Exploring Blue Protocol’s Payment Model: An Amazon Games Perspective
There is no more controversial topic than monetization when it comes to the world of live service and MMOs. The lifeblood of the business model, every developer must walk a fine line between profitability and greed. The perception of over-pricing can damage a game’s reputation, and any whiff of pay-to-win can make users hostile in an instant.
For Blue Protocol, monetization concerns were the first major disagreement to feature the game in the run-up to its release. Early testers of the Japanese beta were upset by the high prices associated with the in-game cosmetic gacha, as well as the presence of powerful combat summons locked behind the paid battle pass and in-game currency. This second concern proves important because it can be summoned and used during combat, which could give an advantage to those who want to splash some cash now and in the future.
With the game getting under way in a Western collaboration between Amazon Games and Bandai Namco, I wanted to bring these concerns to someone who could address them head on. That’s why I sat down with Mike Zadorojny, Head of Franchise for Blue Protocol at Amazon Games, during a preview session last month and did just that.
At first, I asked if Zadorojny could provide details about microtransaction pricing for the Western version, and whether it was similar to the Japanese beta pricing. He was unwilling to share a pricing model, but did point to the company’s mantra for what it’s trying to achieve by monetizing its games.
“So the first thing for us is ‘fun and fair,’” he explains. “This is the kind of model we use: If I buy things and I don’t, we still have to compare relatively in terms of what our strength is. You shouldn’t be able to beat a boss because you bought something and I didn’t.
“The way we’re going to achieve this is through two things. One, we’re going to do Founders Packs in the West. Very similar to what we did with New World and Lost Ark. Cosmetics for fans who want to get in early. The second way is to use the Season Pass like in Japan. So, you know, the periodic free rewards with an optional paid version that provides more frequent rewards.”
Zadorojny also noted a “pity system” added to the cosmetic monetization model, which is a common practice in live service games with gacha-style microtransactions. However, Zadorojny was unable to provide pricing for the “Pity System” during the interview, stating that the information will be released “as soon as we get close to closed beta”.
It should be noted here that since this interview took place, the developers at Bandai Namco have released a statement addressing several concerns, including gacha drop rates. Basically, S and B rank drops get drop rate increases, with S rank extremely rare items going from a drop rate of 1.2% to 3%. The price, as far as we know, is the same, but the possibilities are better.
However, there is an additional concern of players from the Japanese beta: battle pass bonuses. YouTubers like Kanon have pointed out that Battle Pass Battle Imajinns (those combat summons we referred to earlier) that you get from maxing out your pass or via in-game BPP currency have the potential to be very strong. As such, I wanted to ask if Amazon Games would be willing to retrofit these systems for Western release.
“Play balance is always something we want to monitor. Again, back to that mantra of fun and a half,” says Zadorojny. “We want to make sure that what you get with the paid versions is generally things that are cosmetic options, not necessarily power options. So (Blue Protocol) just launched, and obviously they’re still doing some updates and doing some work on their end, but that’s the goal we’re trying to achieve for Westerners.”
For this, I indicated that there are bonuses in the battle pass and a BPP system that provides in-game power options. Zadorojny replied (after a pause of about seven seconds): “In general, the goal we’re trying to achieve is for the power difference not to be greater than what you can get in-game.