Tell Us Dammit: AAA Microtransactions

Image: iStock

It's supposedly the bane of games everywhere, particularly full-priced AAA blockbusters. But time and time again, gamers have shown that they're happy to pony up a few extra dollars to bypass something in-game, even if the price of entry was already $60 or more.

But I've never actually met someone who has happily or even remotely eagerly defended the presence of microtransactions in big budget games.

So there is obviously a disconnect here. On the one hand, nobody likes the principle of having to pay more in any situation. But there's obviously a demand for paying to progress more quickly, and the financials of companies like EA make it pretty clear that gamers are happy to pay hand over fist for virtual goods.

What I'd like to know is when you think microtransactions in AAA games are justified. Have you ever paid for in-game credits or paid to unlock something? Would you ever consider it at any point? Or are you completely opposed to them on principle?


    Nope. If I've paid for the game then I'm not going to pay more to unlock stuff. If the game is rigged such that you can't progress in a decent timeframe without the microtransactions then I won't be buying the game in the first place.

      Pay to win bullshit can go. Adding it as an optional shortcut like EA shortcutting Battlefield unlocks to let you get to max level immediately isn't that big a deal especially since in Battlefield it was something they added well after release to let latecomers catch up, but if the game is basically rigged to compel you to pay or gives an unfair advantage to people that do then it should be free to play from the outset. It's bad enough we get full games with content gutted out of them to sell as DLC later.

      Last edited 25/08/16 11:37 am

        The shortcut kit is a bit of both worlds, yes paying that small fee cuts out 50 hours of grinding to get the better weapons and what little gaming time I have these days makes it certainly worth it. Its also a bit "pay 2 win" because without the unlocks you're at a serious disadvantage for anyone thats played for those 50+ hours, and the last time I played BF online, the "matchmaking" was pretty darn poor in that regard. If optional shortcut kits bridge that gap for $2 then I'm all for that, even if it does feel a bit "pay to win", or "pay to not suck".

        What I find pretty offensive is paid skins. You buy a game, you buy the season pass, so why is a little extra coat of paint on your character of choice another cost ontop of that? It sure wouldn't have added a lot of development or testing time. I can fully understand and support paid cosmetic DLC in free-to-play games, but in a full-price AAA title its just rubbish.

          I'm a bit more forgiving of Battlefield. It's a game that regardless of unlocks is meant to be played for hundreds of hours and having 20+ hours experience beats the snot out of having the best gear. The shortcut packs don't really change the Battlefield formula. It's not like a lot of games where you can either play it the free/boring way and spend 200+ hours in an extra drawn out grind or you can pay to skip to the end where there's nothing left to do.

      Same here, last time I bought one of those games, was a long time ago.

    The only time I've ever paid for in game credits/items is when the game is free to play. I avoid paying as much as possible but for the F2P games that I enjoy I don't mind paying a bit. The devs need to earn cash for their hard work somehow and spending $30-40 on items seems reasonable to me.

    As for AAA games that already have an up front cost..nope, never. I just see that as greedy. I rarely even buy DLC for games. Mostly because i'm already over the game when DLC comes out and it's not enough to get me back in but also just because the price tag on DLC is rarely worth it for what you get.

    Last edited 25/08/16 11:22 am

    So long as it's not pay to win on a multiplayer game I don't care. If people want to spend their money on extra bling and crap and it doesn't affect my role in that game (if it's a single player experience, that'll be sweet fuck all) again, whatever — knock yourself out!

    I don't mind the loot box transactions in Overwatch. It doesn't give anyone an edge and helps fund the creation of new content without the need for dlc packs.

      I don't play overwatch but that's just skins, sprays and emotes, right? I think allowing people to pay for cosmetic/customisation options is fine, given that they don't affect gameplay or give an advantage. I've bought silver in Destiny to pick up a couple of emotes, and I only did that because I played the heck out of the game and felt it deserved my support. There was no gun to my head.

    I don't mind them (as long as it's stuff that can be earned in game or cosmetic) because I don't tend to engage with them.

    I'm playing Deus Ex atm, and you can pay real money to build up your praxis etc. I won't, but I can see why- you just want to sprint through the game, or be a biotic cybernetic god right away.

    Not for me, but I don't begrudge, and I certainly don't see it as gouging or anything like that.

      it doesnt even make sense to spend cash on praxis kits because you can do the exact same thing by using a trainer or cheat engine. that's what is so stupid about the transactions in Deus EX.

        A trainer or a cheat engine is a lot of fucking about though (and for console players).

        If you've got limited gaming time, or just want to power up quickly, throwing money at it might be the best way to go

          its not actually because those kits that you buy are not carried over into new game plus. and trainers and cheat engine are not a hassle at all to deal with on PC. Compare that to the transactions in Blackflag that mean you dont have to worry about getting ship upgrade items be it in your current game or any new game. the Praxis Kits and Credits are only for that current game.

      But... it has a difficulty mode called "Just give me the story". What's the point of paying for unlocks you'd get by playing anyway if you can drop the difficulty to make sure you progress (and thus, attain said unlocks) at a swift pace without paying?

        I don't know, I just don't particularly care that it's an option. Some people like being super powerful from the start

        I think quite a few developers/publishers caught onto the idea that they can put cheats behind a pay wall and achievement hunters will pay whatever they ask. If I'm willing to spend some money I'll blast through the game on the highest difficulty without disabling achievements.
        That said I wouldn't be surprised if the reasoning behind it went no further than 'we can put micro-transactions in, so let's do it'.

          Not wondering why the publishers/devs keep putting them in, just wonder why they're apparently profitable enough to warrant doing so again and again. I'd forgotten about achievements, tho - that'd do it for some, I suppose.

            It can't take more than a few sales to cover the costs of implementing the system so any sales at all are bound to count as profitable enough to continue doing it. I mean from what I understand of the Deus Ex micro-transactions it's just a standard debugging feature and a menu page.

              Being a developer myself (not games), I'm constantly amazed at just how expensive some seemingly simple things can be. It wouldn't surprise me if the cost to implement this were in the order of $25-50k* all up - a drop in the bucket for a AAA release, but just thinking that there are vastly more than (eg.) 10-20 thousand people willing to drop $3 extra in a single player game to skip some of it... it's depressing.

              *Custom asset creation, design time surrounding what should be sold, determining price points (local and international), extra developer and QA time... Then there's the idea that every gamer you sufficiently piss off with its inclusion means needing 20 microtransaction purchases to make up the difference. Some of the quotes I see for relatively minor things that nevertheless require a week of work from 20 or so people - that adds up very quickly.

              Last edited 25/08/16 5:04 pm

      The worst part though about the Praxis points is they're 'one and done'. You don't get to keep them after you've used them on a different save, once you start again. If you bought them with microtransactions ala a Ubisoft package and could use them continuously, I'd be more forgiving but this Praxis point ripoff is fucking reprehensible.

    I think the only micro Transaction I purchased in a AAA game was a pet in World of Warcraft and the Proceeds of that pet went to Charity. I also had money in my Blizzard Wallet that I couldn't use for something else.

    I suppose there are people who have more money than time, I'm the opposite. I like to pay upfront and maybe buy the DLC if the Expansions are worth it; I'm also happy to wait for GOTY or Deluxe Editions to get all the content in one go.

    In Free to Play games I don't mind buying things when I enjoy the game. For Example ships in World of Warships. For some reason I hate the idea of buying things in Mobile games.

    I have no problem with cosmetic MTX in games, whether full-priced or F2P. In most cases cosmetic content is budgeted and developed separate to the main budget so if they weren't being sold they wouldn't have been made in the first place (it's not cut from the base game).

    Anything that gives a mechanical advantage over another player crosses the line in 99% of cases, though. I have no problem buying skins if I happen to like one, but a gun that gives you more damage or a powerup that increases your health or shield belongs in a F2P game (even then...) and has no place in a full-priced title.

    Microtransactions in a full priced game are a clear indicator of a game being more about profit then creating a piece of art or meaningful piece of entertainment.

    I love Deus Ex but won't touch Mankind Divided with a ten foot pole.

    It ruins the game completely. I know with BF4 (Xbone) Vanilla maps are the only ones played because no one owns the new maps. Gears of War was the same. I ended up buying the maps then no one played them after the initial release. Absolute waste of my money.

    I don't mind cosmetic stuff, charge all you want, but for maps and unlock packs? No. I bought the game for $80. That's enough. A $70 premium pass/season pass or whatever is an absolute rip off.

    You can't lump all games that just happen to get plastered all over websites for a month or so AAA, nor can you really put a single-player game like Deus Ex Mankind Divided into the same camp as something like Mortal Kombat X. Street Fighter V was all accounts a PR disaster but that didn't stop its bedrock audience from taking to the game as Capcom would have hoped.

    There's this trend in gaming where 'the bad PR move' is identified.

    It's then made, let's say by 'Game A'

    Game A (or Company A, really) wears the initial outcry.

    A gaggle of games/companies follow suit.

    = PROFIT.

    But then there's always one game or company that gets absolutely slammed, simply by following the methodology that's proven to work.

    I really, really, really have no interest in Deus Ex Mankind Divided. It sucks however, that some are crucifying it simply for being a modern example of 'a big game'.

    Don't forget, microtransactions in AAA games is only the latest wolf in sheep's clothing. Last generation, to get the most bang for buck, AAA games were all but required to have at least three major after-release DLC downloads so the console-maker and publisher got to squeeze the most money out of us.

    Last edited 25/08/16 11:39 am

      I don't understand, are you for or against?

    Content, even big dlc & expansions, has to be really good for me to even consider parting with my hard earned cash.

    I live a a pretty strict budget compared to most, even the act of purchasing a full game is something I put a lot of thought into.

    So, while I might indulge on the occasional 99c full game, I've never, not once, payed for a microtransaction within a game.

    To me, they've always been intrusive, because no matter how much they bang on about something, crap is crap & you won't get a central out of me.

    I come from a time where things like extra costumes & the like we're earnable extras, added to lengthen a games replayability.

    It saddens me that people are naive enough that they've parted with an amount of money that has let companies identify microtransations as good business.

      My autocorrect is on fire today & I laugh at the idea of editing this comment.

      I say 'laugh'...

    I've been guilty of purchasing a level boost in destiny and some silver. After grinding my Warlock and Titan to 25, the quick step up on hunter was a nice touch letting me get in with my friends faster and mix things up without having to wait and repeat levels I knew. And since the silver was only cosmetic I easily justified the purchase.

    I could never bring myself to "Pay to win" though. I'm not into paying cash for guns, or stat boosters that means that cashed up players have unfair advantages as it just feels like a slap in the face.

    I only really play single player games or at least only the single player component of a game. If I'm spending so much money why would i spend extra to finish it quickly? I am only able to get a few games a year so i only buy those games that will give me a good bang for my buck with lots of content like Witcher 3, Dragon Age or Metal Gear Solid V.

      I think the end goal is for you to spend money to finish it at the normal rate. They will start to add more grind to singleplayer and then charge you to play the game at the developers intended rate.

        If only that were true. Most of the time in an attempt to offer the best deal possible they just say 'screw it, for $5 you get god mode'. So the game has two modes, one that ruins the game in order to pressure you into spending extra money, and one that ruins the game in an attempt to make the thing you're spending extra money on seem great. Drive a car that's too slow to win or pay for a teleporter and skip the race, neither is enjoyable.

    I'm not too fussed about microtrans as long as I can grind and get away with not using them. Take GTA Online for example. I paid 3 times (360 collectors, x1 digital and pc brah) for GTA V and got an awesome multiplayer game for free that has microtrans if I can't be stuffed grinding for in game cash.
    There are right ways to do microtrans and wrong ways. Overwatch is another I feel do it ok.

    I dont have a problem with it, if its for cosmetics. game costs have sky rocketed but game prices have remained the same so something needs to give. On the other hand i wont purchase any p2w things and wont buy any games with p2w elements unless it's single player and wont affect my play through. DLC/expansion packs on the otherhand i am all for as long as the price is worth the content.

    Last edited 25/08/16 12:22 pm

      I agree. If it doesn't affect gameplay, the MT isn't paying for more actual game, it's just paying for the game to look prettier.

      If a person is that desperate for a cosmetic addition, and the devs have put the time into making it available, who am I to complain?

    They're one of those things that's very easy to justify on a spreadsheet, but ultimately eats away at the foundation. It's like watering down drinks in a bar. You can totally get away with it day to day and save yourself some money but long term it really limits your ability to succeed.

    The biggest problem I have with them is that they are not microtransactions if they are in the order of dollars. They are just transactions.

    If we were talking 0.5c to purchase something cosmetic in a game, fantastic, that's probably manageable. But $3 for, say, a paint job or an avatar? Stuff that.

    Nope. Micros in games can just bugger off. Paying for anything over the retail price that isn't expansion packs or DLCs can bugger right off.

    I generally have no interest in paying for DLC of any sort in console games, that mostly stems from the collector side of things where I don't like the idea of my game not being complete or functioning the same years down the track if moved to another machine or whatever. Either it comes on a disc or I'm not interested :p

    But with a "soft" game like Elite which is online-based and constantly updating with no subscription fee, I've been happy to throw a few quid in the tip jar for some skins here and there.

    I have a problem with them only when they are pay to win, otherwise if its just cosmetics or whatever then I don't really mind. I have only ever spent actual dollars on micro transactions once. It was in NBA 2k15 and was on some items to fill out my players kit for online (must look cool bro) after about 5 mins of using them I realized that I didn't really take an notice of what I or any other players were wearing and have never bought a cosmetic item again. I still see some items in some games and think wow that looks cool , but I just choose not to use them and it doesn't compromise my game at all.

    If not paying for items is affecting my game or putting me at a disadvantage to others who have paid, then I will just stop playing and move onto something else. After all gaming is supposed to be fun isn't it???

    Its hard to believe we have reached a point where you can buy cheat codes for single player. If I use a trainer to get more credits in my single player game is that now some sort of legal issue? If it isn't i'm sure it will be 10 years from now. All the single player games will have to sign into some service to make sure you aren't giving yourself an advantage without paying.

    Speedruns for future titles will include strategies such as paying to level up right off the bat with your credit card and you will have to repurchase it every attempt.

    "Look at the speed he enters his credit card, he is really going to get a good time this run!"

    Last edited 25/08/16 1:04 pm

    Micro transactions are a blight on the industry, and video games are cheapened by it. In the article it mentions "people seem happy to keep buying them" - I think that this is what the industry is telling us. I personally don't believe that anyone is happy to buy micro transactions.

    These publishers exploit human nature for a profit, from King to blizzard they are equally immoral. There are a couple of reasons for this - People are afraid of missing out, it's human nature. They will spend to have the "complete" game, because who wants half a game when others are getting a more full experience?

    The other popular trick is with holding the reward, until you unlock it with IAP's - you better believe overwatches unlock rate is finely tuned to maximise sales of loot boxes (believe me, it's not to help those out that are time poor)

    Then they make it like gambling - bright lights and colours, drip feeding you with the promise of a great reward any time now, maybe in the next loot pack/box/ etc. just one more, you have already spent $50, what's a few more bucks...

    Now on the other hand, prices of full games haven't actually gone up all that much over the years... So I can understand when games like as the costs rise, they need to find ways to make ends meet, but there has got to be a better way.

      Now on the other hand, prices of full games haven't actually gone up all that much over the years... So I can understand when games like as the costs rise, they need to find ways to make ends meet, but there has got to be a better way.

      I thought the fact that they were selling way more copies these days is what balanced this out.

        You are correct, that's something I meant to mention... Economies of scale mean that they should be able to keep prices down

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now