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Helix Credits: Ubisoft’s Latest Cash Grab

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What’s the first thing that comes to mind whenever someone mentions ‘microtransactions’?

For most people, microtransactions are a game’s way of saying, “We need more of your money. By the way, we say optional, but if you haven’t dumped $20 into the pot, you’re probably falling behind.” They’re not standing in front of your screen with their wallets held open, but they might have their fingers crossed with pleasant smiles on their faces as they watch you play. Whether or not you have to have these extra items depends on the game and your personal needs – and of course, whether or not the developers are subtly skewing in-game resources to push more people towards the cash shop.

In the midst of all this smiling and finger-crossing, Ubisoft’s introduced ‘Helix Credits’, their own brand of in-game currency to be used within Assassin’s Creed: Unity to unlock upgrades. This is all well and good until you realize that you have to purchase these ‘Helix Credits’ with real money. As in, spend much more than the $60 you dropped on the actual game to access more of the game’s content. It’s kind of like buying a brand new car and then having the dealership call you back to say you need to pay $700 extra for the heated seats that were supposed to come with the car in the first place. Of course, you can figure out how to install those heated seats yourself, but that’ll take a lot more work and risk.

salesman

“Oh, you wanted the windshield wipers, too? That’ll be $49.99.”

Uh….Ubisoft? You said this was a single player game, didn’t you? Put that money down and come back here, I’m not done talking to you!

When asked about the microtransactions, Ubisoft did affirm that “Every item in the game is unlockable through normal progression.” In reassurance that the game wouldn’t turn out to be pay-to-win, they added, “The player progression and economy is tailored to NOT push the player to pay. Everything is balanced in a way that the player will never feel forced to buy, but rather to keep playing the game to access better gear and become stronger. Monetization in ACU is limited to time-savers.”

The Helix Credits act just like the credits you’ve probably purchased in a game like SWTOR or Lord of the Rings Online. There’s customizations, boosts, map augments, and weapon upgrades, some of which can be obtained simply by playing the game. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s possible to simply wallet-surf your way through game progression.

These credits aren’t exactly cheap, however. Since Ubisoft has no plans to release a full price list, Polygon provided a screenshot of what appears to be the lowest amount of cash you can spend for Helix credits:

poly

Call me cheap, but $19.99 as the smallest number is a bit much, and $99.99 is pushing it. It’s unknown as to why Ubisoft set their prices so high, but we can assume at this point it was to cover their asses in case the game flopped, given the record of highly anticipated yet poorly delivered games this year.

A single-player game with a multiplayer option doesn’t come anywhere in the general area of needing an extra cash grab. Let players unlock that content themselves, rather than wave cash shops in front of them like carrots to horses. We’ve all reached a point in a game where we find a difficult spot – we either figure it out or call it quits for awhile. Ubisoft’s catering to that little voice in the back of our heads that says, “Wow, this method’s a pain in the ass. I guess I’ll go ahead and drop a $20 and get it over with.”

Which, you know, is fine for an MMO where a big focus is leveling. If you like grinding, don’t take the $60 character boost on World of Warcraft.

It’s wishful thinking to hope Ubisoft will drop the microtransactions, but I don’t expect that they’ll make as much off of us as they’d hoped.

 

 

About Deborah Crocker

Deborah is a 22 year old semi-hermit currently plodding through her senior year of college and getting her feet wet in game journalism. She has a somewhat unhealthy obsession with high fantasy, video games, novels, and Elder Scrolls. When she's not in front of a screen, she enjoys singing and a bit of beading. She's also currently on the hunt for the restaurant with the best cheeseburger.

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