Monthly Archives: September 2019

Earls Kitchen + Bar Restaurant

Have y’all ever had brunch at Earls?! Well if not, I’d recommend to check it out since it’s only $7 for all brunch food. The only thing is that it’s only served on weekends from opening until noon so keep that in mind! The Chorizo + Mushroom Hash was really delicious and the hollandaise sauce definitely tied all the components of this dish together. On the other hand, the Southern Fried Chicken + Waffles was just average in my opinion since there wasn’t anything too special about it but the chicken was quite crispy and had good flavours. Overall, I think everything we had was quite worth it since it’s only $7 a dish!

NBA 2K20: Rinse, Repeat, Recycle.

            Sport video games are probably the closest things to real life monopolies we will ever see. The NHL, NFL and soccer series are all produced by EA. The NBA series “2K” is produced by 2K, although there is “NBA Live” produced by EA too, but it has not been a serious competitor in years. With the release of NBA 2K20, there have been countless issues upon release which could argued to be a direct result of 2K not caring for the consumers as the basketball video game sector is essentially a monopoly now, just like other sports. In this article, I will be highlighting some of the major flaws of the game and what needs to be fixed.

Game Review:

            The gameplay for 2K20 has become significantly harder than previous years as the intention of the developers was to build a skill gap amongst their players. This is understandable for a lot of people, but not when it hinders the overall gameplay. NBA 2K20 had one of the messiest launches in recent years because of the lack of attention to gameplay details by the development team. The game felt a lot slower, dribble moves were not as fluid, and frankly speaking, a lot of people agreed that the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) players were a lot faster than the NBA players. To make matters worse, shooting the ball was a lot harder to time now as well. If someone mistimes it just by a split second, the ball would not go in most of the times, which was extremely frustrating because the window to make a perfect shot is in milliseconds. In simpler terms, previous NBA 2K titles were a lot more forgiving when it came to shooting. To fix these issues, they have to hire better or more game testers who can detect the issues pre-release so that they can fix it. Overall though, the gameplay was virtually the same as NBA 2K19, only with more issues being added to this year’s title. The way the players moved, the dribble moves available for players, and the minor details like the cheerleaders doing the same dance in between timeouts were identical to 2K19 and even 2K18 in some instances. As for the graphics, they were identical other than some minor tweaks, which is understandable to a certain extent because the developers have seemingly reached the peak performance of this current generation’s consoles (Xbox One, PS4), and can’t go much further. Ironically, longtime fans of the NBA 2K series have stated that NBA 2K14, a game that is now 6 years old, had the best graphics. In the end though, NBA 2K20 simply felt like a NBA 2K19.5, not NBA 2K20.

Server Issues:

            If we as a 2K community could ask for one thing to be fixed in the game, it would not be the gameplay or better graphics, it would most certainly be the constant server issues. Whenever we play online, whether it be “Play Now online” where we choose an NBA team of our choice and go head to head with someone, or playing with our custom made character from the career mode in a 5v5 game mode called “Pro-am”, there are still issues with people lagging out and their games crashing. 2K needs to invest more money into the infrastructure of their servers because multiplayer is the biggest draw of any game. Once career mode is done, everyone will flock over the multiplayer, so it should be one of the most prioritized sectors of their game. I have not experienced this first hand too often, presumably because I have good internet to begin with, but I can still see how infuriating it must be when you have to restart the game and you lose all your progress. The server issues have been going on for years and is a constant issue. Some of the features or game modes that 2K have added in previous years, such as “MyCareer”, keep on getting recycled because it’s an essential part of the game as long as the story changes every year, which it does. However, we don’t want the crappy servers to be recycled, that’s for sure. To fix the issue, 2K really only has to invest more money into dedicated servers for their games to prevent the constant crashes and lagging. It’s a shame that EA’s NBA Live is not up to par in terms of its gameplay, because even though they have a much smaller fan base, server issues are not one of the common complaints you here about that game. It doesn’t have to be EA, but if any game company wants to surpass 2K, investing money into the servers would yield a big advantage. I feel the major reason why 2K is comfortable with where they are at is because this will most likely never happen since they already have the biggest names under exclusivity contracts with them , such as Michael Jordan, which is enough to sway enough fans over to them just by itself. They also have a better design team when it comes to mimicking the players real life attributes, like their ball handling and size, into their games because they have the players come in and put them through a scanning mechanism to track their movements to the most minor details.

Business Model

            There is nothing that highlights the greed of 2K more than the way in which they have implemented the use of “Virtual Currency”, also known as “VC”, which is the only form of currency in the game. This is rather uncommon as most other games usually balance between two different currencies, one which the players buy in the store and one that the player earns through progression.

               To upgrade our players in My Career, we need to use VC. To get VC isn’t the hardest thing and it doesn’t cost much to upgrade your player in the beginning. You start your player at a 60 overall and the cap is 99 overall. On average, you can earn about 1000 VC per game if you do well, and to get from a 60 to an 80 overall, it’s about 100,000 VC. There are bonuses in between and you get endorsements as you progress throughout the story, so it’s not like you’ll have to play 100 games in a season to get there. However, since there are 82 games in an NBA season, if you were to play all of them and get your endorsements, it would take the entire season to get somewhere just above an 80 overall. The long grind therefore incentivizes players to purchase VC at a bit of a premium. To get 75,000 VC, it costs $30 CAD after taxes. To put that into perspective, you buy the game for $80 and should you feel the grind is too long, which is for most of us because we have work or school, then you have to dish out another $30 on top to get to a respectable rating. This ultimately promotes the model of “pay to win”, meaning that we have to pay more money in the game in order to gain a substantial advantage. Even though we don’t have to, due to the circumstances of the game itself, being very hard to level up, most people will just buy the VC because their time is simply worth more. Once one person does it, the next person will feel obligated to do it too just to keep up. Eventually, it’s not even about winning, but rather, just keeping up. Like I said, although we have the option to purchase VC, it’s an ongoing trend that companies to place us in a sort of a chokehold to pressure us into spending money on micro transactions. EA is most notorious with us, as I previously stated in my blog “Apex Legends: A look at its lifeline”, but 2K and a lot of other companies are no different as we will see.

The USD prices for VC in NBA 2K20

            Prior to the release of NBA 2K20, the face of the franchise, known as Ronnie, was streaming gameplay of himself playing the game while answering and addressing questions or concerns the fans had. One of the questions was whether or not there would be a drop-in price for the VC, to which Ronnie replied that “yes there would be” and that we could “re-spec our builds which will let us save VC” as well. Whenever we build a player for My Career, once we build it, we cannot edit this player. This is in reference to the attributes and skills specifically, as we can change the physical appearance whenever we want. So in prior years, whenever we would mess up a build or get bored of it, we would have to remake a new character and restart with him, meaning that we may even need to repurchase more VC to bring our player up to a respectable overall just because the grind is so long. Now, Ronnie was saying that we could edit our player as we please, and that VC would see a drop in price. Unsurprisingly, these were all lies as the entire player builder system was the exact same and there was no drop-in price for VC. We, the fans, were very much looking forward to a brand-new player builder system where we could tweak our attributes and skills on the fly, but we were lied to. 2K recycled the same system from last year and reused it for this year. The fans, of course, were furious and gave Ronnie a piece of their minds, to no avail. There’s only one NBA game out there, and that’s NBA 2K20, so we either suck it up or leave. If this is not the most unethical thing, I’ve seen in the gaming world, then I don’t know what is. There should in essence, be a class action lawsuit of some sorts because we were blatantly lied to. Ronnie has still yet to clearly address their stance on this, but it has sort of blown by already even though 2K was not held accountable for their actions.

Final Verdict

            A couple things need to happen before the release of the next generation consoles if 2K wants to remain competitive, and that is to address the issues with the game, which includes recycling a product and reselling it to us, and to stop lying to the fans. Although it won’t be soon, it’s very possible that another company can come take what 2k currently has. I can speak for myself, my friends, and a majority of the fan base that if another company were to offer something comparable to 2K in terms of gameplay and graphics, while investing in dedicated servers and giving the fans what they want without trying to deceive us, then that company will be far more successful in the long run. From an outsider’s perspective, it looks as if 2K simply does what they need to stay ahead, and do not go above and beyond.

A Deeper Look into Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2

Game Review 

            Red Dead Redemption 2 made by Rockstar games, came out in fall of 2018 as a prequel to the original Red Dead Redemption which was released all the way back in 2010. With Red Dead Redemption being one of Rockstar’s best delivered game, Red Dead Redemption 2 was much anticipated for and fans were expecting something big, to which, their wishes of another iconic title being delivered were answered.

            The story of Red Dead Redemption 2 follows the life of Arthur Morgan, the character you play as, and his fellow gang named the “Van der Linde” gang. Among this gang are a few recognizable characters. Firstly, John Marston, the character you play as in the original Red Dead Redemption, along with the gang leader, known as Dutch Van Der Linde, played integral roles in the original game as they are eventually pitted against each other in the original game. So, what led to them having to go against each other? Well, in Red Dead Redemption we learn that both John and Dutch used to be in a formidable gang with each other, so what went so wrong that they are now willing to kill each other in order to save their own lives? Therefore, what the story of Red Dead Redemption 2 illustrates to us is the hey days of the gang and its eventual steep downfall through distrust and betrayals within the gang, which as we already know, would carry on into the events of the original Red Dead Redemption.


            The story telling of the campaign is leaps and bounds beyond many other games. Rockstar has been able to consistently captivate the players consisntely over the past years throughout their story telling and this is no secret. This includes their most notable series, “Grand Theft Auto” along with some of the smaller name titles like “Bully”.  When the game starts off, the player is seen travelling around the country with the Van der Linde gang, doing multiple missions with the goal of money behind every task. Dutch, the leader of the gang, is seen mentioning a big heist that they’ll eventually do, and once they do, they will leave the country with all the gold they have. Needless to say, a lot of things go south before that point. I won’t say much more about the campaign, as I feel it’s an experience that any avid gamer, not even a fan of the Red Dead series, can enjoy very much. A comparison I will make to it is almost like a modern day “Romeo and Juliet” in that, we know what the ending is, but still, we want to know “why” things turned out the way they did. The end itself is irrelevant, but rather, it’s the process that brought us there that matters.

The open world

The open world that the player can explore is like none other. Being that the game is set back in 1899, the world itself is very different than a lot of other games. Instead of cars, there are horses, and instead of your typical full automatic assault rifles, semi-automatic rifles are used. The attention to detail by Rockstar is so intricate, that even the smallest things, like bumping into someone by accident will trigger a reaction from them. Apart from missions, the player can choose what type of civilian they want to be through an honor system, which ultimately decides the type of ending you get. If you want, you can rob stores, kill civilians, and treat people poorly which will give you low honor. This is what I did because I figured I was already an outlaw, so why not portray myself as such in my day to day life? If you do this, people will naturally be more scared of you and treat you more as a criminal. People will snarl at you in the streets, will generally be more aggressive and you will miss out on benefits such as discounts at certain stores. Alternatively, should you be ethical in your day to day life while still robbing banks as a side gig, you will be rewarded with a higher honor and a better ending. In total, there are 4 possible endings, but in all honesty, the main outcome is still the same either way, and no you cannot prevent the downfall of the gang by having high honor. Therefore, what the player decides to do in the open world of Red Dead is in essence, very important to the story arc, as the smallest of mistakes will sway people against you. 


            The multiplayer aspect of any Rockstar game is a big deal because it encompasses an open world which people can now explore with their friends. The online model is the same as the campaign model when it comes to health, stamina, weapons, character customizations, etc. It even has its own mini story that it follows to introduce the player to Red Dead Redemption’s online side of the game. The online story missions play very similar to the campaign as well, consisting of a series of rides, chases, and or gunfights stitched together. Interestingly, Rockstar also added four missions that are exclusive to people with high honor and four other missions for people with low honor. On top of the regular online story missions, there are “stranger” missions where there will be side characters at random areas of the map who will give you playable missions. These missions include tasks such as assassinations, robberies, deliveries, etc. All in all, there’s a lot of fun missions that you can do with friends to further explore the world of Red Dead Redemption.

            If you want to get more competitive, there are also a plethora of activities you can partake in. To start off, there is your typical “Team Deathmatch” game mode that is 8 versus 8 for the regular version, or 16 versus 16 in the large scale version. There’s also a variation of this game mode, known as “Most Wanted”, where the more players you kill, the higher your bounty becomes and subsequently other people will get more points for killing you. Remember the “Battle Royale” game mode? Well if you fancy that game mode, then you’ll enjoy the “Make it Count” mode where everyone starts off with the same gun and the last one to stay alive wins. Additionally, if competitive gunfights aren’t for you and casual activities are, there are horse races which include circuit races, point-to-point races and open races. There’s also “Archer”, where you build up point by hitting bullseyes hung around the map with a bow and arrow.

            Overall, Red Dead online has a lot to offer beyond the single player campaign. It may be a lot to take in initially, but it shouldn’t take long to find that one game mode or activity you enjoy the most.

Business Model

            The business model for Red Dead Redemption is nearly identical to its sister game, Grand Theft Auto V. In Red Dead Redemption, you can opt to purchase gold bars, which is a secondary form of currency next to dollars, whereas in GTA V, you could buy dollars under the form of “Shark Cards”. In hindsight, they work the same way as each other. So in Red Dead online, if you’re buying a weapon, you can opt to pay in dollars, or you can pay in gold bars. Of course, you can earn gold bars too, but it’s at a much slower rate and is a lot more rare to come across. Although the idea of only being able to purchase micro transactions in the online world is the same on both Red Dead and GTA, GTA only has one form of currency as opposed to two. Ultimately, it’s the same thing and it doesn’t make a difference in terms of a player’s net wealth. But you could say that Red Dead Online offers a bit more opportunities to increase net wealth because you can earn both dollars and gold bars. Although there are far more ways to earn money in GTA, so in the end, it kind of balances it off to essentially the same economy in both games.

            Having played both GTA and Red Dead online, I’ve experienced first-hand how long it takes to earn a money in both games. For GTA, it was only after the first couple of years where Rockstar added more downloadable content (DLC), most notably the ability to do bank heists and run drug businesses, that gave the players more opportunities to earn more money. The great thing about this is that Rockstar released all this DLC for free through game updates and patches, so not only did we not have to pay a single penny, we were also given more opportunities to earn money. Additionally, there were many money glitches and exploits that would allow players to “cheat” for their money. I’ve attached a video below that shows one of the more infamous GTA money glitches. Even during its birth, GTA money glitches have been around throughout the entire life cycle of GTA online. They have never been fully patched, and with every update, comes a new money glitch. There are countless content creators that focus solely on GTA money glitches, and usually it will be a person with a thick accent, stretching the video out for more than 10 minutes to earn as much ad revenue as possible. Still, watching these videos is the price you have to pay if you want to earn quick money. Now, why is this relevant? Because Red Dead Online has been following the exact same model. Just like GTA, they have been releasing updates for free, and these updates have helped grow money earning opportunities. The game hasn’t even been out for a full year yet, so it’s still very young in its life cycle. GTA online has been around since 2015, and it still receives big updates every now and then, so sure enough, Red Dead online will more than likely be receiving the same type of treatment as well. Of course, there are also money glitches in Red Dead online that can be exploited.

            Overall, all of this may make it seem like Rockstar probably does poorly with their micro transactions. Well, even if they are, it doesn’t really matter because the titles they release become household titles for gamers. Their sales for their games are ongoing, such as the case with GTA V. Additionally, Rockstar probably doesn’t even do poor sale numbers for their micro transactions, because not everyone is willing to cheat in the game and may therefore resort to micro transaction purchases. The thing with Rockstar is that if they usually discover money glitches pretty quickly, and once they patch it, there will usually be a dry period in which there are no glitches until the next one is discovered. So even for the cheaters, they may buy the micro transactions at some point as well. Nevertheless, I think Rockstar has done a fairly ethical job with their business model. They could easily charge us $10 for every new update, but instead, give it to us for free. Their prices for micro transactions aren’t the best bang for your buck, but even at that, they’ve continued giving us free new content and ample opportunities to earn more money. They even have sales for their micro transactions and will even give money to us at random times. Hopefully, Red Dead online will have the same fate as GTA online and will have a life span of many years to come.

Final Verdict

            Rockstar is one of the best game developing companies for a reason, and it’s because of their attention to the games that they release and the ability to maintain a positive reputation among their fan base. They don’t try to milk their fan base for every penny they have and provide us with a very good product. They have a very good track record and so there is no reason to doubt their ability to uphold Red Dead online. Even if we don’t take into account the online aspect for their games, the campaign is enough for us to fork over the money to experience it because it’s leaps and bounds better and different than any other games out there.


The Alley

The Alley has been open for a while now but I haven’t found the time to try it out until now. The 2 drinks we got were numbers 1 & 2 on The Alley’s Picks and both were amazing! The Brown Sugar drink is probably one of the best ones I’ve tried so far! Also the Royal No.9 Fresh Milk Tea was equally as enjoyable, especially since it isn’t overly sweet and you get a nice aftertaste to the drink. The location itself is quite small so it’s definitely more for a quick grab rather than a longer stay. For sure The Alley ranks high on my favourite bubble tea places in our (Vancouver) area!

Don’t forget to check on the post I did over on my Instagram!

Apex Legends: A sincere thank you letter to EA.

Apex Legends by “Respawn Entertainment” hit the gaming market back in early Spring 2019 and was an immediate hit. Some of the most renowned Twitch streamers contributed to its outburst as they were paid to stream the game in front of their mass audiences. Seeing as the game Fortnite, which was at that time the most played and streamed game, was in the subgenre of games known as “Battle Royale”, Apex Legends also being a “Battle Royale” caught the eyes of many gamers too. A battle royale could be described in simpler terms as The Hunger Games, in which a certain amount of players fight till there is only one man standing.

Game Review

            Apex Legends by “Respawn Entertainment” hit the gaming market back in early Spring 2019 and was an immediate hit. Some of the most renowned Twitch streamers contributed to its outburst as they were paid to stream the game in front of their mass audiences. Seeing as the game Fortnite, which was at that time the most played and streamed game, was in the subgenre of games known as “Battle Royale”, Apex Legends also being a “Battle Royale” caught the eyes of many gamers too. A battle royale could be described in simpler terms as The Hunger Games, in which a certain amount of players fight till there is only one man standing.

            Apex Legends is a futuristic first-person shooter, which was different than Fortnite’s cartoon like third person shooting style of game. Still, a lot of people migrated over to the game to give it a try. What made the gameplay great was its smooth controls and fast paced action. There were 7 characters at the time of release, now 9, which possessed cool abilities which could be used offensively and defensively. Additionally, the game could only be played in teams of 3, which added a whole new dynamic as a lot of other games in the same genre (Fortnite, PUBG, COD Blackout) were all played in solos, duos, or squads of four. A couple of other minor details made a big difference in gameplay too, such as when you would die, you could be respawned back in by a teammate, which was a feature that no Battle Royale had. The pinging system also made it easy to identify enemies, loot, care packages, etc. Overall, Apex Legends had a very unique flow to its gameplay. It promoted fast paced action and rewarded offensive types of players. The game, upon release, was surprisingly very balanced and there were no exploits and glitches, which is very rare in today’s games. Perhaps what made the game truly special, was the movement. Players were able to sprint quickly, but could also slide. Combine this with guns that are precise and fairly easy to use, it’s no wonder so many people were able to jump right in and get used to it quickly. Lastly, the guns in the game were very similar to a previous title, named “Titanfall”, which was also developed by Respawn Entertainment. These were not your typical military assault rifles that you would find in Call of Duty, Battlefield, or even Fortnite, but were rather futuristic and highly advanced weapons. All of these minor details in the game ultimately added up to allow Respawn to separate themselves from their competitors.

            It was clear that in the first couple of months that Apex Legends was very close to passing Fortnite. So much so in fact, that it came extremely close to passing Fortnite as the number one game streamed on Twitch. Fortnite evens started to copy certain features from Apex, namely the reviving and pinging features. To the Apex Legends players, myself, it was clear that this was an act of desperation so they can pull back away from Apex Legends in terms of popularity and gameplay mechanics.

Business Model

            Unfortunately, the beginning of downfall for Apex Legends came when the battle pass was released for a whopping $13 USD. The way the battle pass works is that one would pay X amount of dollars to obtain the right to obtain level up rewards. There were about 100 levels, and each time you leveled up, you would gain a reward. You certainly didn’t have to purchase this; it was only for people who wanted to get more in game items. The issue was that the rewards were underwhelming to most people. For a little while, there was lots of backlash for the battle pass with people saying that it was a waste of money. The developers at Respawn Entertainment listened and took note but couldn’t do anything in the present moment. However, because the gameplay was still proprietary in its own, people dismissed the poor release of the battle pass, toughed it out, and patiently waited for the season 2 battle pass while still having fun with the game.

            With the release of the season 2 battle pass, it would finally seem that all the developers did listen to us. They delivered a much more complete battle pass by including a lot of more unique weapon skins, currency packs and character banners. Additionally, leading up to season 2, they started implementing weekly challenges which would further yield unique weapon and character skins once completed. There were also big changes to the map, as they decided to add a dinosaur theme to the entire season which also had an effect on the map, we played the game in. These positive changes in the game would be quickly disregarded as EA would soon come in as the party pooper.

            It had been months since people started to ask for a solo mode in Apex Legends, and being the great developers, that Respawn Entertainment were, they obliged and decided to introduce the solo game mode through a special event. Little did we know the impact this would have on the game though. Respawn Entertainment rolled out their solo mode event in mid-August, and immediately, it caused massive outrage. Why? This was because with the event, came a new bundle of unique character and weapon skins, the most sought after being a tomahawk which could be used by a certain character. Keep in mind, these are all only cosmetic items, meaning they had no effect on the actual gameplay nor did they give the player any sort of advantage. However, to obtain this tomahawk, you would have to spend around $200 USD on loot crates in order to then have the choice of buying the tomahawk for an additional $40 USD. This was assuming that you got no repeat items and were able to collect all 20 required items in the first try of each loot crate opened. This was called a “paywall ”, which meant that you had to purchase previous items before unlocking the best item, which was a way for big companies to siphon the most amount of money from its consumers. As a community, everyone knew this was not the work of Respawn Entertainment, but rather, it was the doing of EA.

As seen, to obtain the tomahawk item on the bottom left corner, you would have to purchase all 20 items on the bottom right hand side ($20 USD each).

            EA already had a bad history with micro transactions with some of its previous games, namely “Star Wars battlefront”, where a YouTuber demonstrated that it cost around $2000 USD to unlock all of the in game cosmetic items in that game. EA tried to amend the current issue by allowing you to purchase the required items for $20 USD each, which resulted in the net payment to be even more than before! Now, you would have to pay close to $400 USD to unlock the opportunity to purchase tomahawk, which was still around $40 USD! Immediately, everyone took to Reddit to voice their opinions. The community became toxic and although most people pointed their fingers at EA, some pointed them at Respawn Entertainment, making threats and wishing death upon them. Online backlash is extremely common nowadays, and usually, the right way for a company to respond is to not respond at all, assuming it’s just hate speech, or to respond in a professional manner. This did not happen however, as some of the developers at Respawn Entertainment decided to respond in a derogatory and condescending manner, further cornering themselves. Eventually, this became the hot topic in the gaming community, as everyone was at fault. EA tried to get as much money from us, while Respawn Entertainment and the fans were being extremely toxic. When the event ended, seeing as it was a limited time event, most of the roaring died down and most things went back to normal. Today, without the event, the only thing that remains is really just the season 2 battle pass and the occasional weekly challenges Respawn Entertainment will add.

            Seeing all of this go down in real time, made not only me realize, but also a lot of my friends and people online, just how greedy EA is. They continuously put their customers in precarious positions and it almost seems as though they do not consider their fan base at all. They have a poor track record, and yet they continue to tarnish it more and more as if they don’t care. Is this ethical? Should something be done about this in a legal standpoint? For now, it seems that because EA is at the top, that no one can really stop them. They have their feet in so many games because a lot of these upcoming games, such as Apex Legends, need the backing of EA in order to break into the market. Perhaps the only way to prevent EA from doing this, is for another gaming industry titan to spawn and surpass EA.

Final Verdict:

            It’s unfortunate that EA, a big company, had to swoop in to completely ruin a fanbase and turn people against each other. Prior to the influence of EA, Apex Legends was the pinnacle of Battle Royale and was loved across all platforms. However, after EA instigated this mess, even though they themselves weren’t the ones name calling, by implementing ludicrous prices for cosmetic items, they’ve still stuck to the same practices while most of the fanbase, myself included, have long left the Apex Legends community. Today, they continue to slash the prices of in game skins to try to retain their fanbase, but to no avail. The game has not bounced back since this reckoning.

Hanlin Tea House

I recently tried Hanlin today and it was quite the experience. I don’t know how long they’ve been open for but I feel like they’re quite hidden in Richmond since it’s the first time I’ve come across it. The place itself is super aesthetic, cozy, and a great space to study now that school is back. The Jade Green Tea Yakult (left) was refreshing but the amount of mini pearls was quite overwhelming and the Thai Milk Tea (right) was light and not overly sweet, which I enjoyed. But, nonetheless I would definitely recommend to give them a try to check out their cute space!

Free to play = Pay to win: A look at the mobile gaming industry

Up until now, we had been looking at in game micro transactions that are mostly cosmetic such as in Apex Legends, and some “pay to win” formats like NBA 2K with their virtual currency business model. Now, we will be taking a look at the mobile gaming world and how micro transactions differ here as opposed to console/pc gaming.

            If we looked at some of the top games in the App Store, most, if not all are free. Why is that?  Well that’s because these games are following the “free to play” model in which the game is free to download and play but would be naturally flooded with multiple in game transactions, most of the times, are pay to win. To some extent, charging money for in game items is fine if the game is free to download and play, because there is no other way for the company to make money from. However, the question is to what extent do these developers force consumers to pay for these items? I will analyze two different free to play games, which I have played, and compare the in-game micro transactions to illustrate the business model approach they take.

Pokémon Go

            Pokémon Go was initially released back in 2016 by Niantic and has since garnered a big fan base despite its rough start. The in-game transactions for the game include items that help players get closer to their goals, which in the game are to capture as many Pokémon as possible and or defeating gyms. The currency used for these transactions are known as “Poke coins” and are purchasable, of course, but are also obtainable at a reasonable pace if you play the game and battle a lot too. The way to obtain these are to defend gyms with your own Pokémon once you defeat that gym. If you hold the gym for 8 hours, you will get 100 Poke coins, which is the maximum you can earn in a day.

            Now, what can you purchase with your Poke coins? There are a lot of different categories of items you can purchase, all of which are at fairly reasonable prices given the amount of Poke coins you can earn in a day. You can buy battle items like a “raid pass”, which you get one a day already for free, to use to capture legendary Pokémon’s like Mewtwo. The raid pass doesn’t guarantee the capture of the legendary Pokémon, but rather, it’s a pass for you to battle it with your friends and to then have the chance to capture it. Sometimes, you won’t be able to catch it, and will therefore need more than one raid pass to try again. Medicinal items for your Pokémon’s, such as potions and revives, can be purchased too and will be needed to heal your Pokémon’s from battling gyms and in raids. Additionally, items that aid in capturing Pokémon, such as Poke balls, lure modules, and incenses can are available too. If you want a bundle of these items, then you can even opt for the boxes, which vary in price, but are a great bang for your buck despite the minor premium it requires to obtain. Usually, it will stock you up on medicinal items and items that aid in capturing more Pokémon. Also, since you have your own character in the game, you can buy cosmetic items too if you want to customize the look of your character. There are a plethora of great designs to choose from. Lastly, the more important items are the storage item upgrades, like for your Pokémon’s and items so that you can carry more of each. As you can see, while there are many options, meaning many avenues of revenue to be made for Niantic, the prices are reasonable. Even if you don’t want to battle and defend gyms for your Poke coins, which are earned at a reasonable rate if you normally play the game, you can spend $7 CAD and basically get at least one of any item you want in to store for the most part to boost your player.

            What separates Niantic’s way of doing business from other companies, apart from making the grind for Poke coins reasonable, is that Niantic has helped further alleviate some of the stress of obtaining some of these items is by adding a couple of features. The first feature is the implementation of Poke stops throughout the city. At various landmarks, a Poke stop will be present, where the player has to spin in the game to get some free poke balls and potions. Sometimes, the trainer can get better poke balls and stronger potions too if they’re lucky. Additionally, you can also receive gifts when you spin Poke stops, which can be sent to your friends. These gifts often have a higher chance of carrying rarer items, such as stardust, something you accumulate rather slowly when playing the game and is needed to upgrade your Pokémon’s strength, further valuing the need for gifts. Lastly, there are these trainer battles you can do as well with the AI, and if you beat them, you can earn items, stardust, and certain stones that are needed to evolve your Pokemon.

            In my opinion, Niantic has implemented their in game transactions in a proper and ethical manner. They don’t put you in a position where you would feel obligated to purchase anything because there are many methods to obtain core items, nor do they charge a ludicrous amount of money for cosmetic items. One could make the argument that should you expense a lot of money for in game items, that a pay to win meta is present. However, it doesn’t give a clear cut advantage to obtain better and stronger Pokémon, rather, it may speed up the process, but everyone that doesn’t spend real money can still obtain the same Pokémon over time.

NBA Live Mobile:

            EA’s NBA Live Mobile is a game that has been carried through yearly since 2016, with each new update coming around the time a new NBA season commences. There are only two main mobile NBA games, one being NBA 2K’s own mobile version of their main franchise and NBA Live Mobile. Although, due to the lack of care and attention that 2K tends to put into their mobile games, EA essentially runs a monopoly when it comes to the mobile NBA game market.

            There are two forms of currencies in NBA Live Mobile, one is the regular coins you can obtain while playing the game, and the other one is cash, which although can be obtained throughout the game as well, is a lot harder to get. Nonetheless, the issue with EA’s implementation of in game transactions is that it promotes a true “pay to win” meta. To put it simply, as the year progresses, EA will release higher overall cards and better players through promos which we play through and try to meet the requirements for in order to obtain the new highest overall player. This is understandable because they want to keep the game interesting and fun, which is something that admittedly EA is good at when it comes to maintaining this game in particular. However, the issue is that when these promos are rolled out, EA will usually release a few players at a time with the promo. Of course, the best player is locked behind a “paywall”. To illustrate this, I will take a promo from this past year and explain it in greater detail.

            This reddit link is a whole breakdown of the “Rookies Promo + New Nickname Players + Labor day” promo that happened. Simply put, the idea behind these types of promos is that you have to play the promo enough to gain the points required to unlock the new players. Sounds easy, right? Not really. As like I previously said, there is a paywall implemented into each one of these promos, meaning that you can only get so far by not spending any money. Therefore, if you don’t spend money, you are penalized for it by being forced to settle with a worse player. Let us only focus on the rookie side of this promo (the first section of the reddit breakdown post). Here, Allen Iverson is the clear cut best out of the other two, Zion Williamson and Deandre Ayton, in terms of the player overall and stats. Below, I have provided a link to the math someone on reddit did for this promo. The math shows that it is possible to get Zion Williamson and Deandre Ayton as a free to play player, but this is making the big assumption that we are consistently playing the same events repeatedly and are redeeming the bonus packs every 4 hours which the math here assumes we stay up 24 hours around the clock. Just the probability of these two requirements being met are a struggle because we all have things to do in our lives, so it’s impossible for us to constantly be playing this game and remembering to redeem the bonus packs. So in hindsight, it is impossible to achieve Allen Iverson without paying. For people who choose to pay, they will be at a big advantage because that player at that time, was the best player for that position.

  So, what does EA do to help the player base out? They sell “player boost packs”, that will help boost the points you will get upon completing the events. If we refer back to the first link, we can see that the player boost packs for the rookies promo costs $72 USD to get a 108 overall Luca Doncic, which will be useless after the promo anyway because most people will have 109 overall players. This is actually on the cheap end. I’ve also attached a photo of the current store for the new promo to illustrate that these prices normally are well over $100 CAD. On top of this, players can opt to purchase the required points directly with their coins or cash, both of which are purchasable in the store as well, of course, which is a very kind and thoughtful gesture from EA. The only other way of making a substantial amount of coins in this game is by getting lucky when pulling player packs and getting a high overall player to sell at the auction house. Otherwise, you will have to spend a long time grinding out coins or pull out your wallet, a routine EA is used to seeing.In the end, EA ultimately provides many possibilities of routes for revenue, but provides few possibilities to the consumers for trying to get the desired player.

Would you pay $84.99?

Final Verdict:

            At this juncture, I hope that you, my audience, can see crystal clear that the business of gaming has evolved drastically over the past decade. Even though some companies are more ethical than others, the fact remains that in game micro transactions are present in many shapes and forms in games today. Gone are the days where if you paid for the game, you would get it in its entirety. Companies are getting smarter, and are willing to take on an ongoing subscription payment model as opposed to a one and done deal.