing.

      • Oh I wouldn’t paint them to be saints, they’re a business in the business of making money… but EA’s saturation is a whole different league, so much so I just don’t see the comparison… they do what Acti does, eg. push the RRP up of things like FIFA, but then there’s everything else on top of the higher entry price.

        It’s going to be awful

    • THQ would have done the same if they had the power but they didn’t and that certainly didn’t keep them alive… :/
      If things like this get abused and become the norm, indie games will raise even higher. I’d like that to happen (the indie game part, obviously).

  7. “They’re like ‘I need this now, I want this now’. They need instant gratification.” Yes, these people clearly have ADHD and need to be diagnosed and treated accordingly.

  8. While I think the whole “appeal to mobile gamers” thing is the dumbest crap I’ve read in a long while, I can see why EA are going this route.
    You already have DLC that unlocks stuff (racing games) or that gets you new / better weapons but most (semi) casual gamers don’t bother to check the PSN store to see if there is something they can buy so having the advertisement within the game is much more convenient in terms of milking the gamer.
    If this is really just a system in place for people to get great gear earlier in the game to progress quicker and with less hassle, then I’m fine with that. Not everyone is really good at games and some of them might still want to enjoy the story of such games but if they conveniently restrict access to these ressources to the point where you are always just a few items away from a really good upgrade then that’s just sad.

    • I totally agree, it’s no worse than DLC, it’s just purchased in-game which as you say makes better sense than using the God-awful Store.
      We should really blame the people that buy such items – if this strategy didn’t work, they wouldn’t put it in the game.
      I also think EA have gone down this route since Dead Space 3 doesn’t have multiplayer, so they can’t sell a DLC season pass for new maps or 100’s of skins like Uncharted 3 did.
      I really don’t think it’s an issue if you can avoid it and so long as they haven’t made difficulty spikes to make you need to purchase items earlier than they are obtained during the game.

    • What’s wrong with just having an easy mode?

      • What about people who don’t have a lot of time to get all the cool things in games (usually towards the end of the game or for a second playthrough) but still want them?
        I admit to buying the Burnout Paradise DLC that unlocked all cars and bikes at some point. I got the game very cheap and after playing it every now and then for a few weeks I just wanted to have some fun with the best cars in the game so I spent a few Euros and I don’t regret it at all. I’ve never played it online so that purchase didn’t affect anyone negatively.
        Why so many people care about how others play their games goes beyond my understanding.

  9. I’m expecting a trophy that you can only get with an upgrade from a microtransation. So it’s not pay to win but pay for platinum.

  10. Am surprised that your shocked at EA doing this .They have been doing this in some form or another in the majority of there games . Shortcut packs in Battlefield BC and Need for Speed. EA wont stop doing this sort of action because they know that people out there will do ie Cash Rich/time poor people.

    • Yeah, but its a good excuse to bash Dead Space 3 again.

      • Bashing any company that does this is needed, as much as possible, so well done TSA. EA are a bunch of conmen in my eyes.

      • How ignorant, you do realise you don’t HAVE to buy this in-game currency/DLC right? Jeez. In fact, DLC is worse – at least with this method EVERYTHING is still obtainable in-game for FREE if you earn it, unlike DLC which is for additional stuff.

        Agreed EA are conmen, but – as is my point – this kind of “rinsing” attitude is not exclusive to Dead Space 3.

      • Yeah, as long as it only adds a way for more people to enjoy the game while keeping it optional for everyone else, bashing this move without any specific details just shows how much of a problem elitism is in the gaming scene.
        So many people feel entitled to get the game they want it to be while there are people out there who couldn’t even beat the game on easy. Let them pick up the game for 10€ in a year or two and let them spend another 10€ to beat the game.

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