Features, Games

Microtransactions: What’s The Real Cost To Gamers?

microtransactions

Imagine, if you will, that it is 1986. Christmas to be exact; you get a wonderful new toy called a Nintendo Entertainment System with something called Super Mario Bros. You plug it in, fire it up, and the game loads. Your excitement climbs.

There are all sorts of wonderful bright colours, fun music, but then you notice something in the corner … “Buy 100 fire flowers for £10!” or “Use warp zones to reach further levels, only £2 each!”

Of course, this never happened. Being the luddites that we were back then, we didn’t have home internet to freely make such purchases via our games consoles, via our mobile phones, and via computers as we can today.

Blizzard have recently confirmed that they will be the latest to add a cash shop filled with microtransactions ready to help boost players, and naturally to “enhance” the gaming experience.  This, of course, is the latest in an ever-growing line of companies adding such things into their games.

World of Warcraft MicroTransactions Shop Gold

I still remember the outcry over The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion horse armour scandal (Adding horse armour in to the game as a DLC, for a price, of course) and how people complained at having to pay to get the black dye in Fable III. But now, they seem to be becoming the status quo. Is this really a good thing?

Let me continue by saying that I am absolutely not against large DLC and expansion packs. I feel that, yes, they can be a bit of a cheap way of sending out a game unfinished only to complete it later via said expansions and DLC, but I hold my hands up and admit that I love proper expansion packs.

Skyrim Oblivion Horse Armour In App Purchase Microtransactions

“Dragonborn” for Skyrim, as an example, was a wonderful addition to the game. It provided many more hours of play, armour sets, loads of new quests, and, of course, the island of Solstheim. Being a huge Elder Scrolls fan, this was pretty much a first day buy guaranteed for me.

Take, as an example, “The Simpsons: Tapped Out”; A fun little game for iPhones and, more recently, Android platforms. You rebuild Springfield as you wish after Homer blows up the power plant. They have an in-game currency of Doughnuts. You can freely purchase said doughnuts at a cost, to buy “Premium” items and characters. Now, these premium buildings and characters are of course wholly unnecessary. But, a lot of people will buy them to have a “complete” Springfield.

And that’s where these companies have a captive audience.

Back in March, it was announced that Call of Duty: Black Ops II was to introduce microtransactions for “either personal customizations or nice little luxuries”, which won’t “affect gameplay” but rather offer “small, specific ways to enhance your online experience”. But, of course, they again have their captive audience. Those people who will quite naturally want better gear than people that they play with or against.

Black ops 2 gun personalisation in app purchases microtransactions

And so the disturbing trend continues.

Along with countless other things like the real money auction house in Diablo III, Guild Wars II, Microsoft announcing that the new Killer Instinct game for Xbox One would be free to play with microtransactions to unlock new characters.

When did simply buying the game become not enough?

I would, of course, never presume to tell anybody how to spend their hard earned money. That is entirely up to them and them alone. If they wish to spend £10 on a new pet for their Tauren Shaman in World of Warcraft, all power to them.

But consider this – what is really stopping games companies in the future making the majority of video games free to play but with transactions to enhance the game, or indeed, going that one step further and having games as free to play, with need to pay to progress in the game completely? How about paying for the later levels?

I am in no way saying this will happen, but we do have to consider this as a possibility of the future of gaming if this trend continues.

In App Purchases Exspensive Microtransactions

Is that what we really want for the future of gaming?

I have heard the phrase “Vote with your wallet” bandied about a lot lately. And in this matter, I feel it wholly appropriate to vote with your wallets. If you wish to continue paying for something well after you have supposedly brought the game, then I shall not quarrel with anyone who wishes to do that.

It is, of course a tricky matter, when we get into the territory of monthly game subscriptions etcetera, but that is another matter for another time.

But if you, like me, are wholly against paying for something over and over for vanity items and such to win a game, vote with your wallets.

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Jonas Alexander

  • mike

    It really scares me.
    Next destiny game should be full of shit like this, the studio will find many ways to make each buyer spend 60 bucks + 300-500$ in regular extensions, dlcs, weapons,vehicles/etc packs. Never will we buy the game and be free to play it online, for the next 10 years. Online season passes will be a standard, and they will find a way to grab 100-150$ from every gamer, every single year.

    I love Sony and my ps3/vita, and I know I will buy the ps4 day one, along a nice pack of games. But the day I will be buying an uncharted, or god of war, or any other big game, and they will ask me for some extra cash, to unlock levels, tresors,trophies, enemies, last levels and bosses, etc, shit, I will simply stop spending +1000-1500$ on games for my ps3/4/vita, every year, and will go back to my computer, and will download every single pirated game on earth, and not spend a dime.

  • Allen

    microtransactions take away the fun of gaming. it really sucks that CoD BO map packs alone cost more than the game itself. I thought map packs were bad enough, but now microsoft and sony are copying apple, by giving you a half assed game then asking you to spend money to progress through it. Then these companies who are making at least $100 per gamer complain about piracy. Do they even have the audacity to complain? When they are screwing over everyone who buys the game, I don’t think so. Just look at Forza 4 for 360, to buy the game it costs $60. Then to download all the available tracks and car packs, only god knows how much it is going to cost. Software companies deserve to have their titles pirated, shared via torrents, cracked, hacked, etc. It’s all checks and balances, they screw us over, we screw them over.

    With all this corporate greed in the gaming industry, it makes me question what it will be like in the future.