Gears Of War: Judgment Has XP-Boosting Microtransactions

If Dead Space 3’s DLC caused a fuss, wait until you hear what Gears of War: Judgment offers to those happy enough to spend some real money on top of the full asking price: experience point doublers. Yep, it appears (via VG) that players can buy temporary boosters for XP that’ll massively improve your ratings online.

Booster packs are available in chunks of ‘matches’ starting from 80 Microsoft Points (£0.69) to double your XP for ten online games right up to a whopping 800 Microsoft Points (nearly £7) to do the same thing for 200 matches. You can see where they’re going here.

XP is used in Judgment to get new character and weapon abilities and skins, and there are Achievements focused on XP points too. Basically, if you play online, you won’t be able to avoid aiming to up your XP.

There’s also a “VIP Pass” for 1,600 Microsoft Points that unlocks certain online playlists that offer up the same XP boosts.

At least EA’s DLC didn’t make much impact outside of a confined single player experience. With this latest Gears Of War it’s clear that there’s an aim to get players parting with their cash to stay competitive online. On a 69p iPhone game it’s not hard to relate to this, but on a full price console title? Pay to win indeed.

Our review of the game is here.


  1. Thats pretty messed up, especially since there are XP based Cheevos (couldn’t resist…).

    • Even I’ll admit this is too much. I’m not a fan of MT’s, they just don’t bother me. But this is slightly ridiculous.

      • That wasn’t meant as a reply. Makes no sense if it was haha.

        Oh Kerash… CHEEVOS!!

  2. This is the thin end of the wedge. In the next generation, the majority of the boxed games available from the major publishers will be supported with microtransactions. It’s the beginning of the end of gaming as we know and love it folks.

    • Chill out. It’s not the beginning of the end of gaming at all. This is awful what they are doing in my opinion, but it is definitely not the beginning of the end.

      • Not of gaming in general, that’s not what I was saying, but certainly of the traditional model of buying a game. Boxed games as a single, one-off payment have already been eroded by day-one / on-disc DLC, but microtransactions and F2P will be ubiquitous in the next gen (and even the current one), and we’ll see a massive influx of pay-to-win options sooner rather than later.

        If the next CoD doesn’t include ‘XP boost’ and ‘VIP Pass’ style microtransactions then I’ll eat my soldier’s helmet.

      • Agreed.

      • That was agreed with Yiddo – Eldur replied at the same time to sneakily make it look like I agreed with him! ;)

      • I see where you are coming from. But business models do inevitably have to change. What they can’t do is expect to release fully fledged £40 games and still have these options available as if it were a free to play title. It’s not. The only way they can change is by people voting against it as much as possible, whether with their wallets or/and by rallying people online to cause as much of a fuss about these practices as possible. Personally, the recent CoD issue about ‘microtransactions’ doesn’t bother me, and if anything, that could save multiplayer gaming.

        Think about it. CoD is the leader for multiplayer gaming (on console anyway). If they don’t adapt this pay to win business model – instead sticking to their recent idea of adding in purchaseable weapon skins, sights and class slots (things that don’t affect the gameplay at all), then surely them as the platform leader will set that bar, and any competitors (who normally try to base themselves off CoD anyway) will try to adapt their model too. Wishful thinking maybe, but products will normally try to emulate the most successful product.

      • Yiddo, I absolutely agree. I’m not so worried about DLC or cosmetic enhancements, that’s fine if you want to pay for it, but I can’t see a future where the big brands pass up enormous amounts of secondary spend just because a few vocal diehards in the core community get up in arms about it. The vast majority of people who buy games like CoD, FIFA, NfS etc are not people who sit and pontificate on TSA all day, they are young adults who will pick up MW4 because it is MW4.

        And I’ll be you pennies to a pinch of sh*t that this majority won’t mind spending £1, £2, £5 to get a leg up in a game that they’ll be spending 100+ hours with over the next year, especially if they see their friends doing it. Things like XP Boosts, VIP Passes and *god forbid* additional (maybe even better) weapons are just around the corner.

        MW3 sold around 8.8 million copies. How long do you think Activision will wait before trying to leverage an extra £5 or so out of every one of those 8.8 million players for something that costs nothing to develop and almost nothing to administer?

      • As I said, they could get that extra £5 out of the masses through cosmetic DLC. They already have their routine map packs which everyone buys, and plus a £5 cosmetic pack they would be raking in a hell of a lot of money.

        I guarantee you that a lot of people will still buy the recently released pack that adds gun camos, sights and create a class slots. Probably as many people that would buy a ‘boost your XP’ pack. Activision, being a smart company, would not want to alienate those who are against the idea of pay to win. By enforcing just cosmetic packs, they can still get this extra income without pissing off a lot of people. They would be stupid to enforce a scheme that resembles pay to win, and I have a feeling that they know this would be stupid. CoD – the biggest multiplayer console game – is yet to introduce an online pass. For a company that is supposedly all about greed, that right there shows that they aren’t. They still have to think smart, and introducing new forms of DLC – especially ones that will affect ones rank/XP amount – would piss off at least a part of the fanbase. Maybe not alot, but a part. Wouldn’t it make more sense to instead release just cosmetic packs, so these same people that would buy the XP packs could buy them, whilst still not alienating as much of the fanbase?

        Just to note by the way, the first DLC pack did indeed add a multiplayer weapon. They did it right though by including it in a map pack, meaning that if they did it for all of their map packs you would only get 4 additional weapons. In my opinion that is nothing to cry about, especially considering that the weapon they did add in is quite average and games like BF3 have a tendency to add in 5+ weapons in a single DLC pack. Activision are doing things right in my opinion, no matter how much hate they get, and they are an incredibly smart business, so they will not make the wrong decisions. They probably will implement an online pass in future CoDs, but that’s become a staple of most online games today as more people get used to it, but I don’t think they will ever go down this ‘XP boost’ route. They have their little XP weekends that the majority know about and love.

      • You obviously have much more faith in human (and commercial) nature than I do, and that’s to your credit.

        All I’m saying is that the mega-publishers (spearheaded by EA) are just starting to grasp that hardcore gamers, the ones like you and me who frequent the blogs and actually care about the evolution of gaming, are in a shrinking minority.

        Think about how much outcry and rending of souls there’s been over the recent relaunch of SimCity. If you’ve been near the internet over the past couple of weeks, you’d have thought the game would’ve tanked thanks to all the enthusiasts bemoaning always-on DRM, no offline mode, poor support from EA etc. But where is this PC-only game sitting in the charts? Fifth, beating games with huge install bases and trouncing other mega-franchises without breaking a sweat. The majority doesn’t care about the problems, the just consume a franchise they enjoy and suck up the problems as part of the price of admission.

        I think the problem is that when people like EA and Activision (who I agree have been pretty good to the CoD crowd) see that the majority of the games playing public (note that I’m not saying ‘gamers’ here) will happily accept the redefining of what it is to actually buy and own a videogame, then more prolific (and deeper gouging) forms of payment will not be far behind.

      • Sorry I couldnt read anything after mention of soldiers helmets.

      • But as I said, even if the more ‘casual’ public gamer would be willing to part money with XP boosts and the like, hardcore gamers wouldn’t (well, if they had any common sense they wouldn’t). This means that they would STILL be neglecting an area of their fanbase. If they just stuck with the route of cosmetic packs etc, they wouldn’t alienate the hardcore as they wouldn’t really care, and the public would still lap it up. Activision will not try and live up to the evil corporation act that alot of the gaming media likes to portray them as, and by sticking to this route they would gain an edge on EA and the BF franchise who will cause a shitstorm between the online gaming communities when they inevitably introduce microtransactions and pay to win into BF.

        Also hardcore gamers are not shrinking, it’s just that gaming itself is getting bigger, thus attracting more casual gamers at the same time. You can’t honestly look at gaming sites which constantly grow, and new Youtube gaming channels that are set up all of the time and tell me that hardcore gaming is shrinking. It’s still growing, but the casual side of gaming is just growing at a faster rate.

        The Sim City issue is because it seems that alot of people just put up with it just because the game looked so great. I literally know of over 20 people that hate the issues yet still brought the game. It seems that alot of people are suckers, to put it bluntly. If people are going to be suckers, then a company should surely try to get extra money from them through means that do not effect gameplay – such as the recent CoD pack – and not risk alienating the core gamers who will be against this principle. It’s not about having faith in commercial nature, it’s about common sense. Activision would be cutting off their nose to spite their face if they ever did this (XP boosts etc).

      • The INSTANT I wrote that, I knew Tuffcub would *ahem* leap on it.

      • Pouncing……. Saville style.

      • I think we’re arguing the same thing from slightly more (me) or less (you) jaded points of view.

        Yes, gaming is getting bigger, driven predominantly by the mega-franchises, and thus this makes hardcore gamers a smaller proportion of the overall market. I accept that and admit my post could’ve made that clearer.

        If you’re arguing specifically about Activision and their approach to the CoD franchise then I’ll be more than happy to accept your point of view. But if you honestly think that publishers in general are afraid of ‘cutting off their (or should that be ‘our’?) noses to spite their face’ then I think the weight of evidence is with me – see the recent EA ‘all our games will include microtransactions’ reports for more info.

        I don’t think the publishers are afraid of p*ssing off the gamers. They know the money’s in the majority and they know that gamers are enthusiasts and it would take a lot to make them move away from something they love (as your anecdotal SimCity friends underline). Would XP Boosts really mean that you wouldn’t buy the next CoD? Really? If it only cost you 69p to get the same advantage? I think the loss in population would be more than eclisped by those willing to stump up.

        This is because. unfortunately, the majority is generally comprised of average, uninformed and compliant consumers and I think you’re hopelessly optimistic (or naive) if you believe that major publishers would take satisfying the esoteric desires of the hardcore over the shiny, shiny coins of the majority. And the best way to leverage that green is by making the people with money to burn feel better than those who don’t – starting with colourful guns and ending in giving cash-rich players a leg up in the experience. That’s the logic, and to see proof of it in action, you only need to read the article we’re commenting on.

      • I understand what you’re saying, but what I’m saying is they can get the coins off of the majority whilst still satisfying the hardcore. No one wants to lose any share of their fanbase. It is possible for them to – as you say – chase the coin of the majority whilst still satisfying the hardcore. They would preferably go that route, which wouldn’t include XP boosts.

        We’ll see how this whole issue in accordance with Gears pans out, but I know that EA recently backtracked on their whole ‘we will have microtransactions in everything’ by saying that they wouldn’t. To me, they’re not ‘scared’ of the hardcore gamer, but they still realise that they are massively important. How did Dead Space 3 fare? It sold poorly in comparison with their targets didn’t it? That false Videogamer article aside, it’s sales aren’t supposedly the amount EA wanted. You could say that it’s franchise fatigue but I honestly doubt it when it’s their third entry. Seems to me like a portion of the hardcore revolted against Dead Space 3 and seemingly won. A publisher will never underestimate or completely ignore hardcore gamers. They know it would be stupid. Yes, they can cater towards the more casual side of the audience, but the hardcore will always be acknowledged otherwise they’d still risk losing some of the fanbase – which in turn means not making as much profit as they COULD have done, even if they bring in more of the casual audience. Business says that they want to at least get everybody in on their product.

      • I suppose that it just depends on the amount by which the casual proportion outweigh the hardcore. If there’s more money in reaming the people who play the game than they’d lose in hardcore players taking the hump, then I think capitalism says they’ll do it. I wish it wasn’t so, but my experience tells me that companies, in general, follow the money. And, as I pointed out, I think it takes A LOT for real gamers to walk away from a game that they’re interested in – SimCity, Diablo 3 etc.

        As for Dead Space 3, I think the poor sales were as a result of middling reviews, an unacceptable (and misunderstood) paradigm shift in the game’s themes and the franchise fatigue that comes from having a genuinely outstanding opening entry (there’s another one for Tuffcub), rather than gamers upset over microtransactions.

        And even after the mewling stepdown, I think Jorgenson summed it all up when he said ‘”We’re building into all of our games the ability to pay for things along the way, either to get to a higher level, to buy a new character, to buy a truck, a gun, whatever it might be.” Even though he twisted and warped that statement after the fact, I think the sentiment is pretty clear for all to see.

      • I don’t think reviews and a change of theme were too blame for DS3. Some poorly reviewed games end up selling by the bucketload. The theme started to change with DS2, which as far as I’m aware had higher sales than DS1. So they are not the reason. The whole ‘controversy’ around Dead Spaces 3 DLC methods definitely had a part to play.

        Also I’m not saying you’re completely missing my point, but I kind of think you are. They can still ‘ream’ the masses, but they CAN do it whilst not pissing off the hardcore. It’s not like there’s only two options available.

        Option 1: Cater to the hardcore!
        Option 2: Cater to the casuals!

        No. They can balance it, and as I said, if they stuck to things that DIDN’T affect the gameplay in a pay to win style, they can do just that. A ‘Gun Personalisation’ pack adding in 10 gun camos and 5 different weapon sights could be put up on XBL and the PS Store for £3 – £5 and people would still lap it up. It would probably be lapped up from the public that you mention as much as an XP boost pack would. These devoted COD players will buy anything COD related – granted if it’s related to actual content within the game. I’m not saying that they’re all braindead but they are very devoted, and will lap up anything that is COD related that could enhance their game in anyway – be it the route of XP boosts, or camo/sights packs.

        Doing the latter will ensure that everyone is happy. Everyone being happy means more money. The hardcore who like COD will stick with it instead of going with the ‘tyrannical’ BF series which will (by this time) have probably introduced a pay to win scheme (if EA continue their practices as you say). The casuals/general public will also lap up these gun packs, saying to their mates ‘oh do you see this bacon gun camo? It’s cool isn’t it’. That way nobody really loses. The casuals get what they want. The hardcore remain unflustered.

      • I do understand what you’re saying, that doing non-pay-to-win DLC still makes them money and keeps the hardcore smiling, but I don’t think it’ll have escaped Kotick’s eye that he is in charge of the biggest entertainment juggernaut around and there’s plenty of ways to milk people for more money above and beyond customisation packs. And I bet he’s waiting to see if EA get away with P2W in BF4 (they will) before seeing if it’ll work in CoD (it will), because most people, after the initial backlash, will still want to play CoD and they’ll (at worst) accept being hamstrung compared to those people who’ll pay for a leg up or (at best) think ‘what the hell’ and buy a couple of boosts for themselves. I think you over estimate the actual, real world impact that forums engulfing themselves in web-flame generates, especially if somebody’s making (more) money somewhere.

        And I have to disagree on the subject of Dead Space’s sales. I’d say that outside of the forums and the blogs, negative reviews and a perceived shift in type from horror to action (which isn’t true by the way) has a much more overt effect on sales than some enthusiasts whinging on a website about microtransactions. Anecdotally, of all my gaming friends that didn’t buy DS3 cited the shooter-centric approach and the co-op focussed marketing as reasons not to buy. Other than mild derision, the microtransactions were hardly mentioned – most likely because they’re so tangential to the main gameplay. As it should be.

      • Well, we’ll see what the general consensus is about Gears in a few months time, and see how people react to this. BF4 will also show wether this will be here to stay.

        Personally, I don’t think it will be. It would be stupid for this to become the norm, with you suggesting that everybody will always roll over and take it from the mega publishers. I think you’re being a bit too doom and gloom about things. Even the more so ‘casuals’ will eventually get pissed off. There’s only so long somebody can take the piss, and even if they are considered ‘casual’, the general public are not completely braindead and a portion of them will realise they are being dimed if this reaches the level of scummery that it can reach.

      • I have said on several occassions that I’m a cynical bastard, to be fair.

        And I’m never surprised by how much crap the ‘general public’ is willing to put up with. The success of Simon Cowell is proof positive of that.

  3. This is the step too far for microtransitions.

    We as gamers have to show we don’t want to go this way.

  4. Microtransactions don’t normally bother me, but this will definitely impact other users who don’t buy them. Sadly this will likely become more and more commonplace as well. Shame.

  5. The thing I’m wondering, is if you pay for this as well as getting the season pass which also gives double XP in some matches; do those matches get 4x XP (I’m assuming not), and if not, is it intelligent enough to not deduct the games you play that give double XP in the season pass from the 200 games you get in your micro-transaction? Otherwise you could be paying for double XP, and then losing out by playing qualifying matches from the season pass.

    I know I didn’t explain that very eloquently, but you get the gist.

  6. This is really bad and will surely ultimately detract from the online portion. People like myself would think its a waste of time playing online when it can be so easily manipulated.

  7. I do love games that allow players to pay to win and makes the experience a bit shit due to everyone having better weapons or an overpowered ability that they bought. Seriously, if Mircotransactions are going to become a big part of gaming, gaming can feck right off. As i flat out refuse to put up with buy this thing we know that you need for a fiver or spend the next 9 hours looking for it and end up rage quiting.

    I’m not going to like the next generation am i? I’ll go and join Hazelam in her wall of text that rants against something here club then. :o

  8. Looks like micro transactions are here to stay. Not too fussed if they are present in SP games (if Jimmy I-Suck-At-Games I want to make his game easier thats up to him, it doesn’t effect me), but if they become the norm in multi, well, thats when I give up multi.

  9. if developers and publishers are going to include microtransactions for MP XP they need to tweak the leaderboards to show how much players spend on the XP doubling, or figure the positions from the base XP scores. Theres no point in having leaderboards if youre going to allow players to pay to be at the top.
    If the industry continues this nonsense we’re going to start to hear jokes about how hell is populated with lawyers, nazis… and software developers. ;)

    personally I’ve abandoned all hope that the industry would see the error of their ways a while ago and have since made some tough decisions about the future of my gaming hobby, so news like this neither surprises me or effects me.

  10. Boo pay to win. This is not a good precedent.

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