Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, July 09, 2013
 
March of War

March of War, a cross-platform, turn-based, online strategy game is now on Steam Early Access, and I've been playing it for a few days. Now there are a lot of things to like about this game. It revives the tired World War II setting by turning it into an alternative history "dieselpunk" setting. Its core gameplay is tactical and turn-based. The sum of all players' tactical battles gives an outcome on a strategic multiplayer map. So, what's not to like? Answer: The horrible business model!

Tactical gameplay of March of War starts you out with point in three categories: infantry, vehicles, and command points. In assault missions your goal is it to capture locations on the map that give you more of those points. And as you need those points to deploy units on the map, you get a mad rush for resources. So far, so good. But what units you can deploy depends on what units you previously bought. You only get the most basic, bad infantry in unlimited numbers. If you want better infantry, bazookas, jeeps, artillery, tanks, and the like, you need to buy those first. And this is where the payment part of the game ruins an otherwise nice game.

You can earn money and research points by playing, but even from the start that is an excruciatingly slow process. Once you have enough research points to discover new units, you can buy them with money. And you have them available for all your battles. So if you own let's say 4 jeeps, you can deploy 4 jeeps in every battle. If you gain more vehicle points in the battle, but don't have any more jeeps or other vehicles bought, you simply can't use those points, which is obviously a big disadvantage. So the game allows you to buy gems with real money, and buy all sorts of vehicles for those gems. Including daily deals in which you can buy units you haven't even researched yet. And you can't just buy those units before the battle, you can even buy units DURING the battle. So if you think during a battle that you'd just need one more tank to win this, and you have the vehicle points, you can simply pull out your wallet and buy yourself another tank.

Now while there is a lot of disagreement of what exactly "Pay2Win" is, I would say that March to War definitely is Pay2Win. You can win a pitched battle not only against the AI but also against another player by paying more money on the spot. Even if I haven't seen any units yet that are available *only* for cash and not through playing, the slow pace of resource gains through playing suggests that most of the time you will not have enough units for use all your deployment points, and thus spending money will always be an advantage over playing for free. You can also advance faster by buying research for real money.

I enjoyed playing a few tactical battles of March of War. And I tried out the payment model by spending $10 on gems. But seeing how much those $10 contributed to my overall progress, and how little the battles won contributed in comparison really turned me off. There is no way to play this game casually and for free, you either need to invest a lot of hours, or a lot of money to get anywhere. Worst of all are the "siege battles", where you need to hold a position for a certain time: Even on easy difficulty your feeble starting army is assaulted by lots of tanks, and even if these are quite winnable you end up somewhat annoyed not having access to similar units. Unless you pull out your wallet and buy yourself some tanks. Sorry, there are a lot of good Free2Play business models out there, but March of War hasn't got one of them.

Comments:
I'm not familiar with the game so forgive my ignorance.

Is there a cap on how many jeeps you could deploy in a battle? Could a millionaire buy a massive army with thousands of jeeps and tanks and blitz everyone that didn't have as much real money as him?

As you destroy a person's resources could they simply buy an unlimited supply of reinforcements?

If there is a cap however, and buying the maximum number of items that you are allowed to field in a battle costs around about the cost of a typical new game, then I don't see the problem.

Buying items mid battle feels a bit wrong I suppose but I have no issue with the concept of having to "buy the game" to be competitive. Just so long as there is some kind of cost ceiling on the purchases that provide power.

In other words there is a cost above which no additional advantage is gained.
 
There is no cap other than that given by the deployment points. The longer the game goes on, and the more victory zones you control, the more deployment points you get. In a game with unlimited number of turns you could buy unlimited supply of reinforcements. In reality you'll have won before that.
 
In that case I'd say it is the first genuine example of a "pay to win" game I have heard of.

If a game has cap above which no further advantage is gained then even if the cap was very high I'd merely consider it an "expensive game" as opposed to pay to win as a result of my "paying for the game" attitude.

But no cap at all really is a case of the richest guy wins.

Reminds me of old school open stakes poker etc.
 
Tobold,

Is this not a logical progression with the F2P model? I'd really like to know your thoughts on who would be a good governing body for these types of games. Should we leave it to review sites to warn players of the possible pitfalls with this revenue generation model, or do we throw all of our trust behind the Blog'O Sphere to keep us informed about such games and practices?

It just seems like developers are getting a free pass when it comes to how revenue is generated under the guise of F2P, and I'm finding it quite distasteful because F2P is still being presented as some kind of saviour for the MMO industry, with little regard to how it's being implemented.
 
Hi, I am from the dev team and want to elaborate on the whole pay 2 win statement.

Yes you can buy units and yes you can buy yourself in the techtree. Thing is you still need resources to deploy your units within the game. And the stronger the unit the more resources it will take to deploy the unit.
That is one thing. The other is that there is a counter method, you can for instance deploy a(n) (expensive) tank but that can be countered by (relatively cheap) anti-tank units.

So yes you can buy units and by tech. But you still need to capture resources.

When playing PVP, there is a matchmaking system to tackle strong players getting pitched against the weaker / new players.

Regards,

Jeroen
 
Hi, I am from the dev team and want to elaborate on the whole pay 2 win statement.

Yes you can buy units and yes you can buy yourself in the techtree. Thing is you still need resources to deploy your units within the game. And the stronger the unit the more resources it will take to deploy the unit.
That is one thing. The other is that there is a counter method, you can for instance deploy a(n) (expensive) tank but that can be countered by (relatively cheap) anti-tank units.

So yes you can buy units and by tech. But you still need to capture resources.

When playing PVP, there is a matchmaking system to tackle strong players getting pitched against the weaker / new players.

Regards,

Jeroen
 
So yes you can buy units and by tech. But you still need to capture resources.

The total number of units you own has a total cost of resources to deploy. If a battle goes on a bit longer, the number of resources you gain in the battle can become greater than the total number needed for all your units. At that point you can only deploy grunts, or go and buy additional units. So I'd say your statement about needing resources is only valid for the first X turns of a battle.
 
Re: Jeroen the dev team

I was lv 2 and matched up up with a lv 16. I completely stomped my opponent. Pushing him all the way back to the last 2 capture points (out of 8 I believe) with my newbie kit. Running out of troops (because I was level 2) allowed him to win. Hardly seems like a decent matchmaking system when a lv 16 gets paired with a lv 2. Even if the lv 16 is a really poor player, he still wins just because he has more troops bought.
 
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