Sid Meier Worries That Monetisation In Gaming Will Threaten Game Quality

Sid Meier Worries That Monetisation In Gaming Will Threaten Game Quality
Image: Firaxis Games

The creator of Civilisation has questioned the longevity of monetisation in the gaming world.

Sid Meier’s Civilisation is one of those game series where almost every game has always been a hit with critics and fans alike. The simple turn-based strategy games are iconic in their own right, with the first game being considered ‘one of the most important strategy games of all time’. It would be plain silly to deny its influence on the many, many turn-based strategy games that have come out since its release in 1991.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of the first Civilisation game, game designer Sid Meier spoke to the BBC to discuss the direction that the video games industry is heading. He urges the industry to focus on why people play games, which is for the gameplay.

“That is what is unique, special and appealing about games as a form of entertainment,” Meier says. “When we forget that, and decide it’s monetisation or other things that are not gameplay-focused, when we start to forget about making great games and start thinking about games as a vehicle or an opportunity for something else, that’s when we stray a little bit further from the path.”

Considering just how much money the video games industry makes off of in-game purchases and microtransactions, it’s understandable why somebody like Meier, who’s been in the industry for so long, is concerned with the trajectory of the industry. Many games released nowadays are making the majority of their profits from microtransactions, with other games companies exploring NFTs as another way to boost profits.

Meier worries that the industry’s strong focus on monetisation could not only result in a loss of audience, but also a loss of quality in the games being released, saying that due to the financial success of games due to microtransactions, he can see why it’s “easy to overlook how important the investment in game design and gameplay is.”

While the video game industry continues to grow financially, Meier believes that the continuation of this growth ‘isn’t guaranteed’ if companies continue to ignore what gamers want: good games.

“I think we need to be sure that our games continue to be high quality and fun to play – there are so many forms of entertainment out there now. We’re in a good position… but we need to be sure we realise how critical gameplay is – and how that is the engine that really keeps players happy, engaged and having fun.”

The video games industry, like any industry, will only survive as long as it is profitable. That’s unfortunately just the way the system works. Is there a happy medium where video games can thrive without jamming microtransactions into games where they don’t feel necessary? Can the industry still survive without implementing systems that require gamers to empty their pockets in order to enjoy themselves? Are we heading towards a reality where game quality isn’t a priority if the potential to monetise out the ass is easier and more rewarding to companies?

Much to think about.

Comments

    • I don’t feel the base Civ game has suffered too much in quality with the addition of DLC content. Its still a very good game without any DLC

      • Also isn’t Civ DLC still pretty much either big functional expansions or optional factions?

        It’s certainly not as much of an issue as all the games that make you spend real money on different guns/hats/flags in multiplayer games, and then make you spend real money on each different colour/pattern/model for each different gun/hat/flag, and obfuscate the matter by making you spend real money to buy the fake money used as currency in the game to buy slightly different colours/patterns/models for each gun/hat/flag… and then make them all parts of sets where you need to separately obtain the gun/hat/shoes/shirt/jacket/belt/glasses/pants for them to match… and then make collectible alternative versions of some of the items within those sets…

    • DLC isn’t what we’re talking about. Civilization had substantial expansion packs years before microtransactions. There is nothing wrong with DLC produced years after release to expand a popular game.

      All Civ DLCs offer genuine additional, meaningful, completely optional content produced well after release largely because of players demanding more civilizations, more wonders, a more complex world, etc.

      What we’re talking about instead are situations where monetization encourages the introduction of un-fun mechanics into games for no other purpose than to create an ongoing income stream for the developers, most commonly intentially pay to win elements and payment gates to progress such as to reduce tediously long in-game timers.

  • Let’s hope that there is a ‘complete’ option in any further releases, so sick of the money farming that all game developers are taking these days. And having modding abilities (like many games have) and then releasing an ‘expantion’ through the moding box is just a true form of farming.

    • Games are developed to a budget. Game developers have to be paid. Most games, if not all, are released as feature complete as can reasonably be justifed but with things that the developers can’t afford to spend time on ending up on the cutting room floor for one reason or another.

      If a game is successful enough that it’s worth the developer’s money and time to produce expansion content then this is nothing other than a win for consumers. People who like the game can throw in a few bucks to get more of it and people who aren’t so enthusiastic still get the game in its original form and aren’t forced to spend a cent more.

      The conspiracy that devs somehow routinely hold back significant content simply to release day-one DLC is almost entirely a myth. Frankly, devs just don’t have the time and it’s a crap marketing strategy in any case.

      Seriously, if you don’t want to miss the ‘full experience’ wait three years and you’re more or less guaranteed to get the GOTY edition, DLC included, for less than half the day-one price of the original game. It’s not like you don’t already have 100 other games in your pile of shame just waiting to be played in the interim.

      • “Most games, if not all, are released as feature complete”… a single player game yes

        … but a lot of Live Service multiplayer games are coming out as minimal viable product (often broken) under the illusion their 5 year plan is even obtainable. Often these are games that are sequels that have less features than their predecessors. Like Halo, missing game modes, missing features , broken promises, no forge… then there are other games like EA and Ubisoft release which they just abandon out of the blue cause not enough players want to play their broken game long enough for them to fix it.

        • Sure, but we’re talking about DLC in this thread. I didn’t say that games aren’t released in a crap state, just that if they are released in a crap state it’s not because the devs are holding onto the good stuff to sell later as DLC.

          What I actually said was that games are released as feature complete as can reasonably be justifed except for things that the developers can’t afford.

          What you’re talking about is not just ‘live service games’, it’s also pretty much every Early Access game, and quite a few full releases as well. What all of these have in common is that the devs run out of money for whatever reason and need to start bringing in more income to pay for the game to be padded out to something closer to their original vision.

  • “Live Service” games that are dead in arrival, so often these games are rushed out un a broken state that their whole business plan to sell microtransactions is capsized by the fact no one wants to play the game.

    No one buys cosmetics for a game they can’t play, that is full of cheats, or is so under populated that 30 minute multiplayer queues after 2 weeks is brain dead.

    Marvel Avengers, Anthem, Evolve, All the Battle Royale wannabes, even some of the current shooters who come out with missing features and vague roadmap that say we will add stuff later for the developer to pull the plug 6 months later.

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