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The great debate: Are Assassin's Creed Odyssey XP boosts ethical?

Ubisoft
Picture of Alexios and Socrates in Assassin's Creed: Odyssey
Assassin's Creed: Odyssey - Socrates

Assassin's Creed: Odyssey is garnering positive reviews across the board and Ubisoft even poked fun at EA for controversial microtransactions. Are Ubisoft blameless in the whole story though, as they have MTX in a singleplayer game?

People at Ubisoft probably feel a sense of pride and accomplishment after their successful launch of Assassin's Creed: Odyssey, and even more so after the game toppled the first week sales records for the franchise. Interesting Easter eggs are all over the place and divine penis climbing being a thing no other company pulled in recent history proved that a lot of mischief went into the making of this game. Yet, one shadow looms over Odyssey's success and critical acclaim - experience boosters that are sold for real life currency.

This particular topic has divided the community, which may sound odd at first with the first thought on many people's minds being "why would anyone ever defend progression based microtransactions?". So far, the players and reviewers of Assassin's Creed: Odyssey don't seem to think these microtransactions are forced, as the game generously gives out experience, crafting materials and other loot.

Normally, when a company applies the "you can choose to invest your time or your money" philosophy to their game, players get infuriated, and rightfully so. Games are supposed to make us have fun, but such an approach caters more to greedy policies rather than fun. When EA did this with Star Wars: Battlefront II, players unequivocally stood together and burnt this manifestation of EA greed to the ground, but now Ubisoft is sort of doing the same thing but it's dividing the community rather than rallying.

UbisoftAncient ruins in Assassin's Creed: OdysseyAssassin's Creed: Odyssey

There are two somewhat intertwined major reasons why not everyone is knocking on Ubisoft's door with pitchforks and torches in hand. First, Assassin's Creed: Odyssey is a singleplayer game, so a pay-to-win policy doesn't hurt the players competitive sensibilities. It's not like an NPC is going to purchase an XP booster and outlevel them. The only one with the power to do so is the player, and if they choose not to do so, they will not suffer from it, which brings us to the second reason.

As I previously mentioned, Assassin's Creed: Odyssey gives players plenty of ways to level up and gather their gear without spending a dime on microtransactions during the entire playthrough. This is not the design usually seen in games that involve such boosters and presents probably the first implementation of such a model. Middle Earth: Shadow of War was the clear opposite of this philosophy as it forced microtransactions upon its players, on top of having, ewww, loot boxes.

One thing that these two games have in common though is that they are both single player games, with progression based microtransactions in them. These should not be a thing in single player games at all. There is absolutely no excuse to have microtransactions in a single player game, there are no further costs for the companies once the game gets released. No server upkeep, no further marketing, no additional service provided, and if any future content development occurs, players will be charged for it as it will be a DLC or an expansion pack. Yet they want to have a recurring revenue.

UbisoftA man riding a horse in Assassin's Creed: OdysseyAssassin's Creed: Odyssey

Having the choice of paying to progress faster, without being forced to do so is what Ubisoft did right in Assassin's Creed: Odyssey. Therefore, it is not a dirty microtransaction machine at the moment, but rather a feature. Props to Ubisoft for not going greedy on that one, but that doesn't mean gamers should let their guard down.

Once upon a time, FIFA introduced a new game mode called Ultimate Team that was a harmless feature, but a decade down the line, it popularised loot boxes and brought this plague into gaming. Just because it didn't sell card packs for real life currency back then, didn't mean it wouldn't in the future. 

While Assassin's Creed: Odyssey's microtransactions appear harmless at the moment, due to Ubisoft aiming to hit a  sweet spot with them, it does not mean they will not devolve into nagging you for grindy pennies in future titles, or even a future update for Odyssey. It does not mean that microtransactions have a place in single player games either.