When I last wrote in depth about Paladins in this article I was shocked and dismayed that they were ignoring everything that EA just went through with BAttlefield 2 and was launching a new “Cards Unbound” system that was clearly and obviously designed as pay 2 win mechanics. It was a sad hail mary from a really good game – one I used to believe was better than Overwatch – albeit having a more niche following. Greed, it seems, is more important than having a stable and solid revenue base. The community rallied against it heavily – I have never seen a community so united against a change – but the developers made excuses and stuck to the plan. They were going all in on it.
It worked out exactly as expected, from a player base perspective.
Cards unbound was launched December 18th. People had already been leaving the game pretty upset by then, since the announcement in November. Many people came back to try it out in January as there was a small uptick in players – only to have their fears fully realized, and a huge drop in February – their lowest ever. What is a developer supposed to do? What happens when their vision of money doesn’t line up with the vision of the game the players have adopted and loved about them?
Backtrack of course.
Here is the main snippet:
We know this system has angered many of our most loyal fans and become a point of continuous contention in the Paladins community (and even inside of Hi-Rez). Your voice has been heard loud and clear.
Our team will be working over the next major release cycle to remove Cards Unbound from the game. We will be replacing it with a new system that I believe the community will be really excited about — including the re-introduction of the deck building point system, and a method for obtaining cards that will be way less grindy.
We want the focal point of the card system in Paladins to be about fun ways to customize your champion to your favored playstyle. We also want to unify the COMPETITIVE and CASUAL experiences with the card system so that we use the same system for both (no more separation of bound vs unbound).
We are still working out the details of the new system, but the rough outline of our current thinking is as follows (NOTE: Subject to some change, but hopefully this communicates the general direction we want to head):
- Legendary Cards will now be called Talents.
- Talents will only have a single level.
- Talents will be unlocked for free by earning XP and gaining Champion levels (for example; level 1,5,10,15).
- All Champion Cards will now be free (No cost or grind).
- Deck creation will return to a point system where players can distribute 15 points across the five cards they select for their loadout. Each Champion Card will have five ranks to choose from.
- Talents will not have ranks, and are not included in the loadout point cap.
- Talents and Decks will continue to be chosen at match start to allow players to tailor their playstyles based on their opponents.
- New Talents will be added over time and give further varied playstyles.
- Champion Mastery will no longer be capped at level 25. Instead, it will work similarly to Player Account leveling (which has no cap).
- Card chests will be removed from the game.
- We are evaluating the best options to compensate players for their previously earned cards, and hope to share details soon.
The release plan is to start testing this new system as soon as we can on PTS (hopefully, next week). Your analysis and participation will be very important over the next few weeks as we work the kinks out of this design and deliver the best possible product to you in the next update.
You can read the full announcement here, if you want.
I am torn on this. I like to support companies that make good moves. Anyone who was listening and had half a brain knew it would turn out this way. It was made clear to them. This forced me to consider that the move itself was desperation – that they HAD to do it or shut down the game – why would you ruin such a good thing? Still, they did it, and made it worse, and are now trying to fix it. So the optimist in me wants to load it up and play again once they relaunch the game with the new, older rules. The other part of me knows that I quit the game before that terrible decision, because the matchmaking imbalance wasn’t fun – they weren’t spending their time and energy on the important parts of the game.
I will probably go try it again, only to show that their steam numbers get a small uptick for doing the right thing – but it is probably too late for Paladins. They have already announced a Battle Royale mode and my guess is that this game goes the route of Fortnite and all resources are funneled into that project – where the “easy money” is at. Problem is by then that space will be even more crowded. You don’t have to “win” to be the best.
Being the second most popular small team shooter would have been okay, you know.