Warframe has earned a reputation as one of the better free-to-play multiplayer games, both in terms of the quality of the game itself and its healthy relationship to microtransactions. After hearing how developer Digital Extremes handled a lucrative but unintended microtransaction, that reputation for the latter continues to grow.
In the final part of Danny O’Dwyer’s documentary on Warframe, he speaks to Digital Extremes general manager Sheldon Carter about Kubrows, dog-like creatures that were virtual pets and could accompany players on missions. When Kubrows were first introduced into Warframe, there was an option for players to spend a premium currency called Platinum to change the color of your Kubrow. Carter goes into detail about the decision to remove that transaction from the game, in spite of its success.
“When we first came up with Kubrows, we wanted people to be able to change the color and fur patterns of Kubrows. You could push a button and pay Platinum, you could change the color. Then you could’ve taken a print of that and you could trade it to someone else. We were trying to create a way for you to get something cool and then share it with your friends,” said Carter. “And then we saw a guy push the button 200 times. And we were just like ‘Oh, my dear god, what have we done? We’ve created a slot machine.’ So, it was a day and a half for us to take that out.”
“Obviously, that was insanely profitable for someone to be doing that, but that’s not what our design intent is or what the intent of the game is, so that’s why we changed it.” Carter continued. “When you’re dealing with something that has a cash component, you have to really be careful.”
Warframe has maintained a strong following over the years, and design decisions like this are one of the reasons the community remains engaged.
It’s very cool to see a developer recognize an issue with a microtransaction, own up to it, and proactively remove it before it turns into a controversial issue. It’s hard for any studio to turn away from easy money like that, but it goes to show the value of standing firm for Digital Extremes’ vision of what Warframe should be. If anything, removing these lucrative but harmful systems would only entice new players to try the game without worrying that they’re being taken advantage of.