Steam Game Bails On Loot Boxes To Win Back Players

A character figurine sits on the playfield in Moonbreaker.

Screenshot: Unknown Worlds Entertainment

These days it’s rare to see an online game without built-in live-service monetization, let alone one that’s getting rid of that stuff. But that’s exactly what the Subnautica devs behind Moonbreaker are doing. Recently launched in Early Access on Steam, the tabletop RPG is throwing out both its premium paid currency and its loot boxes, and refunding players who have already bought in. Whether the game will remain monetization-free after its full release is a different question.

“Early Access is a time for us to experiment and improve the game, and the monetization in its current form was affecting that goal,” Unknown Worlds Entertainment, the studio behind Moonbreaker, posted on his blog yesterday (via RPS). “So we’re removing it to focus on making the best game that we can, before we leave Early Access.”

Revealed during Gamescom 2022director Charlie Cleveland described Moonbreaker as a “digital miniatures game” inspired by Guardians of the Galaxy and Firefly. Fantasy author Brandon Sanderson (best known for the Mistborn series) was brought on to write, and the D&D-inspired strategy combat looked like an intriguing mashup of Hearthstone and XCOM. Lofty comparisons aside, players have largely been receptive to the game’s mechanics and lore while slamming the microtransactions.

Moonbreaker is priced at $30, with a “founder’s pack” that raises it to $50. While this includes enough booster boxes for players to unlock most of the game’s units, PvE matches were previously locked behind premium currency, meaning players have to pay or grind to play solo. And as a miniatures game, much of the fantasy revolves around cosmetically customizing units, which also costs money. Most of the negative reviews on the Steam page all cited the free-to-play monetization of a paid game as their biggest issue.

Pulsars, the game’s paid currency, will now disappear, as well as the paid booster boxes. Players’ purchases will be refunded, and all units will automatically unlock at the start of each new season. “In celebration of this business model change, I’m gonna be purchasing the base game for some friends tomorrow,” one player wrote on Discord following the announcement. “Thanks so much for listening to community feedback and being willing to make big (potentially scary) changes so early on in development.”

That’s exactly what Early Access is for, and it’s good to see Moonbreaker not only backing off the free-to-play monetization, but also refunding players. That might change in the future, with some players suspecting Unknown Worlds might make the game free-to-play by launch and bring back some form of live-service microtransactions. In the meantime at least, players can enjoy the evolving TTRPG without all the other bullshit. It might even help Moonbreaker win back some of the players who bailed shortly after Early Access began.

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