Disney Dreamlight Valley developer Gameloft announced earlier today that its popular cozy Disney life sim game will not be going free-to-play in December as planned. And unsurprisingly, its bustling player community has, well, a lot of thoughts about that!
While on its face, the above sentence sounds like it might spark anger, the Disney Dreamlight Valley community’s questions and concerns are far more nuanced than one might expect from the outside. While some players are upset, others are celebrating the change with some caveats, and others just want more clarity on what to expect regarding future pay structures and update plans.
It’s a complex, unexpected situation – so we poked around in the community to see why there’s such a broad range of emotions around a game about doing neighborhood chores with cute and friendly Disney characters.
What’s going on?
Earlier today, Gameloft unveiled some major Disney Dreamlight Valley news: the game’s not going free-to-play after all. That had originally been the plan, ever since it launched in early access last year. Players have been paying to access the game during that period, but it’s been intended from the start to eventually go free-to-play and be available to all, and has included numerous microtransactions and other structures that seemed more appropriate in a free-to-play game than a paid one.
When Dreamlight Valley exits early access on December 5, it will see a price increase from $30 to $40 for the base version, with more expensive versions of the game coming with various goodies. Additionally, the game’s first paid expansion is in the works, and will cost an extra $30 on top of that.
“It’s important to us that we maintain our promise to keep delivering free content updates that add new characters, realms, clothing, furniture, and more surprises to your Valley,” the developer said in a blog post. “Purchases requiring moonstones will remain optional, fair, and match the level of quality players have come to expect. Players will still be able to collect free Moonstones via Dream Snaps and Chests, or optionally choose to purchase them.”
Many members of the existing Disney Dreamlight Valley player community are actually quite happy with the change for one major reason: they’ve already paid for the game. Since its early access launch, Dreamlight Valley has cost $30 (unless played through Xbox Game Pass), so anyone who is currently an active part of the community has spent money for the game already, and will continue playing as before. Game Pass users will also retain access for the foreseeable future.
Taken at face value, it sounds like Gameloft’s decision will by and large preserve the status quo of Dreamlight Valley going forward. But some players aren’t so sure that’s the case, though their actual concerns about the game span a wide gamut of worries.
What the Community is saying
Much of the community’s fears stem from a perceived dissonance between what a free-to-play game looks like, and what a premium game looks like, as well as uneasiness with Gameloft’s commitment to making Dreamlight Valley one or another, rather than a deeply expensive hybrid of both.
For instance, a number of players have pointed out long-held fears that the originally planned move to free-to-play was always intended to inundate the game with microtransactions. Currently, Disney Dreamlight Valley has a currency called Moonstones that can either be purchased with real money or acquired through normal gameplay, and then used in turn to buy cosmetic upgrades or progress along the Battle Pass-like Star Path. As it stands, you can actually collect Moonstones fairly easily just through playing the game normally, but many players were worried that a move to free-to-play would ultimately make this currency harder to get ahold of, necessitating more real-money purchases over time to obtain the same rewards.
While all of this makes it sound like the decision to forego free-to-play for Dreamlight Valley was a good one, most people in the community actually seem to be taking fairly nuanced positions on the issues inherent with the change. Many users have pointed out that because the game is already clearly structured to be free-to-play, it seems nonsensical or even greedy to additionally charge a flat fee to all players on top of that. Or, conversely, if Dreamlight Valley is not going free-to-play, why have cosmetic microtransactions at all? Why not just unlock everything for all players? Others seem opposed to having extra purchases on top of the base game of any kind, including expansion packs.
Still others are worried about the upcoming expansion pack, A Rift in Time. Some are frustrated with Gameloft’s plans to sell the pack for real money, without allowing it to be purchased with saved up Moonstones. Others have expressed concerns about the lack of clarity as to what content will be free in the future, and what will be locked behind more purchases. Disney Dreamlight Valley has an ongoing story with new characters and locations that are unlocked over time as a part of major game updates. But which characters will be free, and which will be paid going forward? How will this tie into the game’s story and overall gameplay and continuity? Why do Founder’s Edition owners still have to pay for the expansion pack, too? Sure, Gameloft is promising that everything will remain fair and free content will still be delivered, but if the studio was willing to change its mind about one major monetization issue, it might change its mind again later on.
Fortunately, there’s one thing everyone does agree on: the new Gold Edition cosmetic reward capybara is PERFECT.
While the various worries and fears expressed by the community today are broad and diverse, the overarching theme is that of fear that Dreamlight Valley will eventually inhabit the worst of both worlds: charging users to play at all, and then charging them constantly for major gameplay elements after that indefinitely. One community member compared a worst case scenario for Dreamlight Valley to The Sims – a beloved game that nonetheless can be exceedingly expensive if you want to stay up on all the latest updates.
With Gameloft so willing to promise one kind of game and ultimately deliver a different one, it’s no surprise that the community is uneasy about the details, especially the ones Gameloft clearly isn’t ready to talk about just yet. IGN reached out to Gameloft for clarity on these concerns, and will update this story when we hear back.
Trepidations aside, we loved Disney Dreamlight Valley at its early access launch, giving it an 8/10 and calling it “an awesome life simulator that flexes its iconic characters to riveting, satisfying effect.” Here’s hoping it stays that way.
Rebekah Valentine is a senior reporter for IGN. Got a story tip? Send it to email@example.com.
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Author: Rebekah Valentine