Warframe is a free-to-play third-person-shooter that released back in 2013 to a small-ish audience. Since then, the community has grown quite large and Digital Extremes is even hosting its second-annual “Tenno Con” this summer. The problem with this and many other free to play titles is keeping the player base happy and engaged. Warframe is no stranger to the struggles of player drop-off and the community is always very vocal when it comes to feedback. Which is why this Warframe forum post doesn’t really surprise me.
The post, titled “Nerfs are not the right answer to the problems in the game”, references a Youtube video detailing the reasons why the player believes that weapon and frame nerfs are pushing the community away. The general consensus of those who replied to the post seems to be that these changes are needed, while those that replied to the Youtube video say they find most of the in-game nerfs annoying and unnecessary. So which is it? And is this really why people stop playing Warframe?
First, let’s take a look at why Digital Extremes nerfs weapons. The usual argument against any changes in power is that the game is predominantly a PvE experience so there’s no need to nerf anything. However, that’s entirely not the case. As another Warframe forum post very eloquently puts it: “Why have options when one thing just destroys the viability of the other things? Balance.” I seem to recall a time where nobody used anything other than the Soma Prime as their primary weapon. It was the best gun in the game, so why use anything else?
As the game updated, more weapons came out and the Soma naturally progressed further and further down the list of used weapons. Some weapons got buffed, others got nerfed, and the cycle of meta gameplay continued. If Digital Extremes were to leave the weapons as they were, the game would inevitably become tedious and boring. Nobody would grind for new weapons or frames because the ones they use now are simply unbeatable. And if they just make everything else more powerful, well, then you’re looking at a game many players already say is too easy getting even easier.
So are these “nerfs” really the reason players drop off the game so quickly? Personally, I don’t think so. As a regular player of the game, my main complaint is that there is very little to do outside of the regular grind, and what there is, is largely unfinished or thin in terms of content. While there is a growing number of quests in the game, they are sporadic and often fall short of expectation. Concepts like Archwing are brought in, worked on, broken, and left unfixed for sometimes months on end. The developers seem to be so busy trying to feed players content to keep them interested, that the content itself just isn’t up to the standards we’ve come to expect from this great game.
The question now seems to be: is this fixable? Well, yes. Player drop-off is an inevitability for a game like Warframe, but I believe it can be minimized largely in the same way that the Youtuber and OP talk about. Currently, Mastery Rank in Warframe is of very little consequence. During the lower levels you unlock the use of certain weapons and the higher you go the easier it is to mod your weapons. If every weapon was tied to a Mastery Rank and better weapons unlocked at higher tiers, we wouldn’t see so many players getting to Mastery 5, using the Tonkor, and ultimately getting bored in a month. If people are rewarded for playing the game then people will continue to play. In addition to this, fixing some of the pre-existing content and elaborating on the quests and lore would certainly keep me around for longer. But of course, this is only an opinion, and I’d love to hear yours!
Do you play Warframe? Why or why not? And what do you think the developers could do to keep their player base strong?