Like every big AAA Xbox game from Microsoft with online play, Gears 5 has microtransactions. But it's not the contentious lootbox type, it's the more-favored cosmetics. This isn't a revolutionary feature.
At Gamescom 2019, Gears of War Multiplayer Design Director Ryan Cleven confirmed Gears 5's microtransactions. The monetization is purely cosmetic, and you always know what you're going to buy. Gears 5's in-game store lets you buy a premium currency with real money, which is then traded for digital skins in a storefront. There's no lootboxes (The Coalition would be insane to include them). Sounds pretty standard for today's games, right?
Well Cleven says this is direct monetization is "ahead of the industry," when in reality, games have been using this storefront tactic for a while (Path of Exile, Assassin's Creed Origins and Odyssey, Anthem, Warframe, the list goes on). It's nothing new or innovative. In fact, a new trend would be to rip out microtransactions altogether and simply rely on Xbox Game Pass subscription revenues to supplement game sales. But hey, that'd completely disrupt Microsoft's entire service-first business model.
"We really think we're ahead of the industry here in getting rid of loot boxes and making sure that we can both service people that are looking to accelerate their progression or earn cosmetics using money but also keeping the integrity of the game experience," Claven told GamesIndustry.biz in an effort to try and make Gears 5 out to be a mTX game-changer.
Is cosmetic mTX preferable? Well generally yeah. But is it revolutionary? Absolutely not.
"We just felt that lootboxes weren't a good fit for Gears and we wanted to be ahead of the curve looking for possible solutions, even before all the controversy."
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But...Gears 5 was likely built from the ground up with microtransactions and monetization in mind. Horde Mode is prime territory for a grindy, repeatable online experience built around engagement. And do we really think The Coalition and Microsoft learned nothing from the infamous Battlefront II lootbox fiasco of 2017?
It just sounds like a lot of PR-speak to me, PR-speak that doesn't actually make sense. Devs and publishers often defend monetization even when it doesn't make sense in the game, but all of Microsoft's biggest projects are built around online hooks/monetization/engagement just as much as they are built around narrative stories, gameplay, and new mechanics.
It's just part of the formula over at Xbox, a formula that routinely makes the company billions every quarter.
Even with Game Passes' success we probably won't see an end to monetization any time soon. Halo: Infinite should have the same kind of cosmetic-only monetization based on weapon skins and armor customization.