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Micro-transactions – When Will They Stop?

Every gamer has a anger trigger.

For some its lag, for others its the squeaky voice of the 13 year old who banged their mum last night.
Dropped frame rates and players exploiting glitches in FPS games are also a good way to incite rage

A recent DarkWorld discussion (yup, these things occasionally happen without getting derailed!) highlighted what turns out to be my trigger.

So, whats the anger trigger for this gamer? It’s increasingly becoming Micro-transactions. They grind my gears. They REALLY grind my gears…

Its an unfortunate trend that’s growing with developers and companies to add in versions of in-game currency that can be purchased using real-world money with packages ranging from £1-2 for small amounts to eye watering bundles costing £100+ (which are often labeled “best value for money” on a price per in-game currency unit).

Whilst this practice is undoubtedly not new as such, its recently become more common place – especially in the mobile and tablet market where games such as Candy Crush Saga offer player the chance to pour hard earned money into the game for a few extra chances to complete a level. These are easy enough to take or leave though, I hardly play these games for more than 15 minutes on a lunch break as it is meaning I don’t have issues with running out of lives or growing frustrated and being stuck on a level. The term “Pay-to-Win” has also arisen as a result of this. The developers are also rather keen to remind you at every given opportunity that you can purchase these items and whilst there are some fix-arounds for this (putting your device in “Airplane Mode” can help stop in-game adverts popping up) there is often a reason for the in-app purchases, the games are either free or cheap. They have the adverts and microtransactions as a means to make money from the game

More recently however the “Pay-to-Win” culture has found its way onto PC and Console gaming…

And this is where the rage begins.


Companies are starting to include the option to purchase shortcuts to in-game content, content which other games have often been grinding away to obtain. Battlefield 4 offered gamers the chance to purchase “Class Shortcut” kits which unlocked everything for said class and also expanded this to vehicle classes. as a result you would end up with level 1 players running around with weapons previously reserved for those that had mastered that particular class.You could even unlock everything in-game (for a small fortune) which pretty much rendered the unlock system pointless.

The recent “AAA” title Assassins Creed Unity has also included an in-game micro-transaction for the purchasing of in-game currency. now whilst you can get around this by completing various tasks in the game itself the option is still there. and unlike Candy Crush Saga, Assassins Creed Unity is not a free-to-play game – depending on the platform its a £50 game. The addition of micro-transactions into a game that costs that much just screams greed to me

Ubisoft jumping on the Micro-transaction bandwagon…

Cosmetic micro-transactions seem to be pretty well established and here to stay. Items such gun skins in CoD or horse armour in Skyrim are fine – they’re a non-game affecting item, they just look great. If you want a hello kitty grenade launcher that’ll be £3.12.  A grenade launcher that fires Hello Kitty projectiles? same damage but added comedy value – that’ll be £5.17. But the sale of items that will give a gamer an advantage over others at an early stage or even end game is something that does not sit well.

A grenade launcher that shoots out Hello Kitty projectiles?!

The addition of micro-transactions to AAA games is a dangerous route to go down and developers and companies are no doubt monitoring the success and feedback of those currently implementing such strategies and with the gaming community showing much unrest at a “Pay-to-Win” culture, hopefully they’re listening and opting against such measures in future titles…

PTW

If they are here to stay though, is there a middle ground? Is there a viable model to allow micro-transactions without upsetting the balance of gameplay? Well, maybe. A method of scaling could be implemented – got a level one character but want that shiny end game gun (let’s use lvl20 as the cap) then that would cost you a bomb. £100 let say. Got a level 19 character and want the same gun? £20.

Its by no means a perfect model but allows those desperate to get the gear a way to do so whilst not being so cheap as to make it a regular occurrence, cheapening the item itself and diluting the gameplay.

One thing is clear though, micro-transactions are an addition to the world of gaming that will need to be carefully managed if its ever going to be accepted by the community.

4 thoughts on “Micro-transactions – When Will They Stop?”

  1. It might be acceptable of they reduced the price of the core game. My bugbear is when they sell you half a game and then charge the moon for DLC.

    1. They would have to massively knock down the price though to justify it.

      For free games it’s a main source of revenue but for a big game such as AC:U they have a huge fan-base willing to purchase a £50 game and its not just the game – there’s the DLC seasons passes, collectors editions, merchandise… they don’t need the extra income yet they put that option in regardless.

      I do agree though that half a game and then charging the moon for DLC is a bug-bear. Im a little on the fence about games that appear in Episodes (Walking Dead, Jurassic Park and soon the Game of Throne series from TellTale) as well, done right its a novel way of doing things but if they start over charging for individual episodes its a huge step in the wrong direction

      1. IMO it all depends on what the DLC is, and I tend to join in with the masses against paying for DLC which is already on the disk. If its already on the disk I’ve already paid for I shouldn’t have to pay to play it =p

        Stuff like the Assassin’s Creed extra missions with a different character – those I’d be happy to pay for, its like a whole extra bit of game, and its not already on the disk.

        Pay to win is also bad. I’m fine with stuff like the gun skins in CoD, they make no difference to gameplay, so I don’t have to buy them.

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