Over the years the gaming industry has experimented with many strategies to increase revenue and gamers have spoken out against many of them. Even rumors that the PS4 and next-gen Xbox would require an always online connection to block used games caused an uproar (and I was one) that required both companies to state definitively that the new consoles wouldn’t block used games. So even though it’s not new, microtransactions in videogames was in the spotlight due to it being in higher profile games such as Dead Space 3. And EA made headlines when its CFO Blake Jorgensen joked that all future EA titles would include microtransactions. Naturally this upset the gaming community but considering that other companies plan on including microtransactions in some upcoming games should gamers be concerned with this development? I say yes and no.
I was one of millions who played Zynga’s games on Facebook years ago and I put alot of hours in Mafia Wars and then spent some down time tending a farm in Farmville. It was an easy way to get some gaming in with a hectic schedule and it was initially relaxing. I used to see friends and family members who didn’t play video games spend money buying items, energy and whatever else was on sale in these games. I wasn’t one who did and I always wondered why they would pay instead of just waiting or why they needed that particular item. And then I thought of how I would spend $60 on a video game and what they would spend would be much less. And I understood that to them this was their hardcore hobby and with the time invested it was worth it to them. Obviously the big difference is Zynga’s games were free to play. Paying $60 for a game that you then have to pay additional amounts just to play it wouldn’t go over well with anyone (not including MMOs). However gamers have been willing to purchase DLC that varies from something as simple as additional weapons and skins to additional chapters that continue the main campaign or new missions. So how much is too much in terms of gaming companies gorging gamers when gamers have shown a willingness to pay for additional content?
As long as game companies don’t try to force gamers to partake in micro-transactions with the proverbial gun to our heads then I have no problem with it. Gamers have the power to put their money where their mouths are and not purchase games they feel are forcing microtransactions on them. I played Dead Space 3 and I spent $0 on micro-transactions and was able to upgrade my suit fully and craft any weapon I wanted without even looking at the screens to purchase resources once. On the other hand I understand the concern for future games if the gaming industry seeks to implement this in more games. And as someone who’s purchased DLC ranging from a simple item to additional story lines I have some concerns as well. I can’t speak for every gamer but I can narrow my concerns down to 3 things that would in essence force gamers to partake in microtransactions:
1) Players gaining an insurmountable advantage in multiplayer due to microtransactions
2) Being unable to play a game at your own pace unless you participate in microtransactions
3) Unable to complete game unless you participate in microtransactions
Now just about every gamer has had some code whether from pre-ordering a game, completing a different game from the same company or playing a demo that gave them “exclusive” items that could be used in multiplayer. I know I have. That’s why I say an insurmountable advantage where no matter how good you are or how much you level up, what is purchased through microtransactions will always allow other players to dominate. If a player wants to pay money, for example, to prestige in a game ultimately I see nothing wrong with it (and I don’t see the point in doing that) since every player that owns the game can prestige without paying any additional fees.
One of the things free-to-play games have is some kind of energy or time game play mechanic where you have to wait an extended period of time before you can continue unless you purchase more energy or a speed up item. If a game I paid $60 for required me to wait an extremely long period of time to continue playing unless I paid additional fees to continue I would not only never buy a game like that again but would look at that company differently for all future games. And lastly, if a game “creatively” found a way to make it almost impossible to finish unless one made additional purchases I would have a severe problem with that. As I already mentioned I had zero issues with Dead Space 3 and was able to max out all my items and finish it without having to buy one in-game item or resource.
Ultimately the power is in the hands of gamers or rather the money of gamers. I would never buy perishable items for a game I already brought and I can’t see myself supporting a game designed for the sole purpose of maximizing revenue through micro-transactions. I see nothing wrong with a gamer who loves a game or series purchasing additional items because to them it’s an investment in something that truly care about or enjoy. I purchase DLC too but that doesn’t necessarily mean I would purchase all DLC that is released. And it’s a risk companies take. CD Projekt Red released a ton of free add-ons and improvements to Witcher 2 and as a result I’m completely interested in all their future products and will be supporting them when they’re released. They gained a fan that will be purchasing other games from them and not just the Witcher 3. It’s not enough for gamers to complain about EA while at the same time constantly spending money on their products. I had no problem with EA including microtransactions in Dead Space 3 and I won’t avoid a game that has it as long as it’s a quality game and it addresses the 3 concerns I mentioned. To me it’s about quality games regardless and I support the ones that are and I don’t spend my money on those that aren’t. Bioshock Infinite has received incredible press as well as favorable reviews without microtransactions. It’s important for the gaming community to keep an eye out for possible trends that could hurt the quality of games moving forward but it’s just as important to support the quality games we like so they become the most popular trend.