Video Game Microtransactions: Exploitation or Expression?

Are Video Game Microtransactions Exploiting gamers, or are they just a form of Expression? We`ve been keeping tabs on the current & varying opinions on the topic of Microtransactions, and in this blog we will break down our views on the matter.

Its fair to say that modern games are littered with options. Choices on how to spend our virtual currencies, be it Crystals, Dollars, Gold or Credits, are often some of the most fun aspects within a game and make the experience of playing for hours on end rewarding. Paladins is a notably difficult but fun game in which to earn rewards such as legendary skins and upgrades. Another example could be Overwatch in which if players play enough competitive games Golden Guns can be earned & purchased for a players favourite character. Or take GTA Online, where those hours spent by players grinding out Heists can reward players with enough cash to afford the best lifestyle in Los Santos.

Image sources: GTA Online Shark Cards, Paladins Radiant Chests & Overwatch Lootboxes.

In the current period of gaming history we are in, where it is almost unthinkable to not be able to customise characters and elements within games that we own, is it unreasonable for video game developers to monetise aspects of their games? The whole purpose of video game makers is to make a profit, and what is being produced is technically the artistic production of the developers, so finding a balance between a fair rewards system versus microtransactions is a difficult task. Ultimately consumers & players have the biggest say as they are the ones who decide whether to make additional in game purchases or to play the game and earn the rewards the old fashioned way.

Of course a topic like Microtransactions does`nt come without controversy. Lets start with a favourite game of ours, GTA Online. Being in a crew has always afforded us the best of everything from the cars to the jets to the yachts, no problem. However some may argue that due to the expensive nature of DLC`s, and the relatively long mission grind time, they may have needed to seek the services of modded accounts to be able to afford what they wanted to purchase. Yes, this is a lazy approach to gaming, but in some instances we can see where users of modded accounts have a point.

For some, modded accounts make life easier. Source: Royal Games

Some may view items such as Season Passes as bad for gaming. It is also worth considering that games that have a yearly release cycle are vulnerable to overkilling the content available for their titles, especially if nothing outstanding is being offered for the games. We think that in certain situations a lot of the extra DLC & content in Season Passes could be better served in making the basic game better, and extra content should come into play when the game has proven itself to be a good game. Of course our opinion is subjective, and all gamers will have their own viewpoints on the situation.

Our opinion on this is each to their own. We understand it takes time to make in game money, and we understand that using real money for virtual money is`nt always what a person wants to do. We also understand that in order to have modded accounts there is potentially real money being exchanged for the privilege. All of this can get complicated. And relatively expensive. But regardless of how a player gets their in game currency games are increasingly reserving the best content for the highest in game prices, which is probably fuelling the current discontent around microtransactions.

From our research into microtransactions, they are`nt going anywhere soon. Take-Two Interactive, owners of Rockstar Games, are accounting microtransations as over 45% of their overall revenue at one point in 2017. However the recent backlash around the microtransactions in EA`s Star Wars Battlefront 2 have demonstrated how volatile consumer reactions can be towards microtransations, in Star Wars case it has resulted in a U-Turn on the way the microtranstions are delivered in that particular game. Maybe the feedback received also influenced EA`s decision to tweak the rewards system for Need For Speed Payback as well, we can only surmise.

Are in game items such as Lootboxes, Crates or Chests equal to gambling? We have looked at this in a previous blog, and considering that the randomness of the items that are contained in reward delivery systems almost guarantees that a player will either have to play for insane amounts of time to stand a chance of earning the rewards, or to save time make purchases that will increase the chance of getting the items that a player may want. In some instances there is evidence of Developers employing techniques to encourage microtransactions subliminally. Either way the rewards system is random and the chances of receiving items is not guaranteed. From our perspective it is this type of in-direct encouragement to spend money without being guaranteed of getting what you want that is most undesirable about microtransactions.

Image Sources: Gamespot & IGN. Activision`s infamous Matchmaking Microtransaction Patent.

The illusion that spending that extra bit of money will get you closer to the prize is an alluring trick, it may work, it just as easily may not. But let`s be careful here, we are not out to bash game developers or publishers, its their artistic content so they have a right to value it according to how they see fit. If consumers dont like the microtransaction approach then they don`t have to support it by spending on it. Ultimately all gaming related items are a want, not a need. And developers have to keep an eye on the monetization of their in game rewards and items. Games should be about games, the best route to earn items is for people to be playing the game, having fun and earning rewards and unlocks as you progress.

In our gaming experiences microtransactions are`nt a major problem and the implementation of them has only marginally excluded us from content, the type that we would`nt consider as a negative aspect in our overall experience of the games we play. We think games should always allow players who put in time and not extra money to realistically earn the same upgrades, rewards and progress as those that don`t have the time but that will spend extra money to catch up or partake. How this process is balanced to be fair for all will be an ongoing issue for the majority of developers, and of course these decisions will be loved or hated by gamers.

One thing is now for sure, when consumers vote with their wallets, developers rethink their policies. Therefore microtransactions are more tools of expression for gamers rather than tools of exploitation for Dev`s due to the fact that if a particular microtransaction does`nt have the same value or appeal that Developers predicted it to, it will cost them in the long run.

#videogames #exploitation #expression #microtransactions #gtaonline #taketwointeractive #EA #starwars #battlefront2 #paladins #moddedaccounts #needforspeedpayback #overwatch #seasonpass #DLC #money #consumers #developers #sharkcards #lootboxes #radiantchests



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