Microtransactions: the new bread and butter of the game
Importance of microtransactions in the gaming industry
It used to be that you would buy a game, you would finish it and that was it. The fun factor of the game would generally determine how many times you played it again. But those were simpler times; Cartridges, floppy disks, and possibly CDs back then were widely regarded as the culmination of all gaming technology. Yes, cartridges were straightforward, but they were more expensive to make. The CD solved so many problems for game developers. The only sacrifice to be made was time – loading time. Nintendo even desperately tried to hang on to cartridge technology when it released its N64 in 1996 at a time when Sega and Sony had fully embraced CD technology. While the Internet already existed at this point, it had not reached what it has become in the past 10 years. As most people will recognize, the net has been a game-changer forever. In the past, a company would sell you a game and that was it. The money was traded and all the game maker could do was make another game. All of that changed as the developers sought to go the digital route. There is now downloadable content (DLC), in-game purchases, and even what many players call “pay to win”. The umbrella term for all of this is “microtransactions,” and quite simply, the developers figured out how to milk a game and the player for all they’re worth.
Great for the game maker, less fun for the gamer
It doesn’t take long to realize that not all are completely acceptance of microtransactions, the industry it has created and the type of climate it fosters. Even if you haven’t heard the term “microtransactions,” you’ve probably come across it, especially if you’re a smartphone owner. A quick glance at your phone’s Appstore will confirm this notion. How many times have you seen the term “in-app purchases? In today’s age of digital information, technology and entertainment, microtransactions are almost everywhere. But what costs have gamers and consumers had to bear? What are the burdens of microtransactions? It actually depends. For example, most of the time, microtransactions are cosmetic. In other words, if a player wanted to upgrade their avatar, then a small fee would make that wish come true. It’s also the kind of thing that most gamers don’t mind, as it doesn’t affect the actual game. However, things start to get murky when companies start to get greedy and employ the kind of tactics that are obviously aimed at exploiting their customers. Ubisoft, the creators of the hugely popular Assassins Creed, provides a prime example of this type of thing. With the release of its latest offering, the company has chosen to put little space into personalization, choosing instead to place such options in the microtransaction store. This angered many players who felt they had to spend more money than necessary. The argument that was made was why buy the game and then spend an additional third of the price on customization? The players may have asked questions, but the shareholders certainly did not do so by watching their game companies trading on the stock market. But the gripes around microtransactions don’t just center on gaming companies buttering their bread on both sides.
Microtransactions have not only turned the basket of apples upside down when it comes to gaming companies raising more money, they have also created dissension among gamers. This is not more prevalent than with so-called “pay-to-win” microtransactions. This means that for a specific price, players can pay to break the rules of the game and thus progress faster. Many gamers frown on this type of behavior, citing it as a form of cheating, especially when it comes to playing online where the competition is fierce. Not everyone sees it that way. Some players justify such purchases as a way to save time. Not everyone can spend hours and hours completing a game or reaching a certain level. Therefore, leveling up at a certain price is seen as a way to “buy back your time”. One thing is for sure, microtransactions are here to stay.