Ah, the topic of microtransactions. First, let me tell you precisely what microtransactions are. They are found in most free-to-play games and no doubt almost all of us have run across them at this point. It’s when the game is probably overall free, but then offers things you can buy in the game. Almost all phone games use this business model. You can purchase extra lives or in-game money.
However, it’s not just in phone games. It has also moved into other games, non-mobile games. I used to play this game a while back called Phantasy Star Universe. It is an MMO and had a monthly fee to play. Everyone paid the flat monthly fee, and that is where the paying stopped. When the next game in the series came out (Phantasy Star Online 2), it was free-to-play. I tried playing it since I loved the series so much. Though it was free-to-play, you still had to pay for certain aspects of the game. There was a whole series of little things that cost money. I didn’t want to start making choices on what to pay. I just felt uncomfortable about it so spent nothing. After only a couple times of playing, I realized there was a big difference between me and those willing to pay whatever in game. They had better characters, had more money, were having an overall fuller experience. It sucked.
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Microtransactions are becoming more and more prevalent in games. GTA is apparently now planning to have microtransactions in every game going forward. It’s because it makes them more money, plain and simple. That means you’ll spend money to buy the game, and then also be given buying options in the game. Gone are the days where you pay once for a game.
Have you ever paid for something in a game? Perhaps Candy Crush or some other phone game? Probably, because a ton of us have. I’ve even recently paid for some extra things in Battle of Polytopia (a new tribe to play as). You know what? I don’t really mind paying for some stuff in phone games. Especially when the majority of the game is free and single player. However, I strongly dislike multiplayer games with microtransactions, especially non-mobile games.
There are two ways to go about offering content for players to buy. One is the older way, where the developers come out with new content to keep the game alive. New maps in Halo is what I think of when it comes to this. The second way is to squeeze every possible profit out of people as possible.
One reason why companies want to increase their profit is that game prices have topped out at $60 and have been for a while. Companies don’t believe most people would be willing to pay more than this for a game. However, the cost to make games has continued to go up. You can’t blame a company for wanting to actually make money. However, this is a slippery slope. Companies decide they can make more and more through microtransactions and DLC (downloadable content). They even go so far as to take parts of the game that was initially part of it and hide it behind a paywall. This is typical of “season’s passes.” Paying to have access to the entire game.
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This all leads to the same feeling I got with my MMO Phantasy Star 2. I felt like I was playing a demo really. It felt like an incomplete game unless I was willing to continually be making purchases in the game. It’s not just the feeling that a game is unfinished unless you are ready to pay more. It’s also that each players experience becomes uneven. Some people are willing to pay more than others.
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I should also bring up loot boxes. This is a special type of in-game purchase because it’s a gamble. You pay for a collection of random, unknown items in hopes of getting specific (rare) items. Overwatch makes use of loot boxes, however, what makes it okay is what they include in their loot boxes. It’s things that are cosmetic, instead of gameplay altering items. Which frees it from the “play to win” category. The problem with loot boxes in other games is the theory developers are making games harder and more frustrating, as a way to encourage the purchase of loot boxes. As if it wasn’t already bad enough they make you spend money on a gamble for the item you want.
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Star Wars: Battlefront II is a game people like to talk about when it comes to microtransactions, DLC, and loot boxes. This upcoming game will have loot boxes with non-cosmetic items. Also, people have already been accusing the developers of removing parts of the original game to later offer it as DLC you have to pay for. However, the company has now promised that all future DLC will be free, as far as new characters and maps. Something to appease those of us salty about the prospect of loot boxes. However, it appears this promise was just something said to try and quiet the complaints. That is because those playing the newest beta can see the enormous imbalance of gameplay between paying for and not paying for loot boxes.
Personally, I hate most free-to-play games. However, I can appreciate that it’s a business model that works and is likely to be here for a long time. My remaining issue though, is how far is this going to be pushed? It makes me frustrated that some companies are changing the game to better benefit microtransactions, loot boxes, and DLC.