My stance on microtransactions.

I mentioned when talking about my biases that I am very much against the concept of microtransactions, not only in $60 AAA titles, but in nearly all cases. The one case where I find them acceptable is in a fully featured free to play title, but in no other case do I find them even remotely acceptable. Not in mobile titles, and not in any game already asking for money. The simple fact is that they are designed explicitly to remove the limit on how much money a game can make, tossing open the gates so your money can flow unimpeded into their company accounts.

How much does a mobile game cost? Several years ago, this was a simple question to answer: a couple of bucks. On IOS and Android, the answer was largely the same. Over time, however, small purchasable items started cropping up in more and more games, and it was seen as a largely positive step, allowing studios to make some more cash for quality products. Before very long, however, mobile games started to appear which were designed entirely around microtransactions, and games that came before were hastily redesigned to include them. Mobile gaming became centered around long wait times and the now-familiar two-currency systems to falsify a sense of value, forcing players to either wait to progress, or buy the ability to play the game. The most egregious example to come out of this was Electronic Arts’ infamous “Dungeon Keeper Mobile”, a game which forced free players to dig for literally days to be able to build their dungeons, which is the central conceit of the game. And with the mention of the boogeyman of the games industry, it should go without saying that the big AAA companies had sat up and taken notice of the mind-boggling sums of money that these microtransactions were raking in. Panels at GDC and I imagine other similar conventions were held on how best to exploit the consumer with this new monetization model. Dead Space 3, also from EA, had already come out, with its upgrade system having been completely rebalanced for microtransactions. The genie was out of the bottle, and nearly every major publisher rushed to take advantage of this new idea, and that leads us to where we are now.

Now that we’ve gotten through a bit of the history, my stance on microtransactions should be somewhat clear. This is not to say that I am against all forms of additional monetization. A monthly fee for an MMO is completely understandable and justifiable. Everyone pays their fee, nobody gets an advantage they didn’t work for in game, and it’s the same fee every month. Ads for free games, as long as they’re unobtrusive and it doesn’t harm the experience of playing the game are acceptable. DLC, when it comes to large content or even expansion packs, is fine, though there has been some real anti-consumer practices with that (season pass for a game that may or may not even get worthwhile DLC, anyone?).

In conclusion, I hope my stance on this popular scheme has been made clear. You may feel differently, and this is definitely a topic I will return to in the future. At the end of the day, though, I would rather just buy a game for an agreed upon price, known in advance, rather than opening a tab.

About Jake Moses

I was lucky enough to have parents who raised me with and around video games, and as such have been playing video games since before I can remember. Long obsessed with the process of making games, and the industry around them, I feel prepared to tackle talking about games and the industry and offer my unique opinion on both. Discussion is encouraged, I read any and all comments. Twitter: @sisypheangaming Patreon
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