Things are pretty terrible for fans of the bank heist simulator, Payday 2. When it first launched on PC in 2013 it was a modest little game that found a dedicated audience. While it didn’t look the best, Overkill made a lot of smart decisions to keep the gameplay engaging and harbor a thriving community. When asked about implementing controversial microtransactions into their fully priced retail experience, complete with multiple paid DLC additions, the studio’s producer Almir Lesto stated, “ we’ve made it clear that Payday 2 will have no microtransactions whatsoever (shame on you if you thought otherwise!)”
Fastforward two years and it seems a lot has changed at Overkill. After a competent port of their game to the PS4 and a pretty broken at launch launch on the Xbox One, the studio started going back on their word in the worst way, hidden behind a new update. The Black Market update slipped various safes into the game which you earned as rewards for a successful heist, which could only be opened with certain drills, similar to the crates and keys used in Team Fortress 2. The drills can only be bought with real world money, and rather than having the rewards be just cosmetic skins or masks for your bank robber, these rewards in fact gave performance boosts and bonuses, giving you a tangible advantage to those who didn’t pony up the extra dough.
Desperate for some damage control, Overkill is defending this pretty jarring heel-turn from no microtransactions to full on pay-to-win incentives. Going onto the Payday subreddit for a Q&A, Almir stated, “we understand there is a lot of fury, anger, and disappointment with us adding this. From an economical standpoint however, completely based on statistics, we can already see that the Black Market update is is working as we intended.” Keep in mind, this isn’t a press release but Lesto speaking directly to the players that have kept this game going for two years with some pretty impersonal and blunt PR speak. Compounding this is the fact that Lesto deflected and ignored legitimate questions regarding the implementation of the microtransactions, and even blames games media for misrepresenting the highly contentious topic.
No matter your stance on microtransactions in retail games, Overkill’s handling of the situation is bafflingly antagonistic. Sure, this move will bring in a potentially more profitable player base of whales and the like, but the manner in which the studio is actively silencing and ignoring its dedicated fans probably means if Payday 3 happens, Overkill will be in for a rude awakening.