As part of their 2017 E3 presentation, Ubisoft unveiled their newest IP: Starlink: Battle For Atlas. I’ve watched the trailer above five times now. With each successive iteration, I become more and more perplexed. Who’s idea was this? I demand to speak to the demonic ‘fun uncle’ who thought this was a good idea. Because that’s what Starlink: Battle for Atlas is: the ultimate personification of the sibling that brings a loud, complex, or messy gift for your kids knowing they won’t have to deal with the fallout*. Only someone without children could create such a monstrosity because surely a fellow parent would never bestow this unfolding tragedy upon their brethren.
*Looking at you jewelry bead-maker, magnetic sand, and toy musical instruments.
Let’s break this down. Here’s what Ubisoft has to say about their game.
FULLY CUSTOMIZE YOUR STARSHIP: THE CHOICE IS YOURS! Mix and match pilots, hulls, wings, and weapons to assemble your ideal starship with an unprecedented level of customization and creativity. Changes to your physical ship instantly appear in-game allowing you to immediately jump into the battle […] Build your unique play style. Experiment with different pilot abilities, weapon types, and status effects to discover and unleash devastating combos upon your enemies and overcome deadly challenges.
Oh really? Fully customize your starship, huh? Well, that surely will cost hundreds of dollars because there’s no way Ubisoft doesn’t package upgrades, ships, and pilots separately. Look, parents survived the implosion of Disney Infinity and many are still in the trenches of the Skylanders money pit. We know what “customizable” and “experiment to find your style” means. It means money spent and — based on the ships shown in the trailer — a reserve of money set aside for when the upgrades eventually go missing. Those are some small pieces. Pieces to get lost in a fight with siblings or friends. Pieces to get picked up and ruined by the vacuum or missed in a pocket and sent through the washing machine. Pieces for the cat can carry off, never to be seen again. Even if, by some miracle, the tiny add-ons survive, they’ll no doubt end up warped, meaning the connectors no longer function properly or acknowledge the controller. All of this is money spent.
Look, I get it Ubisoft. You want in on the sweet, lucrative proprietary figurines market. But being late to the table means consumers are savvier. For every toys-to-life success like Nintendo’s Amiibos, there are a dozen Playmation, Eye Of Judgement, and Hero Plug-And-Play failures littering the local dollar store. If even Disney Infinity couldn’t make it, that’s as damning a sign for the future of the genre as anything I’ve ever seen. If you want Starlink: Battle For Atlas to succeed, my best advice would be not to micro-transaction parents to death. It may be your only hope.