Fall Guys is now free-to-play on all gaming platforms, and with this change comes new heights for the game’s success. Surpassing 50 million players in just a couple of weeks since its free-to-play release, Fall Guys is more popular than ever before. This newfound success however is not without its issues. Like with most free-to-play games, Fall Guys introduced a new premium currency in the form of Show-Bucks. The integration of the Show-Bucks system clashes with the gameplay loop that the game was originally built on, and it falls short of the past experience for this GameLuster writer.
Fall Guys released in August 2020, as a free PS+ game or for purchase on Steam. Immediately it was a hit for me, as it was effectively a battle royale game that didn’t demand excessive dexterity and aiming skills. It was an accessible battle royale and a perfect contrast to the high skill requirement on Fortnite. After its initial run as a PS+ release, the game remained a paid title until June 21 2022, when it transitioned to its new free-to-play form. Existing players who already paid for the game were given a legacy pack with cosmetic items and the paid Season 1 pass for free. All Crowns were also converted to Kudos, the basic currency of the game.
The first issue for fans came up here, with just how useless Kudos have now become with the addition of Show-Bucks. Kudos can only be used to purchase very few items of very little value, including some generic cosmetics, character titles and player banners. Whilst they could formerly be used on the majority of item store outfits and interface accessories, they are now relegated to a smaller section at the bottom of the store page. Also gone, as previously mentioned, is the premium Crowns currency. Crowns could only be earned by winning games, or by collecting Crown Shards through the completion of challenges and co-op games. This scarcity made them valuable, with Crowns being the main currency used to purchase high-value, rare outfit pieces. Scarcity combined with the inability to purchase them made the game more enticing to play. Just one short game could see you earning a new Crown, and if a win was too hard to achieve, just completing challenges was enough. All it took was playing the game to get one step closer to the outfit of your beany dreams.
The introduction of Show-Bucks has completely removed that addicting gameplay loop. Instead, the majority of interesting outfits have a Show-Bucks price tag attached, which can only be earned through intense season pass grinding or paying real money. The Show-Bucks aren’t cheap, with most skins being 800 Show-Bucks, and the lowest priced bundle being $7.99/£6.49 for 1000. As mentioned, the season pass does allow you to earn Show-Bucks, be it at a snail’s pace. To earn all the Show-Bucks available in the season pass, the player would have to reach the maximum level of 100 and would earn a total of 1500 Show-Bucks. This is suspiciously short of the 1600 that would be needed for just two complete outfits, ensuring the further purchase of either following season passes or microtransaction bundles to make the most of what you earned.
The season pass does include cool outfits to earn as you progress, but the fun of having so many potential combinations is completely lacking when you can’t get everything without spending real money. The game was built on a mix-and-match mechanic for its outfits, with upper and lower body part options being intentionally separate. Players used to be able to get these pieces easily, yet now they cost significantly more time and/or money.
The downgrade of the free-to-play mechanics is even more obvious when looking specifically at collaborations. Collaborations with other franchises are a key part of live service games, and it adds a lot of novelty to the experience. It is undeniably fun to run around as a silly clumsy bean whilst dressed like a vengeful Japanese samurai (the Ghost of Tsushima collaboration). However, these collaboration skins used to be earned from a free Fame Pass (the precursor to the paid Season Pass), or through special challenge events. Fall Guys free-to-play does have collaboration challenges, and yet here the difference becomes stark. The free-to-play collaboration challenges now award a single item, such as Halo’s Master Chief helmet with cat ears in the first challenge, or the Apple of Eden from Assassin’s Creed from the newly announced second challenge. Whilst formerly the challenge would award an entire themed outfit, the new challenges offer a piece of an outfit that’s not really the actual outfit of these iconic characters. Instead, the full character outfits have gone to the outfit shop for Show-Bucks.
Sure, Master Chief’s helmet could be earned for free, but it was pink and had kitten ears. The iconic green Master Chief himself however costs 1200 Show-Bucks, which is either two 1000 Show-Bucks bundles for $15.98/£12.98, the 2800 Show-Bucks bundle for $19.99/£15.99, or dozens of hours of playtime. Formerly, the player could earn, for free, the entire outfits for Ratchet & Clank, Astrobot, Sackboy, Aloy and so many more. Now, the player can earn a small unrecognizable piece for free – or pay up for the full character.
Making the paid outfit situation even more frustrating is the fact that Fall Guys outfits are not as functional as those featured in Fortnite, another Epic Games-owned title that uses a highly similar currency system. Fortnite skins can have special effects, built-in emotes, customisable elements, matching pickaxe/back blings, and so on. They are also more visible in Fortnite, which has social party modes, in-game concerts and so on. Fall Guys skins blend in with all the others in a hectic game mode, becoming a mess of exploding beans like an accident at the Heinz factory. It also has no lobby, so only you can see the HD close-up of your glorious bean falling into the loading screen abyss. The absurd price of these skins combined with the fact they have little showing-off value only adds to the confusion and frustration that the Show-Bucks system brings. The emulation of the Fortnite model is clear in the monetisation system, and yet the actual utility of the outfits is far less than what Fortnite managed to achieve.
Despite the annoyance the introduction of Show-Bucks has caused in the Fall Guys fan base, the blame cannot be put entirely on developer Mediatonic. Epic Games acquired Mediatonic in 2021, and the free-to-play Fall Guys update is only available to new players on the Epic Games store. The Show-Bucks are also a clear copy of the V-Bucks system, even down to the quantities and the pricing. It seems quite clear that this extortionate pricing system has Epic Games written all over it – it was Mediatonic after all that was responsible for all the former free collaborations.
It is a shame to see Fall Guys succumb to the free-to-play model scheme, as it simply makes the experience more inaccessible to all. The issues raised here with Fall Guys are also hardly original, these same criticisms have been mounted to many free-to-play games after all. The part that causes the most disappointment is the fact that Fall Guys felt like a step in the right direction for the battle royale genre. It started out bold, different, and more accessible. Yet now, it has begun to shift in line with the others. The core experience of highly stressful obstacle courses remains as delightful as ever, yet that joy slowly starts to fade as the monetised reality sinks in. Whether this new direction will be as lucrative as Fortnite remains to be seen, and I wish the developers over at Mediatonic all the success in the world. For me though, I’m starting to fall out of love with Fall Guys.