Why real money will never be exchanged on Titanfall’s Black Market

You'll never have to drop hard cash to buy the game's Burn Cards, the developer promises.


Dennis Scimeca

Internet Culture

Published Jul 24, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 9:48 pm CDT

Titanfall, the multiplayer first person shooter and the first killer app for Microsoft’s Xbox One game console, is introducing a way for players to sell and buy the temporary ability boosts called Burn Cards.

Burn Cards have been hailed as one of the most innovative aspects of Titanfall’s design. The cards are temporary bonuses that players can activate during a match, and they can carry up to three burn cards at beginning of the match. Players may only hold a certain number of Burn Cards in their virtual “deck,” which means the cards have to be used, or lost.

Burn Cards are granted based on player performance, and there’s also an element of randomness to their distribution. The new Black Market program is eliminating some of that randomness by allowing players to sell Burn Cards they don’t intend to use, and ostensibly purchase Burn Cards which fit their playstyle.

Microtransactions are the bane of competitive online gaming. The ability to use real-world money to purchase in-game items and bonuses, known as a pay-to-win scenario, is anathema to most players. Respawn Entertainment was smart to immediately address concerns that the use of virtual, in-game currency to purchase Burn Cards would eventually lead to the use of real-world money for the same purpose.

“With the introduction of an in-game currency, some may worry that the next step is that we will  let players spend real-world money to get an edge in the game. We have stated several times that Titanfall will not have micro-transactions,” wrote David Shaver, a designer at Respawn, in a post on the Titanfall blog.

Burn Cards are a wonderful idea because they offer an alternative way to allow players to customize their performance, while also ensuring that players skills are balanced against one another. Competitive first-person shooters for years have allowed players to customize the performance of their avatars through permanent ability adjustments colloquially referred to as perks.

Perks are usually unlocked by performance, for example by the accrual of experience points and leveling up a character. Higher-level characters have access to better perks. The idea is that players will heavily engage with the multiplayer portion of the game in order to gain the same perks and thus nullify other players’ advantages. Temporarily suffering through imbalanced, unfair matches is the price to be paid for ranking up.

Titanfall still allows players to make permanent adjustments to their avatars’ performance, but the choices are fewer than in many multiplayer games, and very balanced against one another. Buying and selling Burn Cards could allow players to replicate the traditional perk-centric multiplayer experience.

Respawn’s cognizance of how the new Black Market could worry players is ultimately a recognition of how strongly online gamers have attached themselves to Titanfall. It’s currently the best-selling game on the Xbox One.

H/T Eurogamer | Titanfall robot photo via via Sergey Galyonkin/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0) | wad of cash photo via デニス モジョ/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


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*First Published: Jul 24, 2014, 12:52 pm CDT