Microtransactions are a hot topic in gaming these days—and for good reason. These pesky little cash grabs, which involve gamers spending money to advance through a video game, have come under fire for just about everything. Not only have they been equated to gambling, but they’ve been accused of interfering with gameplay, squeezing pennies (make that thousands) out of devoted players and allowing higher income players to “pay-to-win“.
Most gamers agree: Monetization.Sucks. So, whether you’re new to this heated debate or well into the conversation, we’re going to break down the big issues for you—and let you know what you can do about it.
What are Microtransactions?
Microtransactions are smaller purchases you can make inside of a mobile, console or computer game. These purchases often unlock more material like cosmetic items (such as different costumes), new characters, new levels, quests or maps, combat items and so on. Recently, microtransactions have become a controversial way of game developers increasing their revenue after a game has already been bought.
Can Microtransactions Be Good?
Yes, sometimes. Overwatch is a great example of players happily dishing out a bit of money for new character skins while supporting a much loved franchise. Free mobile games are another place where microtransactions may be appropriate—if you want to support the developer, you can drop them a few bucks, but if not, you can continue to play for free.
There’s also the argument that games are becoming increasingly harder and more time consuming to make without a significant retail price increase. In this instance, in-game transactions have become a way for game developers to recoup expenses not covered by sticker prices. Additionally, there’s a movement towards “games as service”, where developers continue to pump resources into games that have already been released, creating new content and bettering player experience with every update. The only way these practices are sustainable is for developers to charge for in-game content along the way. And for the most part, gamers are willing to pay.
How are Microtransactions Bad?
Well, that depends on who you ask. Some people say that players shouldn’t be charged extra in games that they have already paid full price for. Others are disgruntled about how content that historically would have been included in the game from day one is now being locked behind a paywall.
The most egregious offense so far though is the accusation that games are throwing players under the bus with “pay-to-win” schemes. When in-game purchases get you game-changing (or game-winning) advantages, that sucks—it’s unfair for certain players to get a leg up just because they have more cash to throw at developers. In this way, lower income players and younger players are unjustly discriminated against, as they do not have the same opportunity to succeed in these games, regardless of skill level. PayingToWin.Sucks for everyone—and gamers have finally had enough.
What Happens When Gamers Speak Out?
When EA Access members got a sneak preview of the new Star Wars Battlefront II game, they were not impressed. Hugely popular characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader were not immediately available to gamers; instead, you had to purchase them separately or dedicate a whopping 40 hours of multiplayer playtime to unlock each hero. Gamers were outraged, and naturally, they took to the web to talk about what they thought sucked. They felt as if they were being coerced into making microtransactions by having some of their favorite characters withheld from them unless they opened their wallets.
In response, a representative of Electronic Arts, the game’s publisher, released a statement on Reddit explaining that the system was actually designed to “provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes”. Needless to say, gamers were not falling for it. The Reddit post became the most downvoted post in Reddit history, currently sitting at -672K points. The uproar forced EA and partner developer DICE to apologize publicly for the whole debacle. They then suspended all microtransactions before the game officially launched.
AnUnevenPlayingField.Sucks. No one wants to feel like they are at a disadvantage or missing out just because someone else is willing to empty their pockets for a particular game. Gamers spoke out, were heard and made a huge ripple in the gaming industry. Publishers and developers are going to have to rethink monetization strategies, lest they end up in the unfortunate position of EA and DICE. Companies are thinking twice before trying to nickel-and-dime consumers and gamers proved that making your voice heard online can make a difference—in a BIG way.
If you’re tired of microtransactions interrupting your gameplay, join the scores of Redditors and gamers everywhere with a domain like MonetizingGames.Sucks to protest these predatory practices.
Photo Credits: Shutterstock / Syda Productions, Shutterstock / amirraizat, Shutterstock / Mooshny