Microtransactions have become a mainstay in the AAA games industry as of late. Despite major criticism from customers online, they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. Why is that? Why do the get so much Criticism? What could publishers do to reduce criticism? What is the future for them? Are they really as bad as we think?
Quick Note: I see microtransactions in a free to play game as fair game as long as the items available can be obtained without having to buy them. Those games have got to make money too.
Why do Microtransactions get so much criticism?
There are a number of reasons why microtransactions get more flak than Trump in California these days. The most obvious reason being the fact that, after already paying $60 for a game, publishers expect us to fork out more money to unlock any of the cool items in game like skins, camo’s, in-game items, guns, voice over packs and even Flag packs (Really Activision, Really?). The other issue is the ‘game-breaking’ nature of some. Take Fifa as an example, you spend your money on what is essentially a wheel spin to get maybe a half decent player you can either use or sell on the in-game market for coins to buy another player you wanted. Now, you can ‘grind’ to get the coins to buy these players by playing games, but if you did that, the next game would be out by the time you got near the coin amount of the top players on the game (The introduction of FUT Champs went halfway to solving this problem). Despite all of this, isn’t it a little bit stupid that what players you get is essentially a random spin of a wheel? The points to open these packs are’t cheap either. 12,000 of them will set you back a cool £80 (£72 with EA/ Origin Access), and odds are you won’t make that back in terms of coin value or players ‘packed’.
Why are Microtransactions not going anywhere?
The short answer is money. Games like Battlefield and Call Of Duty make far too much money out of them. Activision made over $1 billion dollars last year alone in microtransactions in Call Of Duty, Overwatch and World Of Warcraft. From a business standpoint, you’d be stupid not to implement them in your games. Now, I am using Activision as the scapegoat here, purely because as a COD player for many years, it’s easier for me to explain the point I’m trying to make. However, EA, Ubisoft and soon to be Bethesda (it’s paid mods and I won’t hear otherwise Pete Hines) are all guilty for this too. And for the most part, in the publisher’s eyes anyway, these things aren’t affecting the game anyway as most are just cosmetic items (seriously if you put game changing items behind a random paywall with no other way to obtain them then you really are a pile of shit).
How can publishers make the system better?
There is a few things publishers can do to make microtransactions better for there audience as more of a goodwill gesture to customers. Publishers could take a similar approach to Valve’s Counter Strike: Global Offensive, by making in-game items worth real life money. However, if you wanted to avoid that legal minefield, make it an in game fake currency which you can exchange for other items in game that were perhaps more sought after. Another approach is making all other DLC free like Halo 5 and the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront 2 (as previously mentioned in the Call of Duty Conundrum). This method also would keep more players interested as you aren’t splitting them into groups of have and have not. In an ideal world, both systems would be used but if I had to pick one it would be making all other DLC items free.
What’s the future?
Simply put, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Microtransactions make far too much money for any business to sacrifice for the sake of a few complaints. At what level they are integrated depends. I can’t see it going full free to play crappy mobile game but I see perhaps more detailed micro-transactions in future releases. I hope players can still grind and unlock these items without having to buy them.
Are Microtransactions all that bad?
In their current format, yes. But, with a few tweaks to the system and some general goodwill toward the consumer from the publishers, I think microtransactions can and will (s/o to Roman Reigns) be accepted by the majority of players worldwide.