Micro-Transactions, On-Disc DLC And Why We Hate Them On Principle

Plus my own thoughts on them but that title would have been waaayyyy too big….

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Micro-transactions allow you in-game to either purchase extra cosmetic items or gear for your player at an additional cost to the price you’ve already paid for the game. It’s an increasingly popular way of squeezing that extra bit of money out of the game by publishers, to perhaps recoup some of the money spent on development times. And in practice this is a terrible idea, for the paying customers that is, as the concept of paying for a game then paying even more for items that could have legitimately been in the game in the first place? That’s exploiting someones favourite hobby for a quick buck. I understand it’s a necessity for free-to-play games to have micro-transactions as, how are they meant to make any money? As im not against companies making money, just not at the expense of butt-fucking their fan base.

For instance I have no problems with cosmetic non-essential transactions like the ones they use in Team Fortress 2, where you can customise your characters with various hats etc at a cost from the shop. Things like that I have absolutely no problem with, it doesn’t affect how you play or give you an unfair advantage or dis advantage, it’s just there if you want to stand out or just look cool in the process of playing the game. Its much like the system used for your avatars on the Xbox 360, it’s completely non-essential but you feel compelled to do it as the avatar is essentially an extension of you on Xbox live so you want it to be unique to you. I think that extension is why people tolerate and perhaps like cosmetic micro-transactions because it’s essentially making their own mark on the character(s) they control in-game.

Now here’s where things get a little dicey because after that, you get the “pay to win” micro-transactions which does exactly what it says on the tin, if you want to get ahead without putting in the ungodly hours that the game would otherwise force you to commit, you can just pay money and win that way. Which defeats the point of a game surely? Theres no challenge, no satisfaction at all gained from just paying to unlock things because you were too lazy to play the damn thing. I believe this has crept in somewhat in mainstream gaming by way of Dead Space 3, although yes its micro-transaction system is entirely optional there is no stopping someone from loading up with extra scrap, building materials etc to essentially break the game from the get go. It is a single player though so it’s not “Hurting” anyone or gaining an advantage of human opponents, but surely it runs opposite to the ethos of “Games”? You don’t just pay to get extra stuff you earn it, that’s where the fun comes in surely? And the satisfaction knowing that you beat it?

All micro-transactions do is pander to the hyper competitive, people who only care about winning, even though it has no real world benefits or effects they have to win, it’s all they know. It also encourages laziness, as why go through the game unlocking features and new stuff if you can just pay a nominal fee and receive it now! Then that brings the question, why would you buy the game if you were going to unlock everything straight away? Battlefield 3 is a culprit of this, where it gives you the opportunity in exchange for Microsoft points (or whatever currency your system uses) to receive all the unlocks for the your character classes in the multiplayer portion of the game which you otherwise would have gotten through out your play time. I hated seeing that in the battlefield store, as it presents an instant advantage or at the very least completely obliterate the need or want to play the multiplayer because (in my opinion) you play to unlock stuff and experiment with the new toys it gives you, rather than having it all there at once.

For example what if you threw together a load of level 1’s or low-level players and 1 or 2 of them had bought the unlocks while the others hadn’t, there would be a large imbalance and that I think is at the heart of why people utterly hate Micro-transactions, there is no level playing field with them (unless there strictly cosmetic in nature), having to pay for extra content that should otherwise have been on the disc, but have been taken out so they can wring you out for even more money. And finally paying to win, keeping your content locked behind a steep steep wall unless you put in an insane amount of hours, which of course is an insidious way of “Persuading” you to pay for the extra content instead. So hopefully this practice goes away, although it wont, and keep hoping there doesn’t come a time where they package half the game where you unlock the rest by paying for it, although I would expect that to be the worst case scenario!

Thanks for reading

Dave

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