Allow me to get something out of the way right off the bat: I’m conflicted (at best) about microtransactions in games. On one hand, I understand that game developers face rising operating costs to produce the games we play and love and have to supplement their revenue in various ways, but on the other hand, sometimes microtransactions feel like a cash grab with little to offer in return. Of course the “little in return” is subjective, so, there is that.
I have never been one who has fallen prey much to microtransactions in games. I would buy the occasional costume in Little Big Planet, but otherwise, I wasn’t terribly susceptible.
A couple of months back I started playing Pokemon Shuffle on my 3DS. The game is free-to-play, but has microtransactions. After playing the game for a few weeks (and really enjoying it), I made a calculated decision to spend five dollars within the game as a show of my support of the developers. If I could have bought the game outright without limitations, I would have absolutely chosen to do that, but, without that being possible, I did what I could to show my support.
Fast forward to yesterday and Bungie’s introduction of microtransactions into Destiny.
Prior to the update that facilitated them, I was skeptical about how Destiny’s microtransactions would work out. Bungie assured the public they would be strictly for cosmetic purposes (something that has been debated recently after other information was data mined from the code), but I felt like this was only the beginning, the proverbial tip of the iceberg that would have many other items locked behind a paywall. I could foresee drop rates being cut back so items would have to be bought just to increase the drops back to what they were (and, incidentally, they made motes of light and strange coins more scarce with yesterday’s update). Better weapons and gear that could only be found either through direct purchase or through a consumable that would encourage them to drop.
Basically, turning the game into a pay-to-win scenario. Something I have zero interest in.
I may love Destiny, but if that is the direction of their microtransaction intentions, I may have to put it aside for good.
That being said, when the announcement was made about the emotes becoming available, Bungie stated that each player would get a certain amount of Silver to purchase at least a couple of them for free.
Sounds great, right?
The day before the emotes went live, I saw several YouTube videos detailing exactly what the emotes would be. One of them was the Carlton dance.
I love that ridiculous dance. So I knew immediately that’s what I would choose to “buy” with my free Silver.
Until I logged in and realized the situation: 16 of the 18 emotes cost 200 Silver each, and you were given 400 Silver for free. The Carlton dance (along with one other emote) cost 500 Silver; just out of reach from the free Silver given out.
I was in a weird dilemma. I play a lot of Destiny. Though the game isn’t perfect, I enjoy it a great deal, and I thought it would be so silly to be able to Carlton whenever I wanted.
So I caved. I spent five dollars just so I could do that dance.
And I immediately felt gross. I didn’t know I’d have that reaction, but I did, and I wished I had never supported the microtransaction movement in Destiny. I have already supported the game by buying the original game on release, both DLC packs from year one, and the Legendary edition for the year two expansion. They have gotten my business. Not to mention many hundreds of my hours.
I’m not saying I regret buying the dance, but that’s absolutely what I’m saying.
Within the game, if you buy an emote you aren’t happy with, it says something about being able to return it within 30 minutes. Unfortunately, since I had to spend that five dollars on the PlayStation store prior to getting my in-game Silver, it was already too late.
So I thought I’d make the best of it.
This is my Hunter, doing the Carlton with some lovely birds in the Tower. They are clearly very impressed.
This is my Hunter doing the Carlton in the face of Oryx. He is riveted.
This is my Hunter doing the Carlton after defeating Oryx. Screw that guy!
And this is my Hunter, back in the Tower, realizing what I’d done and that no matter how many places she busts into the Carlton, it won’t change that I supported microtransactions. We are both conflicted, she more openly than I.
I honestly don’t know how to feel. In the grand scheme of things, one person spending five dollars isn’t a big deal. Put together a million people doing it and it becomes a very big deal, indeed. And I suppose I feel strange that I contributed to that mass.
Have you ever supported microtransactions? If so, for what game? How did you feel about it? How do you feel about microtransactions in general?
I don’t really like microtransactions. Mass Effect 3 had them but I never had to use them.
You are more virtuous than I! :)
I’ve supported microtransactions in League of Legends without feeling too bad about it, since it is a free game that I play a ton. I’ve given them more money than I care to admit (or count, for that matter).
Like you, I have given Nintendo $5 for jewels in Pokemon Shuffle, and I felt dirty for doing so (and not in the good way).
In general, I detest microtransactions even though I understand that they are sometimes necessary. Microtransactions are too easy to do wrong, and they have ruined some otherwise great games (like Archeage) as well as the entirety of mobile gaming.
Loathe as I am to shamelessly plug myself, I really want to write an article about mobile gaming in the near future, and microtransactions will feature prominently in it.
I think we are very much in the same boat. I also think there is a fine line between doing them well, and doing them poorly. I have a feeling it’s a slippery slope.
Plug away! Writers have to support each other, you know? When you do write it, please let me know. I’d like to read it.
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Will do! And yeah, it is a slippery slope, one that few devs seem to be able to avoid.
Isn’t that the truth. It has to be a difficult balance to strike.
And I’m looking forward to reading it!
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I’m proud to report that I have finally written that article. It may not be much, but I hope it sufficiently elaborates my thought process about mobile gaming.
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I will read it!
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Luckily it seems as though most companies are seeing that content is king, and that creating a “pay-to-win” environment leads to poor sales and short engagement. Do you think this new-ish era of microtransactions will extend the life of games? My hope is that it does.
The only thing that I can hear in my mind as I see Carleton dance is “It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones. Wasn’t that his go-to song in the Fresh Prince? :)
I agree. I don’t know if that realization will stop certain companies from doing it (King comes to mind), but I hope so.
I don’t know if I feel it will extend the life of the game, but I sincerely hope they will extend the life of certain developers who need to make that money back somewhere.
And yes! You are absolutely correct. :)
Microtransactions, DLC, and Season Passes, oh my! I feel like this all began because video game development costs reached a point that was not profitable without raising the standard purchase price of a game, and that wasn’t an option. These additional ways of making money for those willing to fork it over provide a way for developers to still make money, and I want developers to make money. Sadly, I think the same people who complain about these would be just as loud if games were instead $70 or $80 dollars instead.
I think I would actually prefer games to just cost more. It’s true that microtransactions are harmless when they are purely consmetic, DLC when the base game is a complete product on it’s own, but how easy would it be now for developers or publishers to exploit the current environment? When handled responsibly I have no problems with any of these methods of turning a profit. It’s just easy to be scared by what a slippery slope it can be.
Bottom line, each of us as a consumer and gamer should consider the validity of these purchases before making them. Is it an impulse? Is it a worthy supplement to a complete product? Does the developer deserve it? Is it a cash grab? It’s a bit cliche but the consumers should have all of the power in this relationship and rule by the almighty wallet. We will continue to get the things that make money so we should reserve our money for the things that deserve it.
Exactly. Exactly! If content was genuinely removed from a game just to sell it in addition later, I have a problem with that. But if it actually is bonus content, I have zero problem with that. Devs have to make up the rising costs somewhere.
Certain DLC I’ve never have a problem with. This time I just started to feel weird because I spent $5 just to do a silly dance.I still don’t know how I feel about it.
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