Published on December 10th, 2015 | by Edwin Millheim
Micro-transactions in gaming, Boon or Bane?
(NOTICE: The statements and opinions of the writer are not necessarily the opinions of Impulse Gamer. We fed this ginger and he followed us back to the offices.)
Ok, let’s have a talk about micro-transactions, and other DLC stuff, micro-transactions are a big topic right now and people are in a fervor about them, I’m going to go over the good (Yes there is some good), the bad, and the things you may not have thought about when it comes to micro-transactions and to a smaller degree DLC.
So let’s start out with the good, since let’s be honest it’s probably the smallest section. There are only a few reasons to have microtransactions that as a consumer is ok.
The first one is to extend the longevity of the game by encouraging people to play longer and to cover server costs, this is especially clear in games like Team Fortress 2, where there is an established market of trading the items between different players, I myself traded my way from a few decent items all the way up to a backpack worth over a thousand dollars, unfortunately the TF2 market has had a bit of a dive lately with the price of buds (Literally a cosmetic pair of earbuds for your character.) dropping to its lowest point, and scrap (two weapons smashed together into a scrap pile, essentially TF2’s version of the penny having an unlimited supply and virtually no value. These in game economies can add a lot of life to a game as it encourages you to trade your way up to a rare item. Unfortunately trying to force a market into your game may have some backlash, which both Tripwire Interactive and Overkill Software have become painfully aware of in the last few weeks, but I’ll cover that in the bad section.
The second is to help fund expansions to a game so that the players can have more content, unfortunately most devs don’t seem to be interested in this one once they realize they can just tack on microtransactions for a few easy bucks, looking at you Ubisoft. I really wish we could see more companies doing this, showing that what you’re spending on the little bits here and there are going into more content for the game, and not just their shareholders pockets.
Now, Season passes I do touch on a bit later, but some of the better season passes are something that actually gives the game more content with depth. Not just an extra character, but maybe more adventures or missions. The Witcher III Wild Hunt is great with content that actually give the consumer some in depth bang for the buck. Batman Arkham Knight gives you some more story mission with characters you can play. Some of it is short, but it’s a lot better than getting a skin or two and a boost in your points, that can only be used in one mode of the game.
This here is probably the section where most people will agree with me, because right now gamers are pissed. They are pissed (Angry, not drunk for the Non-Americans.) because they KNOW they are being taken advantage of so I’ll start right off the bat with most wanted number one of the last month Overkill Software and their hit game Payday 2, or as a lot of the community is now lovingly calling it Pay2Day which as of writing this I have 457 hours of game time in, not a small number. I’ve been playing Payday 2 since just before the Transport Heists, so I’m not the earliest adopter, but me and her go way back. Up until the Black Market update where Overkill went nuclear, I purchased every single thing they put out for the game day one, minute one, I loved all the stuff they added and even though there was a lot of it, and it came out pretty often, it always felt worth it to me. Five dollar DLC packs for a thirty dollar game, I loved it, and it was always the same 4 masks, 4 Melee weapons, 4 guns, 5 dollars, the character packs and heists were 6.99 and 7.99 but you could play any heist as long as the host owned the DLC pack, the only thing you couldn’t do was use new guns and masks from the pack, which seemed really fair to me. They were right up there with Bohemia Interactives policy of “Everyone can use any of the stuff in the DLC’s but the textures will look terrible.” Which for me was fantastic. But then the Black Market update happened, and boy did it happen.
The Update came out a little over a month ago where they added the microtransactions they promised would never be added and the backlash is still ongoing, people have left the game in droves and many have even created an edit of the game which brings the game back to just before the update. I used to be able to say that Payday 2 was absolutely one of my favorite games and one of the games that other companies should look to to see how to do it right. Now? Not so much, it’s like watching someone you care about sell themselves down the drain for a few bucks. With the update came a carbon copy of CS:GO’s Case system, with qualities and everything, and there are a few problems with that in and of itself in a PVE game. In CS:GO, for one the skins look miles better, but not counting that it’s $2.50 for a key to open a case, after you get your new shiny (On torn up looking) gun, you take it onto the field of battle and every time you kill someone they get to see your gun in that killscreen, not only that, but you can kill someone, take their shiny gun, and when you slaughter their team, each time it will say “You were killed by xXkIlLeDuRmUmXx with Ilostmygun’s AWP.”
So everyone gets to know that you’re at fault for your whole team dying. It’s fun, but the point here is, there is no VS mode in payday, it’s Co-Op, you can’t pick up someone else’s gun, you can’t kill their team with it, there are no kill screens, and other players can’t even see it unless they enable the high quality view models on the guns, which many don’t to keep their FPS maxed. so in the end you are paying the same price as a CS case, but you get a worse looking gun that many people won’t even be able to see, on top of that you can get a skin for a gun you do not even own the DLC for, and cannot use unless you shell out 5 bucks for the DLC not to mention it’s one skin for half the price you would get 12 items for in any of their other DLC’s.
It’s not worth the same amount of money, but the worst part is that there are Stat Boosts, that’s right, you pay real money to make your gun better than everyone else’s gun. People argue, “Oh, but it’s not a versus game, so you aren’t really paying to win.” That’s simply not true as you are paying real money to make the game easier, on top of that, after major backlash from just about every fan of the game, they DOUBLED DOWN on the nonsense adding more boosts that not only increase the cash you get after a heist, but also the experience you get.
The steam forum moderators for the game WENT ON STRIKE until they got to talk to the company, and even then Almir, Overkill’s face and PR guy dodged every question and every answer that was given to the fan base was “We’re sorry that you’re upset.” Not a “We messed up with the whole microtransactions thing, I know we promised that we would never implement them and shame on you if you thought we were, but we did, we’re sorry guys.”
Another smaller developer also put CS style cases into their game in the last couple weeks, and that’s Killing Floor 2 by Tripwire Interactive, a game still in beta. There’s nothing inherently bad about these cases but Killing Floor is another Co-Op PVE game, and it’s not even out yet. Adding in microtransactions after the fact is one thing, but in a beta, with the game still in progress, they shouldn’t be wasting time adding in a skin system when they still have a game to finish.
Of course one of the things that encourages this behavior is Whales, a whale is a person who has enough disposable income that they will buy every single thing that gets put out for a game, regardless of quality, and lots of companies have started to cater to them, Ubisoft putting out piles of little content for a dollar or two, EA and Ubisoft’s “Pay now to unlock everything.” Looking at you Assassin’s Creed and Battlefield 4. Konami throwing what has ALWAYS been in the metal gear games as a dollar microtransaction for the tuxedo and sneaking suit. Capcom with their skin packs for every street fighter. Games are doing away with unlockables because they know that people will pay money to get them. I miss the days of beating a game and unlocking a bunch of special skins and guns to use on my next play through, now however I can only buy those things and have to almost double the money I spend on any game to get all the content.
THINGS YOU MAY NOT HAVE THOUGHT OF
One of the big problems with these things it that it normalizes them, there is an entire generation growing up and playing games that will never know what it’s like to buy a game and just own the entire game. Each time one of these companies does this and doesn’t get a backlash the more normal it will become, everyone will be pulling an Overkill, or a Ubisoft and it’ll be normal by then, that’s what’s happened already with microtransactions in general, so far pay to win has mostly kept itself to mobile markets, but we see it creeping into other games, for example World of Tanks’ Premium ammo, real money for better ammo. Imagine playing Battlefield and you have the ability to pay for double speed reloads, or magazines with extra ammo, it would be a terrible experience, and yet we’re seeing those things slowly creep into games because people aren’t voting with their wallets, and instead are just passively accepting it. We as consumers need to stop consuming worthless crap, and that goes for more than videogames.
Another big problem is Macro-transactions, we see it each year in the new battlefield where they add premium so you get little things over time, and you get each DLC as it’s added, oh and it doubles the cost of the game and you really have no idea what you’re getting when you buy it. When you buy premium, or a season pass on a game, you are basically agreeing that they can do whatever they want at this point because they already have your money. At this point they are only obliged to put out just enough effort that you don’t get angry. Disappointed is fine because they already have your cash. What reason would you have to go out of your way to make something good when you already have their money? Think like a company, you want to spend as little as possible to make as much profit as possible, that doesn’t mean putting out amazing expansive content, it means putting out just enough, and nothing more.
In a perfect market, a company will put out some really good quality content and you buy it because it’s worth it, instead you’re making a completely uninformed purchase, one of the prime examples of this right now is the new Star Wars: Battlefront, a sixty dollar game which is only multiplayer, that has a fifty dollar season pass. Which by the way, companies define what a season is, if they decide that the season is two sets of maps and guns, they start “Season 2” you have only paid for season 1 and you only get season 1. I like to call it the Star Wars Battlefront: $110 Grab Bag Collectors Edition.
You already gave us your cash so we can do whatever the hell we like now. This goes for more than just Battlefront however, another example is Rainbow 6: Siege, which for thirty dollars the season pass so far just lets you get new characters a week before everyone else, some exclusive guns, and a small bonus to exp and daily challenges, that’s it. (Or at least that’s what they are showing in the descriptions of the season pass) When you see season pass you expect to get all the DLC packs, but in Siege, you don’t get those, you just get characters and guns. In any other market would you pay like this for anything? If you were looking for a car, and the dealership was selling the frame to the car with everything already on it except there was no body on the car. The salesman walks up and says “It’s 12 grand for this frame, great isn’t it? Also, if you give us another ten thousand, we’ll give you one piece at a time every couple months, as a sneak peek though, we’ll show you what your hood will look like if you purchase our exciting part pack!” In no other market would anyone ever almost double their money spent to get something later that they have no idea what it will be like, look like, or how it will work with their first purchase. Gamers need to stop buying until they know what they’re getting.
BULLET POINT TIME
WHEN IT IS OK TO ADD MICRO-TRANSACTIONS?
- After the game is released.
WHEN IS IT NOT OK TO ADD MICROTRANSACTIONS?
- Before the game has full release.
- If you promised not to add them.
- If you are putting out full priced DLC at a steady pace already.
- If your game is PVE and you want to charge the same price as PVP games.
- If you make it easier to win by paying money.
WHAT ARE GOOD REASONS TO ADD MICRO-TRANSACTIONS?
- To increase the longevity of your game.
- To fund more content for that game.
WHAT ARE BAD REASONS TO ADD MICROTRANSACTIONS?
- Because you just want more money.
- Because everyone is doing it.
But let’s be honest here gamers, the problem is us, not them, we keep throwing our money at them, constantly. Why should we expect them to do right by us when we keep giving and giving? Vote with your wallet people, that doesn’t mean give them your money and then complain about it, at that point you have no right to complain, you knew what you were getting, or at the very least you knew that you didn’t know what you were getting. Stop buying the Season Pass… I mean the grab bag collectors editions of games. It’s time for gamers to be informed consumers, and not just lemmings throwing our wallets into the next money pit the companies put out for us.
Written by Patrick Miller