It's sad but it's true: I'm falling out of love with Fall Guys

A self-confessed casual gamer laments the fact that, as Fall Guys has gone free-to-play, several unwanted changes have come with it.

I confess: I’m not much of a gamer.

As a kid, I bought every FIFA entry but little else. In my teens, I loved Grand Theft Auto and Left 4 Dead, but that was all. In my 20s, I completely fell off. I stopped buying FIFA. I tried The Last Of Us but only appreciated the story. I briefly enjoyed Rocket League until everyone (except me) mastered flying. I spent £20 of my final student loan on Borderlands 2, only to stare at an unopened box for months.

By 2019, my PlayStation 4 was used almost exclusively for Netflix. But something changed in August 2020 when I saw a clip of footballer Sergio Aguero guiding an anthropomorphic bean through an obstacle course while it shouted ‘Woo!’ and ‘Oomph!’ in response to various incidents. My heart stirred: it was love at first sight.

Fall Guys was, and remains, ideal for casuals like me. A 3D platformer with minimal lore that required little commitment; adorable characters, slapstick humour, and fair, competitive challenges; a sense of real reward when I was the one bean of 60 to grab the crown. I loved Fall Guys in a way I haven’t loved any game in over a decade.

So it breaks my heart to feel that love wilting.

My mood has gradually shifted ever since the big free-to-all launch a month ago. I’d been excited for Fall Guys to hit Xbox and Nintendo Switch so that even more players could partake in the innocent, nonsensical chaos. But with an influx of new players came a host of unexpected changes that altered the game in ways that I, perhaps naively, hadn’t anticipated. It’s been such a shame to watch it all unfold.

Skill-based matchmaking is the best way to stop new and inexperienced players from prematurely ditching the game. But long-termers of middling ability appear to now be lumped in with the pros. Fall Guys’ Reddit page is littered with complaints from players who claim they’re being severely punished for minor mishaps. One stumble and you face immediate, early elimination – in my experience, only Mario Kart Wii has ever penalised my small mistakes more.

As a casual gamer with a mediocre skillset, I’ve obviously wondered whether I just suck at Fall Guys now. A lot of new players entered the arena in June and many of them are surely already better than me. But once I hop out of Solo Show and enter Squad Show (a level with more lenient matchmaking credentials, that teams you up with other players), I’m back to watching my bean roll around and tumble over the various obstacles – but without the added stress of seeing dozens of other players fly past me. To me, that’s the essence of Fall Guys: clumsy and hilarious, but still rewarding for those of us who simply play to unwind.

Surely the introduction of a mid-skill tier wouldn’t go amiss?

Charging players for in-game items (such as costumes and accessories) is an understandable way for developers Mediatonic to earn their money back after making the game free-to-play. Fortnite has V-Bucks, Fall Guys has Show Bucks, it’s a tried and tested system.

The problem, though, as pointed out by many, is that the price of Show Bucks feels prohibitive. I love Fall Guys; I got it for free and it’s become my favourite game of all time, so I want to give the developers my money. But when it’s pointed out that an actual Pusheen plush toy is cheaper than the Fall Guys costume, opening my wallet is accompanied by a bitter taste.

The developers deserve money for their amazing work, but there’s a major cost-of-living crisis in the UK. The cheapest Show Bucks bundle is £6.49, and the must-have, limited edition items change on a weekly basis. Very few players can afford to fork out more than £5 every week.

In the past, premium items could be earned by sinking time into the game and developing your skills. If you saw a golden knight or a golden witch, you knew to be wary – that player had mastered their craft. To balance it out, you could earn yourself a couple of crowns to secure a snazzy pattern or an adorable emote for your bean.

It wasn’t a perfect system, but it was a loose meritocracy that didn’t exclude the majority. Nowadays, limited Show Bucks can be earned by playing the game, but the amount is nowhere near enough to collect any items promoted as must-haves by the Fall Guys social media team.

To make matters worse, players were allegedly refused refunds after a bug in the game’s store resulted in premium items being automatically purchased without the player’s consent. Despite numerous complaints over the course of two weeks, a public statement took forever and Reddit was ablaze when a Mediatonic employee seemed to refer to the bug as a non-issue. They eventually apologised and offered refunds, but the damage had already been done.

And what of the players who purchased the full game before June 2022? I was one of the lucky few that got in on the ground floor when it was initially free, but the PlayStation store soon began charging a price to download the game. Those who paid money for Fall Guys and stayed loyal during the ‘dead game’ era had all of their crowns (a formerly high-tier currency, earned by winning matches) converted into kudos (a low-tier currency earned by simply playing the game) last month, only to find that more desirable shop items could only be purchased by pouring actual cash into the game.

I was reminded of The Simpson’s trip to Itchy & Scratchy Land: Homer converts over $1,000 of cash into ‘Itchy & Scratchy Money’ (‘It’s works just like regular money but it’s, uh, fun’), only to find that nowhere inside the theme park accepts it.

I still love Fall Guys. Please don’t confuse my disappointment with anger or total disillusionment. I still play it for a couple of hours almost every day. No game has given me such a sweet combination of competition, silliness, and camaraderie since I found an online Flash version of Lemmings in 2006.

The changes I’m hoping for don’t have to be major, either – I’d just like them to be more acknowledging of long-term players than whatever that Legacy Pack was. Think about reinstating crown currency, maybe decrease the price of Show Bucks. I’m no marketing expert, I’m definitely not a gaming expert, but I know exactly how joyful Fall Guys used to be and I’d love nothing more than to feel that joy again.

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