Marvel Snap’s first patch of 2023 is here. And while it comes with an interesting set of buffs and long-asked-for nerfs, it also brings a new bundle in the shop that’s finally causing me to give my favorite mobile game ever a bit of side-eye.
As mobile games go, Marvel Snap’s been really good about its monetization scheme. You spend $10 a month if you want that season’s new card / premium battle pass filled with premium prizes, which feels fairly standard. You can also spend money on gold, which is used to buy credits that cosmetically upgrade your cards. As you upgrade your cards, you gain collector levels that, as your level increases, reward you with newer, more powerful cards. While that does sound slightly like “pay-to-win,” you can earn plenty of credits simply by completing quests, and the collection tier ladder will also occasionally spit out premium gold as well. So while I could increase my collection level faster by buying gold, I’ve comfortably increased my level without spending any money. You can also spend gold on getting fancy (and I mean “I will expire if I don’t have this” fancy) variants of cards featuring the work of well-known artists like Alex Ross and Peach Momoko.
That’s a sweet spot to be in. A player can spend money to get cards faster if they wanted, but the game rewards players at a decent enough rate that such purchases aren’t strictly necessary — compared to, say, Diablo Immortal, where the only reasonable way to get premium gear is by spending a lot of money.
The problem, however, is with Marvel Snap’s bundle shop. The shop offers limited-time bundles that include credits to upgrade cards / collector levels, card variants, and the new currency tokens that can be used to outright buy new cards. The prices of these bundles are so far beyond what one would reasonably expect to pay for premium goods that it’s causing players to complain about a game that’s otherwise been the poster child for how mobile games can make money without exploitative “pay-to-win” tactics.
For example, today’s patch notes include new information on a bundle designed to give new players a leg up.
“For new players who want to jump right in, we’re releasing a one-time purchase, ‘Pro Bundle’ with 12,500 Credits and enough boosters to upgrade 8 cards from Common to Infinity,” read today’s patch notes.
The price for that bundle? One hundred whole-ass American dollars.
Because there’s nothing more welcoming for new players than asking them to spend $100 right off the rip.
This, unfortunately, isn’t the first time Marvel Snap’s tried to gouge its players. Over the winter holiday, it introduced several bundles priced at $50 or higher, including a Sunspot variant bundle I would have killed to have if it didn’t cost 6,000 gold or $80! (A third-party Marvel Snap enthusiast site, Snap Zone, has created a handy graphic featuring all of Snap’s bundles, their prices, and calculations of their perceived “value.” The average price of a bundle in USD? $54.)
It’s further upsetting because Marvel Snap hasn’t always priced its items like there isn’t a massive cost-of-living crisis going on and we’ve all got hundred-dollar bills lining our suit jackets. There was a Spider-Man bundle a few weeks back that cost a totally reasonable $20. The game’s welcome bundle when the game first launched back in October only cost $3. If there were other bundles on offer in the shop, the fact that these particular bundles cost at least $50 a pop wouldn’t be so bad. But Snap only offers one bundle at a time.
So what does it say about a game that jumps from $3 welcome bundles to $100 welcome bundles? The community thinks Second Dinner is hunting for whales — or players who routinely drop large amounts of cash.
I want to believe that because Marvel Snap is still relatively new, the folks at Second Dinner are still figuring out the sweet spot between making money and offering value to players. I think Marvel Snap, with its variant shop and monthly season pass, is already in a good place to do just that. But routinely charging over $50 for things players want is not it.