@TC_Octus @anon86589457 You encouraged us to give you our feedback on the stream Thursday, took me a bit to get the time but here’s mine. I’ll try and break it up into categories so it’s easier to read (sorry it’s a long one, but I’m hoping it adds more value because it’s thoughtful and has examples).
- The Lambent characters look awesome. The issue with the packs is that when they were teased at the beginning of the month there was no mention of the Lambent being for money only. Having characters or skins for purchase exclusively with money isn’t unprecedented in Gears 4 (eSports packs and Run the Jewels), but the price point is. There is also the matter of expectations. All other skins so far in Gears 4 have been available either via money, credits, or another earnable method (special promotional skins such as the Rockstar are slightly different) and most have been available via at least 2 methods. The only ones exclusively locked behind a paywall have been the well-publicized eSports and RTJ pack, everything else has been available with credits. The Lambent announcement was unexpected since most of the community were expecting this pack to be like most of the previous packs, available via both credits and money, and there was no indication that this pack would be any different. Look at the way previous highly anticipated packs were hyped and announced, everything from the Armored Kantus to the NCOG were all hyped and then made available via both money and credits.
- The idea of a “Pay for what you want” isn’t a bad one in and of itself, so I don’t want TC to come away with that impression. In fact, many people, myself included, have been asking for something like that since we had it all the way back in GOW3. But again, the price point is a huge issue. The total cost of getting everything in the Lambent pack is almost $50 (before tax), which is now more than the game costs. This pack is similar in structure to the RTJ pack and the community generally accepted $20 as a reasonable price. The difference in price point (even accounting for there being 2 Lambent skin sets) is what I consider unreasonable. Again, I do like the “Pay for what you want” concept, but I completely disagree with the way it was implemented.
To delve into this further, let’s look back at GOW3. In GOW3 you did have some micro-transactions in the form of “Pay for what you want” weapons skins. But most of the characters and weapons skins were earnable through gameplay (modes, ranking up, medals, etc). This meant that you could purchase a specific skin if you really wanted to and it was clear from the beginning that these particular skins were only available via purchasing with money. There was no expectation of those skins being free (there was no credit or scrap system back then). Now take a look at GOW4. The precedent was set at launch that most packs would be available via credits or money and until last Thursday only the eSports and RTJ packs were exclusively for money, and those were widely publicized as such. But the sudden shift to money only for a heavily hyped and community requested skin/character set drew an obvious backlash from the community. As @BChaps said during the Dev stream, it’s hard to believe that TC didn’t see this coming.
In the future, I do think there’s a market for “Pay for what you want” in the Gears community, but that has to be clearly communicated ahead of time. For instance, the Rise of Raam pack was well publicized for months ahead of time, both with the comic and then the subsequent announcement of the packs for money first and then for credits later. That was not the case here for the Lambent packs. I actually would have considered buying them if the packs were reasonably priced, but $50 was way too much.
Now, I’m guessing a lot of people will disagree with me here, but what we were looking for in a “Pay for what you want” option wasn’t a money exclusive option, it was for a money and credit option. If TC didn’t want to tie the credit/money ratio exactly to the current packs (it’s something like 400 cr/$1 for a Horde Booster), I would have accepted something like 5-6000 credits for a single character (Legendary). That might seem steep, but you’d probably spend that much on 2000 cr packs to get it anyways and these numbers are just made up. I suggested a while back on a Dev stream that you make a Mega-pack available via credits for those who want everything, but don’t want to deal with the RNG. For something like this I wouldn’t call it unreasonable in my opinion to do a Lambent pack with everything included for something like 40-50k credits. It’s still a grind to get that many credits, you could possibly get everything for less credits with individual packs, but this way at least you are guaranteed to get everything. Now I know not everyone will agree with this method or credit point, but it’s just a suggestion. I know I’m in a position where I have more credits than I know what to do with, but not everyone is in that position.
- And now to the heart of the problem. The issue you’re truly running into is that you aren’t communicating well with your community. This is meant to be constructive criticism of how the community managers/team are interacting with the community, not a bashing of the individuals personally so please do not take it as such.
Now hear me out @TC_Octus, @anon86589457 . I fully understand that TC is a business and at the end of the day a business needs to make money. But in an industry like the gaming industry you aren’t going to make money if you piss off your community and they refuse to spend money. I know the 3 of you aren’t responsible for making these kinds of business decisions. I get that and I can appreciate the difficult position you’re in, but your jobs as community relations means that you have to communicate with our community in a clear and transparent manner, and frankly a lot of the community doesn’t feel as if you are doing that very well.
For instance, if when the Lambent were teased in the What’s Up at the beginning of August it was simultaneously announced that they would be available for money only I believe you would have still had a bit of an uproar, but not as much as you experienced after teasing it for a month and then dropping that little tidbit the day before the packs dropped. Now, was it your decision to make the packs for money only or setting the price? Probably not. But as community managers it’s your job to hear us out and explain those kinds of decisions. I asked on the stream for you to explain that price point, hoping to hear why the entire skin set was 2.5 times as expensive at the RTJ pack and you declined to answer. I think that was a mistake and I’ll explain why. @AceMcCloud asked you to bring on someone from the Dev team who makes the skins to show how complex it is and maybe answer some general questions. That question tied into mine. Answering my question would have allowed you, as the face of TC to the community, to defend your price by showing the amount of work that goes into something like this pack. It would also have allowed you to explain the process and decision that went into the creation of the skins and setting of the price. That’s the kind of transparency the community is looking for and a lot of us feel like we’re not getting. No one is saying people won’t spend money on packs, look at how well eSports packs sell. We’re just asking for fairness in it because that price point is huge. Getting frustrated with the negative feedback from the community and refusing to talk about the subject any further after the first 15 minutes didn’t go over well with a lot of people (hence the improvement to community interaction).
The Lambent pack debacle is just the latest in how the community relations team has made mistakes. I’m going to list just a few here that I can remember off the top of my head. I realize you may not have made these mistakes personally, but some were made by a member of the social media team/community relations team and others by different departments, but again as the face of TC to the community we’re bringing these mistakes to you.
3.a. I’ll briefly mention the first iteration of the UIR packs. 4400 credits for a single pack and only available for 24 hours. TC’s reaction (I think this was PezRadar) to the negative community backlash was to essentially “calm down, we’ll eventually lower the price but not now”. This just shows that whoever priced these didn’t routinely play the game. The game had been out for only a few months and it took quite a long time to earn that many credits. Even a single Insane Horde run back then wouldn’t have earned that many credits. This illustrates the disconnect between whichever team sets the price and the community.
3.b The first Christmas skins, Icy Boom in particular if I recall correctly, was announced to be available by logging on a specific day, Dec 26th I think (I might be slightly off). Then when the 26th rolled around there was no Icy Boom skin. Turns out TC had changed the date and announced it on Twitter, but no where else. The splash screen still proclaimed the 26th, FB and the official website too. So this is a definitely a fail for your community relations/social media team.
3.c.Onyx Gold Swarm weekend. This is just the easiest example, but by the time this pack rolled out most of the community knew to expect server issues anytime TC released an update. This was no different. A large portion of the community couldn’t even log on that weekend, couldn’t earn credits, and couldn’t buy the packs because of the update and TC’s only response was to extend the pack by 24 hours. That didn’t allow time for everyone who expected to spend the weekend grinding for credits to earn credits. Now the pragmatic part of me says to always be prepared (I had a stockpile of credits and was still able to buy them), but many of my friends didn’t and weren’t able to grind a lot of credits to get them in time. Now the real issue here isn’t so much TC’s response to the community, which seemed to many like a slap in the face, but the fact that TC typically released the update on Friday afternoon and then seemed to go home and not wait to see if there were any issues. I recall the official forums being flooded with complaints and the first official response from TC being on Sunday, 2 days after the issues began. That seems to me the bigger issue in how TC responded to the issue and the lack of communication between the community relations team and the community.
3.d. Even the little details that slip through just show a general lack of caring. For example, I think it was Weapons Skins Pack #3 when released was advertised as having 4 skin sets available. But if you actually looked at the packs there were 5 skin sets in that pack. This wasn’t just a one location mistake, it was on Twitter, the Official page, the splash screen, FB. Everywhere. Someone approved that announcement without actually knowing what was in that pack. That’s a rookie mistake that may seem small to some, but really illustrates the level of attention TC is giving to the packs and therefore the community. This one definitely falls on the social media/community relations team.
3.e. Registering for special events/skins. Why was this always so difficult and different almost every time? Sometimes registering for these events, such as the first Easter event and skins or the Flaming skins, was a treasure hunt to find the registration link. Sometimes it was on the splash screen, sometimes it was on a thread in the forums, but never was it always the same place. I distinctly recall the stream when this question was brought up and TC’s response was that “We figured only the hardcore fans would bother registering so we didn’t think it would be important to make it easy to register.” Now, I’m glad TC has finally moved away from this but it really says something about TC’s thought process when that’s your community relations manager’s response.
I could see and hear at the beginning of the stream last Thursday how much you guys weren’t looking forward to the questions and community reaction. The negative comments had been coming in since the announcement of the What’s Up. I really think that if you improve the way you communicate and interact with the community then you will see a lot less negativity directed at TC. Please take this constructive criticism, and just so you don’t think it’s all negative I do commend Dana for immediately shutting down whoever threw out the tasteless comment about the Florida shooting during the stream. Good on him.