I’m not a psychic but I’m willing to bet your first thought is ‘no’. Possibly, followed by another ‘no’and just for effect, you repeat with a final ‘NO!”. I’m not going to turn around and say you’re wrong but I urge you to consider the possibilities of microtransactions in games. I believe that everything has its pros and its cons and maybe microtransactions have a place but the real question is where?
What are Microtransactions?
Everyone has their own interpretation on what a Microtransaction is. Many view them as just cheap DLC while others view it as an in-game shortcut. While both these views remain true I’m going to limit the definition of Microtransactions to basically what the name suggests, small online transactions that utilise real money.
Even if you ignore the realms of Mobile Gaming, Microtransactions were a rather rare thing to be included in full price retail games. I’m talking within the realms of a £40/$50 game. Often you’d only see them in some MMOs. Unfortunately, in this new generation, a lot of bad practices are here for the ride. Now it’s nearly impossible to buy a game without these little ‘extras’ bolted on. Understandably gamers are not pleased with this.
A popular example is Overkill’s PayDay 2. Now PayDay 2 is a game that I adore, it’s fun, it clever and best of all its co-op so fun with friends. That said, Overkill really shit the bed when they introduced the safe system on PC.
Now I never encountered the safe system personally because I have the console version of PayDay 2. In essence, it’s just another loot crate system with a sick twist. Instead of buying the safe with real money you get it for free. The catch is you need a key, or in this case, a drill to open it. To top it off the content you get has beneficial effects other than cosmetic which is a gigantic no-no.
That’s pretty much the equivalent of a developer giving you a tub of ice cream but then tries to sell you the spoon. True you can eat with your hands but it’s messy and it doesn’t need to happen. PayDay 2 isn’t the only game to implement an iffy loot system, however, with games such as Overwatch being a controversial topic.
Here’s A Short List Of Games From The Past 5 Years With Microtransactions:
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
- Assassin’s Creed: Unity
- GTA V
- Dragon Age: Inquisition
- Mass Effect: Andromeda
Notice how all the examples I’ve given are full price release titles. Also, they are all from triple-A developers and publishers such as Ubisoft, EA and even Rockstar. Normally you’d think that these multi-million dollar companies wouldn’t need to introduce Microtransactions. In an ideal world you’re right but as I’m sure you’re all aware, this is far from an ideal world.
The Good Things About Microtransactions in Games
Microtransactions have been implemented pretty effectively over the years. Though, you’ll hardly notice something if it’s doing its job right. Allow me to put forward a controversial opinion: I believe the Microtransactions in Destiny have been well implemented.
In case you are unaware of how Destiny does Microtransactions allow me to explain. Essentially, you buy a currency (Silver) that you spend in the Eververse store. You can buy cosmetic items like emotes, shaders and most recently, weapon skins. The reason why I count Destiny’s Microtransactions as a good example because it fits my criteria. Destiny’s Microtransactions are:
- Cosmetic Content only
- Purely Extra Content
- Isn’t pay to win
- Not in your face about it
- Items can be earned
I’m willing to admit that the idea of paying for content on a full priced game is a tall order. Yet, it’s understandable if it’s for content that was created after the release of the game. The key word here is AFTER. If a developer or publisher stoops to pulling content from the game just to sell it back to you to make a quick buck then you’re justified in your anger.
Now let’s get to the reason why we’re all here, let’s rag on all things Microtransaction. I’ve already mentioned how downright disgusting it is when developers cut content only to sell it back to you. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Countless times we see powerful items in games locked behind an artificial paywall. That’s just for the sheer purposes of making money and is what quickly turns the game community against you.
I’m not an unreasonable person, I understand that EA needs a small fortune to feed Cerberus before he gets hungry, but when you give people who pay more an edge over people who are happy with just paying the standard £40 then you’re just devaluing paying customers. How dare we buy a game and expect that game to allow us access to everything within it, that’s just ridiculous right? Right…?
Whenever Microtransactions resort to selling you:
- Pre-existing content
- Items that give you an edge
- Artificial paywalls (speeding up timers and such)
- Speeding up progression(I’m looking at you Deus Ex!)
- ITEM RENTALS!
It’s a sure sign that the developers and/or publishers don’t care about customer satisfaction and only care about money and if they don’t care about you then why should we give a single damn about them.
The Damn Ugly
Now I’ve saved the worse kind of Microtransactions for last. The dreaded ‘Pay-to-Win’ game. Now when it comes to free to play games you can take a pay-to-win system with a grain of salt, quite a few games manage to be fun while still maintaining a pay-to-win theme such as Warframe. However, when a full priced game implements a pay-to-win aspect then I have no forgiveness.
An example of pay-to-win in a full priced game is Halo 5’s REQ system. I can already hear the lynch mobs banging down my door but let’s face the simple facts here. You need REQ cards to call in weapons such as sniper rifles and rockets, they’re also used to call in vehicles too such as the Scorpion tank and the Banshee but you have to unlock these cards by purchasing REQ packs. If you don’t have these single use cards you’re at a disadvantage in Warzone. While skill does still come into play in Warzone, you can’t deny the fact that a guy in a tank has a massive advantage over a guy with a pistol and assault rifle.
REQ packs can be earned but it takes about 4 or 5 arena games, depending on your performance, and maybe 2 or 3 Warzone games, again depending on your performance. However, if someone drops an additional £90 (almost double the price of the actual game) they can purchase over 50 gold packs which give those people instant access to more REQs which is just kinda insulting to people working hard to unlock things. I’ve personally been playing Halo 5 since release and I still don’t have access to powerful REQs such as the Phaeton which is a total match breaker at times and as a whole I avoid Warzone because I’m of tired of stepping into a match only to get killed by guys with guns that have the damage boost modifier on them.
At the end of the day the people who pay more have an advantage and that’s what pay-to-win is, it’s really jarring too when you go from Halo 5’s very skill based arena multiplayer to the massive clusterfuck that is Warzone. It’s a shame and a perfect example of when a company just decides to squeeze every single penny out of a franchise when it’s more than capable of selling itself, especially Halo 5 which has no business having Microtransactions. And lets not forget how Microsoft insulted people with legitimate questions in their REQ system video.
So do Microtransactions have a place in gaming? Well yes and no…Microtransactions have the possibility to bring new content to games without limiting developers to making DLC packs and if they remain optional and cosmetic only then they can actually extend the life cycle of a game which benefits both gamers willing to pay extra and those who aren’t, that’s the literal definition of a win-win situation but the unfortunate truth is developers and publishers continuously abuse this system and gamers are just willing to accept it. We live in an era where games have proven better than they’ve ever been but for every Witcher 3 we get an Assassin’s Creed: Unity, for every Dark Souls 3 we get The Division.
What about you, do you believe that Microtransactions have a place in gaming? Should the entire system just take a hike? Tell us your thoughts.