MultiVersus developers say an in-game option to purchase more lives with real money was 'a bug'

 Multiversus halloween skins.
Multiversus halloween skins.

The makers of MultiVersus say an option giving players the ability to purchase more lives with real money during campaign missions is in fact "a bug," and not a feature that's meant to be in the game. As you might imagine, I—and lots of other people—have questions.

Warner Bros' answer to Smash Bros. made a big return last week after almost a year of dormancy, bringing with it a new campaign mode, which includes the ability to replenish lives with real money. As someone who spent many an hour exchanging money for life in various local arcades that struck me as not a particularly big deal, but given the reaction to the option on Reddit, many MultilVersus fans felt differently.

Under the bug, players could buy a full refill of lives—the number wasn't specified, but reportedly six—for $10. As some Redditors pointed out, though, it will actually be even more than that: A bundle of 1,000 Gleamium in-game currency is $10 but the full refill costs 1,004 Gleamium, so you're going to have to pony up for a second, smaller pack as well.

In a subsequent message posted to Twitter, Player First Games laid out some broad-strokes plans for future MultiVersus updates, including performance improvements, the addition of end-of-game stats, and the option to turn off team colors.

"We’d also like to let you know that the option to purchase extra lives is a bug that has been addressed and is not an intended feature in the game," the studio tweeted.

Greetings MVPs – we’re working hard on updates for #MultiVersus. Here’s a sample of what’s currently planned for upcoming patches based on your feedback:  Performance improvements Inclusion of End of Game stats Option to turn off team colors - We’d also like to let you know that the option to purchase extra lives is a bug that has been addressed and is not an intended feature in the game.  In regards to Iron Giant, updates are still in the works and he’ll be returning to battle shortly!

I am not a programmer so it's possible I'm off base here, but my understanding of "bug" is a malfunction: Developers did something, it didn't work, and they have to fix it. At first blush, that doesn't seem to be the case here, as this is obviously an option intentionally developed for the game. Some players have subsequently said, however, that the "bug" in question isn't the feature itself, but the fact that it's available at the "Insanity" difficulty level.

The "Looney" difficulty, the highest in the game, states that players must "complete matches with a limited number of lives per day," and notes that you can purchase more if you don't want to wait for them to be automatically, but slow, replenished. "Insanity" difficulty, which is one step down, isn't supposed to have limited lives, but the option to buy more was present anyway. That difficulty is now disabled.

So it seems this was indeed a bug, rather than an attempt to slip in even more monetization unnoticed. So why not just say so? Player First's message says the option to refill lives "is not an intended feature in the game," full stop—yet by all appearances it is an intended feature in the game, just not at that difficulty. The Looney difficulty isn't supposed to unlock until July 10 so you could argue it's not meant to be in the game right now, but again, why not be clear about that? The messaging as it stands looks a bit evasive.

Even if that's the case and this whole thing was just a matter of bad communication, it's still not going to satisfy some players: 10 bucks for six lives is the kind of pay-to-play monetization we mostly associate with mobile gacha games. Yes, you can wait until the lives replenish, but we all know that at least some portion of the player base isn't going to do that. That's the principle that free-to-play games are predicated on and I generally don't have a problem with that, but when the prices go that high, for that little reward? Yeah, I can't get behind that.

There's no mention of the bug in the 1.01 patch notes that went live earlier today, so when the Insanity difficulty will return—and whether that's an accurate assessment of what actually happened here—isn't known. I've reached out to WB Games for more information and will update if I receive a reply.