Most recently, Activision announced the superbly titled Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, which comes after the company remastered the original three games into the N. Sane Trilogy, as well as Crash Team Racing into Nitro-Fueled.
Unfortunately, the big unveiling hasn’t been without its controversy, with evidence to suggest the presence of microtransactions in Crash 4.
The developers, Toys For Bob, have tried to quell the negative buzz around the findings, but there’s a very good reason why we be counting our chickens just yet.
Discovering the inevitable in-app purchases
Activision and their love of microtransactions, in-game stores, and loot boxes is legendary. They have infused these practices into many of their already wildly successful franchises to the dismay of loyal players.
However, due to the historic popularity of their franchises, the games sell themselves. So, the company can continue to participate in these anti-consumer practices.
It has been around 12 years since the last new, fully-fledged instalment to the beloved Crash Bandicoot series. The promise of 100 stages potentially makes it one of the most exciting upcoming releases of the year.
However, when players went to pre-order the game via the Microsoft Store, they found that the top-tier price tag (£55/$60) had a ‘+’ symbol attached, followed by the ‘Offers in-app purchases’ label.
Of course, the major outlets noticed this, and the news has since made the rounds that the long-awaited next game in the storied franchise will have microtransactions.
It looks as though the coverage made it to the developers, Toys For Bob, who have since tried to reassure players.
“There are No Microtransactions in Crash 4”
Via their Twitter account, as you can see above, the developers have stated that there aren’t any microtransactions in Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.
This may be the full truth right now, there’s no reason to doubt that Toys For Bob are being as honest as they can, however, there’s also little reason to trust that Activision aren’t planning to infuse some form of storefront or microtransaction economy into Crash 4 at some point.
The evidence spans several years of blockbuster releases, but the most pertinent example comes in the form of their last Crash Bandicoot release, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled.
There weren’t going to be microtransactions in CTR, either
Just as the heat surrounding in-game purchases in paid video games was building up publicly, Activision devised with a most sneaky plan: if there aren’t microtransactions at launch, reviewers can’t mention it, and the game cases can’t warn customers.
In the running to the release of Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled, at E3 2019 (11 June), the team outright stated that the game would avoid microtransactions, as relayed by ScreenRant, despite its online modes and plans for free DLC.
Anyone who ordered Nitro-Fueled for its release on 21 June 2019 will know that it was a grand remaster of a classic series, but that the rotating store and absurd grind to earn virtual currency for the timed store items was very reminiscent of a free mobile game.
In what must be one of the most ingenious yet insidious moves in the rise of microtransactions in console games, Activision waited until 2 August 2019 to unleash in-game purchases.
In the words of Activision for their DLC and microtransaction launch:
“With all this content available, there will also now be a way for players to fast-track their Wumpa Coin collection if they like. Starting in early August, players will have the option to purchase Wumpa Coin bundles from their game console stores to supplement the Coins they earn by playing.”
Having surged atop the sales charts and won over review scores, Activision released microtransactions to graciously allow players to skip the grind that they themselves had established in the first place.
Don’t trust Crash Bandicoot 4 for at least a month after launch
The bottom line is that Activision are notorious for infusing anti-consumer mechanics into their games, regardless of what the development teams are led to believe pre-launch.
A lot can change between now and 2 October, and while the N-Sane Trilogy of 2017 was sans MTX, as shown by MZ, it was Activision’s gateway to the existing Crash fan base and a way to showcase the franchise to the new consumer base. They couldn’t have done anything outside of a direct remaster as they needed to hook returning and new players with goodwill.
Now that a large modern fan base has been cultivated, Activision’s first new input into the series, Crash 4, might be able to get away with features like microtransactions without hurting sales – especially if they’re snuck in after launch.
Activision are seasoned in the art of skulduggery: they have fully earned their anti-consumer reputation over the years. Recent evidence suggests that, even with the historic Crash Bandicoot game series, they will infuse microtransactions into their big releases at some point.
Learn from Activision’s past transgressions and err on the side of caution with Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.