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Digital Extremes removed a Warframe microtransaction because it was too lucrative

Published: 11:36, 27 March 2018
Digital Extremes
Promotional image for a Warframe noclip documentary.

It was revealed in a recent Warframe documentary that Digital Extremes turned out to be the exact opposite of today's gaming industry giants such as EA or Activision. They literally removed a microtransaction that was raining money.

Noclip made a retrospective documentary about Warframe, Digital Extremes' last hope for survival at the time. As the years passed by, the game got bigger, better and more popular. With great popularity come great amounts of money, amounts that most people wouldn't turn down. This wasn't the case with Warframe and the game's pets - Kubrows.

These pets could help players out, and they could be customised with different colours but the colours scheme you would get was random. It would take 10 Platinum which is roughly 47 pence ($0,67 USD) to get another shot at a random texture scheme for the pet and some players went really far with it - even buying the colour change up to 200 times. Digital Extremes said they made a slot machine in the game on accident.

Digital Extremes Two people in warframes looking at each other in some futuristic facility. Warframe

Digital Extremes' studio manager, Sheldon Carter, has stated that their guiding tenant in the game's economy is to ''try to not push them (players) so they're going to grind their face off to get something but also give them enough variance so that getting those resources is interesting'', and if they do microtransactions wrong, they remove them.

This was the case with Kubrows' fur colour, as that 10 Platinum was basically a slot machine lever according to Carter. Players would pay the fee and get an appearance change for their pet. One day, Digital Extremes figured out a player had ''pulled the lever 200 times'' and they went ''Oh my God, what have we done? We've created a slot machine''. While the microtransactions turned out to be extremely lucrative for the studio as that player alone paid almost enough for two copies of a AAA game, it also stood against the intent of Warframe itself.

Digital Extremes Counter showing the growth of registered users in Warframe over the 5 years. Warframe player growth over the years

Several veteran players found the pay-for-random-appearance feature controversial at the time but it was ultimately the whale behaviour, where a small portion of the player base pays ridiculous amounts of money, that drove Digital Extremes to change and remove it in less than two days after the incident.

Even more commendable is the fact that Warframe wasn't a game with a gigantic, 38 million player base back when this happened but Digital Extremes still decided to proceed with a decision that favoured players over their own gains. All of this happened during summer 2014, when the game counted only ~330.000 players.

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