Shots Fired At Krakens In Marvel Strike Force Event

We've covered Marvel Strike Force before, but this is going to take a different turn. This article is going to reveal a bit about the darker side of business ethics in gaming and microtransactions today, and cover how the current market absolutely enables this.  Because Scopely, the studio behind Marvel Strike Force has posted a dog whistle of a holiday event. You can go to any decent community-run forum or Scopely page to find out how irritated players are. But sweet player tears are not the point here.  Why this multi-million dollar company's holiday move took place, is.

In short, the Thanksgiving rewards were laughable. A holiday event called "Thanosgiving" presumed that most players would play Blitz – the fastest game mode – and enjoy some paltry rewards.   Some of the rest could 'whale' out — the term used for heavy spending on the game's microtransactions to get the most powerful items first — for more rewards. And it's worth noting that the event's last tier of rewards comes with spending.

Shots Fired at Krakens in Marvel Strike Force Event
Event Milestones Courtesy of Scopely

For those who don't know, whaling culture is pretty prominent in Marvel Strike Force. There are even lifestyle whales who have coined a new term for themselves — "krakens". At this point, players who've spent four to five figures in this game exist in droves. The game encourages it with power creep — having the most demonstrably powerful characters be recent releases. Arguably, the ethics of that kind of market are best left to consumer and personal responsibility. If I am a million-dollar-earner and want to spend a ridiculous amount on linking my account to Silver Surfer shards instead of doing something stupid like preserving the actual Amazon rainforest, that's my prerogative. And maybe that's also the only way that a million-dollar-earner can afford the time to play Silver Surfer. Whatever.

If you are a company with a dedicated and fixed market — like Marvel Strike Force, with numerous players who log in without missing a day for years running — you'll have tons of data. You'll know how often consistent spenders are buying what. And you will know that you have these krakens who click on offers because that makes them feel good. That data will show that you also have excited players who want to be in league with the insane armies of top players and that they're willing to be cavalier with their spending.

Calculators pegged completing this year's Thanksgiving event at around $1,000-2000 actual dollars. The process also involves opening tons of orbs to get dismal rewards — each orb pays out less than the game's free orbs. And as a spender is taking those tens of minutes opening crappy orbs, they will be shown jackpot images of rewards that they can win — but the chance of success is so low that the game literally shows the success probability as 0%.  Because the success chance is that much closer to 0%, than it is to .001%.

Shots Fired at Krakens in Marvel Strike Force Event
Weird Gambling Rates, Courtesy of Scopely

That, there, is the bad move that Scopely has pulled. Aware or not, the effect this jackpot has on krakens who crave that huge pay-out to max out yet another awesomely powerful new character will entice questionable spending. Those rewards don't reward getting lucky, they reward having literally thousands of these orbs — which you'll have if you spend unquestioningly. For most, the simple answer is "well don't buy into that."  The rest might want to ask themselves some hard questions. As far as Scopely is concerned, if they're a smart company, they'll want to investigate if their bottom line is really worth continuing to juice the game's deep-sea spenders this way.  According to forums' laments, the event has really discouraged many.

In the meantime, Scopely has only been silent instead of issuing any statement on Thanosgiving. Maybe it is the holidays and they expected to be able to take a break. Maybe they didn't actually realize that some players treat any milestone that's listed like a compulsion. But if this event is any indication of how this microtransaction-driven economy will put the squeeze on its biggest spenders, then Marvel Strike Force's oceanic spenders are best off realizing some discretion.

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About Eric Hillery

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