Why Microtransactions Aren’t Going Away Any Time Soon

Why Microtransactions Aren’t Going Away Any Time Soon

“I refuse to buy microtransactions in any game. They’re trashy, greedy, and their existence shows nothing but disrespect for players. No matter how they’re implemented they cause me nothing but unbridled hatred toward whatever marketing department decided to infect an otherwise decent game with the hyper-capitalist video game equivalent of herpes.”

When I decided to start consulting in game monetisation, I knew that I was focusing on an increasingly important but increasingly derided section of the industry. Any time I wrote something about free-to-play games, whether for Kotaku, Reddit or Gamasutra, I was guaranteed to inspire comments like the one above. “Microtransactions suck and destroy the quality of games” is a popular opinion. Many gamers will agree with a similar sentiment:”I have a large disdain for mtx. Especially in $60 games. I feel that I paid for the game, now let me 100% that game without the requirement of my wallet. Stop asking for more money. Don’t even show me the menu, because it immediately cheapens the whole experience for me.”

Meanwhile, the influence of free-to-play has only grown over time. Not only was it the dominant business model on social network and mobile phone games, but its influence could be felt on console and PC, too. Struggling subscription-based MMOs found sustainable success in microtransactions (MTX), Team Fortress 2 went free-to-play and League of Legends conquered the world while selling champions and skins. F2P juggernaut World of Tanks was ported to the 360. And increasingly MTX found its way into AAA premium games, whether through card packs in Mass Effect 3 multiplayer or Helix credits in Assassin’s Creed: Unity.

MTX have joined on-disc DLC as one of gamers’ most hated elements of modern gaming. At least that is the picture painted in comment sections and article headlines. However, I have long argued that gamers vote with their wallets, not their comments. Publishers like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft certainly care about what you think and say, but at the end of the day your actions as expressed by how you spend your time and money far outweigh the impact of raging in the r/gaming thread on Reddit. To publishers, adding MTX to the mix of digital content they are selling can be an inexpensive way to make additional money with a successful game. Especially considering that a gamer can only ever purchase a DLC pack once, whereas implementing consumable MTX purchases opens the door for items a single gamer can purchase infinitely if they were so inclined.

Last month I ran a survey about gamers’ DLC and MTX purchasing habits. Over 2700 gamers answered questions about how they have spent their money in the past 3 months. The results may surprise you.

1 in 10 gamers have purchased MTX in a premium AAA game in the past 3 months.

6 in 10 gamers have played a free-to-play mobile game in the past three months and 1 in 10 have made a MTX purchase in those games.

And make no mistake, these are decidedly core gamers. On average, respondents spent 18 hours gaming a week. These are not Kim Kardashian-loving, candy-crushing soccer mums. These are, on average, 25 to 34-year-old men with full-time jobs making microtransactions inside premium console and free-to-play mobile games.

I’ve summarised the most interesting findings in this infographic:

Why Microtransactions Aren’t Going Away Any Time Soon

Why do gamers buy MTX? “Microtransactions, when done properly, can help someone like me who has a steady job, a wife, and two kids to be able to enjoy a game that would normally be a very tough time sink,” reported one respondent. As someone who feels like there is never enough time in the day to juggle work, family, social life and my desire to play the neverending avalanche of games that pique my interest, I can certainly relate.

Some other findings surprised me as well. As I have never done so, I did not expect to find that 55 per cent of respondents had recently pre-ordered a game. Despite how hated retailer exclusive pre-order items are they appear to be working. DLC and season passes are extremely popular, with 51% of gamers buying DLC and 25 per cent of gamers buying a season pass within the past 3 months.

No matter how much gamers may hate on them publicly, 1 out of every 10 of them are silently voting with their wallets when it comes to MTX. Many of you may tell me I am ruining gaming by working as a monetisation design consultant, but enough of you are buying MTX to continue justifying my existence. Games are both an art and a business, and based on the findings of this study, microtransactions are clearly here to stay.

Reading through the comments regarding season passes, pre-orders and microtransactions, it is apparent that, for many, these business practices are having a large, negative impact on gamers’ trust of publishers. The issue of trust came up a lot, unsurprising given this holiday season was plagued with buggy game releases. To find out more about how companies gain and lose players’ trust, I have put together this short survey. Gamers also vote with their wallets when they choose not to buy a game, and I look forward to sharing how PR overpromises, buggy releases and unpopular business practices are affecting the companies you follow and the games you play.

Ethan Levy is an 12 year veteran game designer and producer who has contributed to over 50 shipped games across every genre and platform. He has worked at companies including Pandemic Studios, EA, BioWare and Playfirst. In 2012, Levy founded FamousAspect to serve as a monetization design consultant with a focus on free-to-play games for PC, console, mobile, tablet and web.


  • Nice article, Ethan – thoughtful and well presented. One quote hit me though:

    “Microtransactions, when done properly, can help someone like me who has a steady job, a wife, and two kids to be able to enjoy a game that would normally be a very tough time sink,”

    It’s a dumb, self-fulfilling cycle – one that’s fairly typical throughout society. We’ll rage against certain things we dislike in the marketplace, but then buy them anyway which – as you said – is a far greater motivator to companies. If we, as a demographic, actually had impulse control we could demand that these games weren’t a “tough time sink”, that whatever we’re (you’re?) paying for with MTX is unlockable without anything that could be considered a time sink. I want to see games where the requirements for unlocking all extra content is more “fun” time, not grind time.

    • I am at the point I would love to give Destiny money rather than just keep grinding, having no friends to raid with.

      • If you pay for the items and have nobody else to play with what is the point of having the items?

        Is it for the possibility of making future grinding that little bit faster?

    • This is actually my biggest turn off in games. It isn’t micro transactions. It isn’t DLC or season passes. It’s filler.

      I will happily pay a hell of a lot more money for a shorter game that gives me excellent content all the way through. Give me 10 hours of killer content, not a 25 hour game with 15 hours of shitty chaff.

      Creating time sinks to try and wrangle microtransactions out of me simply make me not play the game anymore. Making a great game that makes me want to give your company money? Do it. I’ll pay. Several times.

      • “Hey do this thing 3 times in 3 areas so you can open 3 doors so you can do 3 things in those doors to have someone inexplicably move some waist high rubble even though you have enough destructive power to wipe out a city state on your own”

        3 things 3 times is literally the worst most uninspired way to drag out your game, at least just make you do one thing just really damn well

    • Its a well thought out and well presented article because he is desperately trying to justify his place in the gaming industry.

      These stupid grinds he talks about allowing us to pay to skip only exist because he does. The more micro transactions become a thing the grindier games become because that helps them sell more micro transactions.

      He is also the cause of the death of cheat codes. We adult gamers who’s time Ethan is so generously trying to save used to be able to just put in a cheat if we needed more credits but now instead of putting in a code for 50k credits in a game we pay $6.99 for the very same thing.

      The last point about 10% of people voting with their wallets was summed up pretty nicely in South Park the other week. The 10% of people buying them are the ones most likely to have problems with getting addicted to games. That small amount of players are likely paying a massive amount of money to try and do things like collect all the cars in Forza which due to micro transactions now takes a ludicrous amount of time.

      In conclusion, no matter how many articles this guy writes trying to make himself not look like a scum sucking leech sometimes you have to call a spade a spade.

  • I found Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare actually implemented microtransactions properly. It doesnt take forever to save up for the card packs in the game, only a short amount of time for even top tier packs and buying points is only really a shortcut instead of a paywall. On that basis, I’m ok with it, it feels like it’s done properly. When it’s a definite paywall though, that’s when I’m against it.

      • Nope, never saw that memo. Can’t see why it would be? I can earn 36,000 for a top tier pack in around an hour? For it to be disgusting I’d have to not be able to afford to buy it at all and grind indefinitely

        Maybe it’s also because I got it for free on the PS4 on the EA offer *shrug*.

        • I thought they designed the game around being a very slow grind, then adding in microtransactions later, after the reviews had come out so that they couldn’t make a negative point about them.

          • I haven’t spent a cent in PvZ2 and I’ve finished every released level so far. All you miss out on really is a few plants which are honestly not required to beat the levels.

          • *shrug* I never have a problem getting a premium pack personally. I guess it might be for some, but I manage to earn 36k per sitting or so playing around half a dozen matches at a time which fly by quickly with garden ops etc. I’ve played far, far worse games.

            We’re talking Garden Ops here right and not AC Unity? 😉 lol

    • I’m the opposite. I prefer a nice, clear pay wall. Something that I can throw $5 at and then it’s gone. You say PvZ:GW is good because it’s not that big a hassle to circumvent it, but I’d rather the game didn’t force me to choose between a hindered experience and a shortcut. (From what I understand) I can either grind out points in a not-so-painful-but-still-a-grind way or I can throw money at it repeatedly. Neither of those are particularly enjoyable experiences.
      I’m not against micro-transactions, they can be great, but I really don’t like that ‘you can either cheat with cash or chip away at the game while we nag you’ style micro-transaction. It feels like if you’re just nagging you might as well be honest and either charge for the content or skip it and ask for donations.

      • Not really, I think the difference there is that if the developer is CLEAR as to their intentions, the implementation is acceptable, if there is a paywall or not, so I will concede to that. It’s when there is no clear intention, as per 99% of most Gameloft games for instance.

        GTA V for instance, you don’t need to use the transactions, especially with the exploits, and implemented wager missions by Rockstar, but I know people who have to save time etc, that’s fine but I don’t wish to. I think it’s down to choice in the end, if you wish to, fine, if you don’t wish to, fine, but it’s definitely mandatory that the dev should be crystal clear as to their intentions and if there is a paywall or not.

    • I thought they moved on to a new scam by now.

      The last Scam I got wanted to give me a huge sum of money in $4,500 weekly deposits through Western Union. I skimmed it out of curiosity.

      Before that it was Solider with my name died in American Warzone X and had found Gold Bullion which he of course stole and turned into a huge hidden account. Now I can have 50% if I help Corrupt Bank Employee transfer it out of the country into a Swiss or Cayman Islands Bank Account.

      • I got a mail recently from ‘Westpac’, asking me to verify my personal details to protect an account I don’t have with them.

  • I really don’t understand why you would spend money to avoid a time sink… Isn’t the idea of playing a game to spend time with it, and enjoy what you’re doing? If you’re spending money to avoid playing a game, then it’s probably not a very good game to begin with.

    • I’ve always thought that strange myself. It’s like: “I’ll pay money to not have to play this game” which is basically paying more to play less. I feel that is a game is rewarding, you won’t want to pay to skip ahead because the journey is rewarding in itself.

    • I’ll agree that if you’re trying to skip parts of a game you need to look at why you’re playing it, but the reason people spend money to avoid time sinks in good games is because even good games tend to be built so that there is filler content between the player and the enjoyable content. You have to go out and kill basement rats for six hours before you can play the fun stuff.
      In F2P games that’s amped up by a million. The game will usually outright say ‘give us $1 or spend eight hours doing intentionally boring stuff in order to play the fun part’.

  • In AC Unity I honestly didn’t find the micro transactions until I was on the last mission so I didn’t care that they put it in there. My opinion on micro transactions is that if I don’t have to buy them to progress through the game then I don’t care that their there.

  • This is a really stupid article IMO. Sure some people have paid within a game through a MTX. Maybe, just maybe the complaints that ‘often you need to pay to win’, or ‘pay to 100%’ is the real reason behind people “voting with their wallets”. We don’t want to pay, but WE HAVE TO OFTEN because consulting monetisation “experts” keep perpetuating the rationalisation.

    And coming from a guy who has a personal vested interest in continuing MTX etc as a consultant in game monetisation. Utter tripe. I can’t believe Kotaku would think so little of its readers.

    Stats are a wonderful thing that can literally paint any picture you like.

    The author would have served his purpose better by simply stating things like:
    – Games used to be $100 each and cost a lot less to make back then
    – These days they are $60 each, so if you’re spending $20 of MTX in game to customize the experience to your own personal taste, what’s the harm? You’re $20 better off financially, with a more personalised game.

    Gaming, like music/movies etc is an art form, and pretty much in every single example of business models using art to make money….the art suffers.

    • I appreciate the point of view of a game monetisation consultant has on this subject, they need to rationalize their existence and I think it’s always good to read different points of view. I feel that it’s the mark of a quality journalistic site when they engage experts on matters rather than relying on editorials and opinion pieces so that we might formulate our own opinions.

      I can see why it looks self serving to have a consultant justify their expense, don’t we all do something similar when our yearly performance review comes up? 🙂

    • The article basically boils down to “people pay for it so businesses keep it available”, interestingly enough theres little to no talk on pay what you want business models as a proper way to sell games, even with the whole ‘if you build it they will come’ logic, I mean;

      Its literally the most consumer friendly model, should be pretty obvious why

      covers all bases in terms of piracy (people not having enough money, hating the company or simply ‘for the heck of it’ (its hard to pirate a 0.01-0.10c game))

      gain face simply by using the model

      free word of mouth publicity

      with donation options the amount someone pays for a game is completely up to them & theres always an option to pay more if they really like the game & paid the minimum or whatever

      you’re going to at least make ~some~ money even if everyone pays minimum (though depends on minimum & thats a whole ‘nother thing with minimum price/actually being pay what you want(I’ve figured somewhere around 25-50c seems to be pretty reasonable))

      theres always the potential to make a lot more on one sale than your potential asking price

      theres a lot more pressure on the devs to actually make a good game since the quality of the game should be directly tied to sale price

      the only truly interesting thing with the pay what you want model is, how do you sell other games? simply keep a pay what you want box for each game or pay what you want for all the games or both?
      microtransactions would also directly effect the sale price of the games too & everything bar optional cosmetics would be frowned upon id imagine

  • Microtransaction consultant in “hey guys, microtransactions in a full price AAA game aren’t so bad” shocker.

  • I think these micro transactions* need to be split into at least three categories when discussing them.

    I like to group them into: Paywall, Additional Content and Optional.

    Paywall’s are like Dungeon Keeper Mobile or Dragon Age Heroes or Clash of Clans. Games that are fun to play, but artificially limited in some way that you can only bypass with cash. These games are not “friendly” to anyone who has real life commitments, because when you have time to play them, they are locked from play by ludicrous timers or other blocking mechanisms.

    Optional stuff is the category I don’t actually mind. Buying cosmetic items in MMOs is one thing I am more than happy to purchase to support developers. Less so when the MMO is subscription based, but even then I will usually pick up a few things through the year etc.

    Additional Content fits between Optional and Paywall: The game is lesser for not having it, so you kinda feel obligated to get it, but on the other hand the game is still playable without it so… Consumables and or pay2win items etc fit into this category as well.

    I think you will find most of the ire over micro transactions is from Paywall and Additional Content where it is pay 2 win.

    Everyone I know and a lot of commenters seem to be ok in general with Optional microtransactions.

    *The other thing that really seems to get peoples backs up is the term Micro Transaction itself. If your micro transaction cost is often 25% or more of the cost of a AAA game in the first place, then it’s not really micro is it?

  • Newsflash: People have varying priorities, some of which conflict with, even contradict each other! People will do something that meets their highest priorities, but complain that this forced them to violate some of their other priorities!
    Humans can be complicated, but I don’t think it’s THAT complicated.

    This is some textbook Rationalization going on.
    I wonder if this is how airlines justify making you pay increasingly higher fees for checking luggage. Oh, sure, it’s ‘optional’. After all, you can do laundry pretty much anywhere, buy then sell new clothes wherever you go, or just live in stinky unwashed clothes for however long you’re staying. It’s totally optional! But we’ll pay that fee, so I guess we must really like having that option enough to pay for it?
    Horse shit. Paying it doesn’t mean we like it, agree with it, or think that it shouldn’t have been included in the ticket price.

    We pay it because we have places we need to get to, and don’t want to buy a new fucking wardrobe where we’re staying or wear stinky unwashed clothes.

    We pay for microtransactions for content that only a few years ago would’ve been included in the base game as part of the complete package, things which are already on the disc, things that reduce a tedious artificial grind. What’s that, you don’t like the grind, I guess you should buy a shortening? Here’s an idea. How about you not make a fucking grind in the first place, knowing full well that the tedium of it would push people to the microtransactions you conveniently had ready.

    Don’t like it, don’t play it? Here’s a counter: The main product is really attractive and we want to play it, but we complain about the parts which are shit. That’s how reviews work. Take Destiny: Some of the greatest gunplay in gaming today, coupled with some of the worst storytelling in gaming today. Guess what? People praise the good part, complain about the bad part!

    You know, from reading the rest of the article after the intro quote, I slowly started to realize that the author actually intended for it to be something that we would laugh at as irrational and extreme. But it’s not that extreme and it’s certainly not irrational.

    You know the REAL problem with measuring sales against internet comments?
    You don’t actually see lost sales. When people vote with their wallets, you don’t fucking know it. (Which is, perhaps, one of the more compelling reasons for ‘piracy as protest’. Because at least those wallet-votes are measurable.)

    • Don’t like it, don’t play it? Here’s a counter: The main product is really attractive and we want to play it, but we complain about the parts which are shit. That’s how reviews work.

      A thousand times this!!

      I have to say I fit in with the demographic above like a champ, I buy card packs on occasion for Hearthstone (I admit! I ADMIT IT! I’m a filthy casual) because the crux of my gaming time goes to grinding for Destiny 😛

  • I have two different games that I’ve spent money on ‘MTX’, LoL and SWTOR. I feel like I could happily play LoL indefinitely without ever ‘needing’ to spend money, Riot have made it so that it’s fun either way, and I can pretty easily earn the champs (characters) I want through regular play. I do spend money because one, I feel like the aesthetic items I buy are good quality, and two, I feel like Riot should be paid for providing me with so much fun.

    I have recently started playing SWTOR however, and though I feel like Bioware should also be compensated, the way they’ve implemented MTX just feels wrong. Pay to sprint? Pay for a speeder, and then pay twice more to get it to a decent clip? Pay to unlock high-tier loot you’ve found? Yes you can unlock these over time, but $35k (in game currency) takes ages to unlock, let alone the $2 million for a jetpack. I keep playing because I want to finish the story, but overall I’d struggle to recommend it.

    • SWTOR is a subscription game with a very liberal ‘free trial’.

      The game can be played free (or very close to it) as long as you don’t mind playing with a wheel clamp on the whole time and nagging at you to subscribe or buy cartel coins anytime you try to do anything, or just after enough time has elapsed.

      Edit: However, what it DOES do right is that it actually allows you (for the most part) to pay to ‘remove the suck’. Once you do actually succumb to the relentless nagging and subscribe, it basically becomes the full game it’s supposed to be, with only token nudges and whining to get you to the cash shop. This is infinitely better than games like Neverwinter, whose nagging can never, ever, ever, ever be reduced or removed. You cannot pay to remove the suck, the ‘store’ button is a permanent fixture, the manipulation is always there. Dump as much money as you like into its systems, the hungry, gaping maw is rapacious, insatiable, no amount of money will ever stop it from nagging you for more.

      • Yeah. From what I understand SWTOR does a good job of making the F2P version either an awesome demo with a few restrictions or a way to come back after your subscription has lapsed without having to commit to resubscribing. DC Universe Online has a similar thing. You’ve got 100% free to play which is a demo with a lot of content, then you can buy what you want little by little (and after $10 you get a membership upgrade), and finally you’ve got subscription which runs like any other subscription based MMORPG. There’s still a few extra things you can buy, but they tend to be very optional account upgrades.
        Neverwinter on the other hand… I have friends who brought the massive huge mega expensive pre-order pack and were still instantly asked for more money for Zen/AD upon logging in.
        They weren’t even generous about what they gave you for your money. It was like a pyramid scheme. $10 for a single bag for one of your characters, but you can sell that bag and make $20 worth of AD… in theory.

  • Theres more to the economics of this than is shown here.

    So we know that 1 in 10 people are f*cking morons who will blow $5 on a crappy microtransaction, but how many people we less willing to spend $60-$100 on Assassins Creed Unity because it had microtransactions?

    If your average reviewer knocks 5% off a review score because the microtransactions are obnoxious, whats that worth to a company?

    Microtransactions RUINED Forza 4 on the Xbone. The miscrotransaction system ran through the whole games economy and twisted the players arms to get them to pay physical cash for the cars they already paid $60 for by locking cars out of the ‘free drive’ mode.
    Its going to take a lot more than 1 in 10 people forking over a few microtransactions to earn the money back if people don’t buy the next Forza game at all, or if reviewers put the obnoxiousness of it all front and center in the review and subsequent score (and luckily some good ones did).

    • I’m not sure you can say 1/10 people are morons. I don’t object to the MTX system in Guild wars 2 much, and I am sure some games are like that, where the MTX isn’t terrible. I would have liked to have a break down of what games they spent their money in.

  • Hang on. What happened to the 52% of gamers are female headlines a few months ago?

    Maybe its only the males who respond to surveys ( 94% male 6% female).

    • Hah good pick up! I wonder where the survey was advertised, it would go some way to explaining the skewed sample size.

      • Give me a few hours and a clipboard in a retirement home and I’ll whip up some statistics that prove that 80-90% of gamers are over the age of 65, and with a little persuasive creativity in my questions, produce results which demonstrate a heavy tendency toward any opinion of your choice, about Microtransactions.

        There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

  • I think Games with Microtransactions should have a Government Warning label on the front of the box. It should be of the same size as the Classification sticker.

    I don’t mind DLC, it’s an optional purchase that should add an alternative story onto a game. Back before we downloaded everything these where called Expansion Packs on PC.

    I don’t mind Season Passes, they are optional purchases that usually give you a discount on DLC.

    I don’t like Cosmetic purchases because I feel in years past these would have been awarded for completing things in the game or finding them. I tolerate them but. I would like them to be turned off so I don’t need to look through a 100 skins when I want to find some actual DLC I’d like to purchase.

    I don’t mind Microtransactions in free games.
    I don’t mind Microtransactions in cheap games.
    I am thoroughly against Microtransactions in full price games.

    I understand games are harder to make these days, teams used to be a handful of guys and now they are hundreds of staff. Games take years to bring to fruition and so the business model needs to change to support the increased cost of production but I don’t think Full Price + DLC + MTX is the answer.

    I also find it a bit conflicting to have a guy who works for the industry telling us it’s all good. It would be like having a Masterfoods Rep follow you around Grocery shopping recommending sauces for every purchase. He may be right, Tomato sauce would go great with these sausages but do I need to buy a new bottle every week? Maybe I just want a bit of Salt and a splash of Vinegar for my chips rather than their new “Chip Gravy”? Just shut up I told you last week I don’t want Mayonnaise on my Sandwiches!

    • It is conflicting, Kotaku have run some articles in the past though on MTX (I have a vague memory of?) and I feel that it’s important for journalistic integrity to have different points of view on things rather than just having editorials from the site and running micro-transactions are a cancer on games articles all the time.

      I understand games are harder to make these days, teams used to be a handful of guys and now they are hundreds of staff. Games take years to bring to fruition and so the business model needs to change to support the increased cost of production but I don’t think Full Price + DLC + MTX is the answer.
      This is tough, many games bring out DLC and patches even years after they make games so my supposition is they need to make money to continue paying staff to make new content and patch bugs, etc. Maybe the answer is to stop the support and extra content and get the product ‘right’ so they don’t need to charge MTX, Season Passes or for DLC?

      • And this is where things can get complicated. Because when the dev team wraps up their work and ships it off to distribution – ‘going gold’ – they don’t all get fired immediately or get assigned to the next project. Maybe there isn’t a ‘next project’. Maybe there is a next project, but it’s not ready for art/design/programming to get started for another couple months, yet. You got a bunch of programmers you can put on retainer for a couple months either doing nothing at all, or you can fire them, hope they don’t get new jobs with any security for a couple months, then re-hire them. Or… you can put them to work on fleshing out some of the ‘nice to haves’ that got cut during development, to be packaged as DLC. And if they’re very good, after a couple months of development and testing, that DLC pack will be ready at around the same time as – if not before – the main product has finished going through platform-holder certification and can be added as day-one DLC. Maybe even on the disc, to save users with bandwidth restrictions having to download an extra 4GB of content. Not so evil now, is it?

        • You’ve just described Destiny’s ‘Crota’s End’ debacle lol. For a mere plebe like myself who only just learned platform-holder certification was a thing I can see why folks would be mighty pee’d off that they need to download a 20mb patch to access content that they’ve already installed!

  • The no.1 reason I have disdain for micro-transactions and other dubious making-making strategies is simply thus: you’re mixing business in my gameplay! Somehow, somewhere and even if it was the point to begin with, any ‘after you begin playing it’ purchase modifies the original feeling/intent of the game so it becomes desirable to buy these things.

    Systems are stripped out and then put back behind a paywall. Grinds and delays are added or extended. Intrusive and redundant objects and currencies appear endlessly. Player efficacy decreases. Pay-to-win or Pay-not-to-lose. Multiplayer focus is shifted. Even vanity pack (the most benign) represent a loss of intended experiential variety.

    Many could argue that components like the above already existed in games to some degree. Yes they did, but typically the games designer(s) job was to work in these components to enhance the enjoyment of an experience you already paid for, rather than incentivise additional payment.

    • Totally agree. No matter how good your intentions are, if you add microtransactions you must change your mindset slightly from “how can I design the most fun game possible” to “how can I annoy the player just enough to get them to pay a little more, but not enough to get them to leave”.

      Prolonging engagement sounds amazing until you start having to rely on addictive behaviours to keep people coming back, rather then just engaging them for the natural duration of the experience.

  • What I’m reading in the comments is there is an overriding disdain for Micro Transactions, I have been lucky where I don’t feel like I’ve played a game yet where I’ve felt as if I’ve needed to ‘pay to win or not lose’ or lost functionality because I’ve not purchased anything yet.

    My question to you is that if you feel so strongly about these micro transactions, would you be willing to pay full price for a fully finished game?
    And by full price I’m not talking about $74 at JB Hi-Fi, I’m talking raising retail prices of a game to $100-120.

    I’m hypothesizing that this price with the right amount of purchases means that there is enough money for a fully polished game, ongoing technical support for a reasonable period and no need for DLC/Season Passes/Micro Transactions/Selling your soul to continue to play? Would you be willing to part with that extra $40-50 to ensure you are getting a game that is the real McCoy?

    • Maybe, though the numbers are wrong. An increased game price comes with a bit of extra baggage.

      We look at Destiny, for example, because it’s fresh and topical and big enough that they should know better.
      With a base game at $60US (the US is intentional, I’ll get to that), and an ‘expansion’ at $20US, it’s hard to see where the money went. There’s an extra strike and raid, and a few new guns, but the amount of ‘effort’ that went into creating them doesn’t seem like it was a third of the base game in terms of effort… more like a tenth, if that. Hell, the base game came with four ‘planets’, the expansion just re-uses territory on them, So why is it a third of the base game in price? It’s difficult to argue that Destiny + Expansion is a $80US value game when Destiny vanilla is a $60 game. When we see DLC packs that include five unique models for guns for $5, you have to wonder why the base game and its sixty unique models for guns wasn’t $60 at a dollar-per-gun before they even factored in maps, audio, missions, costumes, etc, etc, etc… by DLC-logic prices, the base game probably should’ve cost $340.
      This is something that happens whenever you sell things separately.

      And that’s before we factor in that regional distributors tack on a middle-man ‘Australia Tax’ before we even get to see any of it, which they apply equally to digital for absolutely no reason or effort beyond a change of destination IP, which doesn’t impact the supplier one jot. There’s a lot of hands in that honey pot that don’t deserve to be there. There’s no reason for a digital copy of Destiny to cost $60 in the US and $100 in Australia. GST? $66. Advertising/publisher support? Well, they already had to pay that per captia anywhere else they advertise, so theoretically it shouldn’t actually increase the cost AT ALL, but let’s be generous and say that advertising is more expensive in Australia, enough to justify another four bucks to a nice round $70. Where the fuck is that extra $30 going? And if we see a $60US going at $100AU, what’re we going to see a $100US (eg: Destiny + 2x DLC packs) go at? $170, based on percentages. Short version is that $40 of DLC isn’t worth $40. Or $70, AU.

      Maybe if the value of the additional content matched its box price, and we see that the weapon pack is actually costed at about sixty cents instead of five bucks, then sure, I’d be on-board with a higher box price for a more ‘complete’ game.

      @snacuum articulated very succinctly above: a lot of people don’t want to pay for every ride individually in the amusement park… they want to pay to get in, then ride everything as much as they want. Nickel and diming us after we’ve already paid is an annoyance. We do not like a game purchase to be an opening for a developer to put their hand in our pockets indefinitely as long as they can keep making token (and they usually are just that – token) excuses.

      Hence the success of ‘season passes’. It’s the current industry compromise. And it’s still an over-inflated price for what you get in most cases, when compared to the base box price, but it’s one of the better of a few bad decisions.

  • I pretty much disagree with the article and agree with the comments reproduced in the article.

    “Microtransactions, when done properly, can help someone like me who has a steady job, a wife, and two kids to be able to enjoy a game that would normally be a very tough time sink”

    That may be true, and it often is for me, but I still shouldn’t have to pay you extra money on top of the purchase price just to skip past part of the game that I’ve already paid you for. That’s absolutely horrendous.

    • Yeah. The article is full of logical fallacies like those behind his ‘voting with your wallet,’ argument.

      I assume this means that if the author owns a smartphone he is thus in favour of borderline slave labour and exploitative labour practices used to produce the goods, which he voted for with his wallet.

  • What baffles me about the MTX “voting with your wallet” argument is that in any other electorial arena 11% of the votes would be considered a devastating loss.

    Sure, those 11% shell out, and sometimes big (Whales, anyone?) but that doesn’t mean you’ve won the vote. If you look at it as a vote it’s quite the contrary.

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