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Microtransactions Ruining Games?

Microtransactions Ruining Games?

Microtransactions are notoriously a hot topic in the gaming world. More and more video games are finding ways to increase their revenue streams by offering more than just the initial purchase of a game with additional DLC. With the rising cost of production for video games with respect to both the overall budget and company size, the margins on a $60 initial purchase is not enough. But the real question is, are they ruining games or to what degree are they harming games?

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Can they be good?

It is difficult to maintain some of the extreme and hard stances that many gamers take on microtransactions. I’ve even had people create high ideals about how “A full priced $60 game should never have any microtransactions.”

This just seems like an untenable position and removes any possibility for cosmetic or vanity stores to be an optional path for players to both support the game and enjoy customizing their character or experience in an expanded way.

Games like The Elder Scrolls Online and even Destiny are examples of games that don’t overreach with their microtransactions and offer what feels like fair consumer treatment while offering a non RNG based and directional way to purchase vanity or cosmetic items.

When are they bad?

When microtransactions go too far, sometimes it is very apparent, and other times it is more subtle. The first and most challenging to detect is what I call the “squeeze”. When a game creates pathways that are completely unnatural, grindy, and stretch the gamer to the point where paying money feels like the only way to proceed, they are being “squeezed”.

The reason that first type is so hard to detect is because it can be slowly added over time like slowly boiling a frog in water. Unfortunately, with the mind blowing success of Genshin Impact, this type of subtle microtransactions will become more popular because it works and most gamers don’t sense it.

Obviously the most egregious forms of microtransactions are the types that attempt to trick a younger audience with incessant pop ups on a mobile device or those that foster a culture of “pay to win” or an environment where buying items feels almost required.

Is it Gambling?

One of the more common debates I have had over the years is with the assertion and claim that microtransactions in the form of a loot box is gambling and should therefore be banned from all video games. Obviously, in recent times, legislation has been passed and the chance at the items in the loot box must be disclosed to the consumer.

With that law in place, I do not think the best approach to keeping micro spending in check is by immediately jumping to claims of gambling or psychologically preying on young impressionable gamers. It’s far better, in my opinion, to deal with it on a case by case basis in an effort to break down where the train jumps off the tracks.

At the end of the day, most of these micro stores and items are successful because there are willing consumers and that is probably the single biggest challenge to seeing it leave or at least have its presence minimized. I often say that about the player packs sold in sports games or Fortnite skins: you can’t claim they are overpriced if willing consumers keep buying them. Demand dictates price, not your sentimentality about it.

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