Less than a week after Icons: Combat Arena entered early access on Steam, common criticisms have started to rise to the forefront of the game’s discussion. While it is currently under development and is still a ways away from being a final product, most of the game’s criticism has centered on something other than it’s current fast but unpolished build — its monetization system.
While free-to-play games with built-in options to purchase short-cuts or additional in-game content are certainly not new to the industry, especially with games like Fortnite dominating the current gaming scene, Wavedash Games has received significant criticism for their current business model. The focus of these complaints is Icons’ approach to unlocking characters. Players start the game with 2 characters — Ashani and Xana — and are given the option to either unlock the remaining characters through grinding online matches for loot boxes or by purchasing the remaining characters for $25. If customers choose to purchase the remaining characters, they will also be given access to all future characters.
While initially this might seem like a common and reasonable business model, players find issue with the amount of time it takes to unlock the remaining characters, as well as the fact that you cannot play as or against locked characters in training mode. If you’re like me, you’re probably asking yourself how bad it could possibly be. Well, in a worst case scenario it would take a player approximately 43 hours to unlock their first new character and an extra 50 hours for each additional character. That means it would take nearly 250 hours to unlock the already small roster of seven characters.
Thankfully, Wavedash Games recently responded to a lot of the criticism with plans to address the issues with their current monetization system and to announce their intent to improve the experience for new players overall. This includes changes like reworking the in-game currency (spectra) system, cutting down the amount of play time needed to unlock new characters, implementing features that allow players to play-test locked characters, and the inclusion of Kidd as a starting character for all new players, effectively upping the amount of initially playable characters to three. While these changes will almost certainly take time to implement, developers have made it a point to inform players that changes to the monetization system are a top priority for them going forward.
If you want to get early access to Icons: Combat Arena, it’s available now on Steam. Give Wavedash Games your own personal feedback on the official Icons subreddit!
Updated on 7/17/18: Wavedash Games is now giving all Icons players 1100 spectra when starting the game. This is enough to unlock an additional character from the roster, meaning players can start with 4 unlocked characters. You can view the company's announcement on twitter here!
Updated on 7/19/18: Due to demand, all characters are now playable in training mode. This will give new players a chance to try out all of the characters before choosing which ones to unlock with their initial spectra. You can read the developers announcement here.
Author’s Note: I’ve spent a lot of my time in recent years thinking about the loot box model that Overwatch made so popular, and I have a lot of conflicting emotions about it. On one hand, I like that developers are making money and I’m always happy to see more in-game content and character customization. On the other, it blatantly plays off of the addictive nature of gambling and that specific aspect hits pretty near and dear to my own heart. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments and maybe your thoughts on the Icons monetization model in particular.