Microtransactions in every game. The age of shadows for video games?

“Microtransactions are purely for cosmetic purposes. They do not affect the gameplay. Nobody forces you to spend money.” – Tons of people.

We vote with our wallets. We made microtransactions profitable. We, the gamers, are responsible for how it looks right now. Just “purely cosmetic” in-game purchases used to be a thing. Now it is a pay2win in a 60$ game.

Yes, you guessed. A recent reports about loot crates in Battlefront 2 made me rage about the direction AAA developers are going. “Complains” is the key word here. Despite all the hate around microtransactions it continues to grow. The hate is among us, dedicated gamers, who like to unlock things by earning them in battle, but we make barely 20% of gamers in general. The profits are coming from the majority, casual gamers, who don’t mind spending additional cash on a game they already bought. Something has to make it profitable after all.

Do microtransactions ruin video games? I am not innocent myself, I have bought skins in games several times. Did I like it? Well… yes. It changes the game just a little bit by providing a small sense of exclusivity. However, this kind of microtransactions have killed one thing so crucial for gaming. It killed a satisfaction of obtaining a skin through challenges and progress. It feels much better to unlock that final skin for a weapon by fulfilling its kill counter than simply buying it. I paid for the game already so why would the content be unaccessible for me?

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Skins used to be unlocked by playing well with the gun. Call them generic, but they were earned. It meant you are a veteran of the gun, not that you are rich and got it by accident.

Let’s talk about the true evil of microtransactions. Loot crates. This spawn of the devil is one of the biggest money wasters ever. What you do is spending about 2$ on a CHANCE of getting something you want. Most people don’t care that the chance is less than 2%. Did I buy keys for crates? Once. It was the biggest waste of money I have done in gaming. I could buy a game instead! So what makes them so popular? Why people are buying them? Why did it lead to the point, where we have pay2win loot crates in an AAA game? A few reasons I guess.

Loot crates are almost like gambling. While it is not a pure gambling it has some traits of it. First of all you are spending money to win something in a lottery. There is no guarantee to get it, but people try it anyway. In case of CS:GO, which I bet popularized loot crates, you can also earn money by winning an ultra rare item. Thus, people are falling into gambler’s paradox. They think that each subsequent failed roll makes them closer to the win. It makes them spend hundreds if not thousands of dolars/euros just to get an item they want so badly. Going further, once somebody invested so much money into microtransactions, you can’t get them back and it is harder to leave the game. When you invest in something you feel more obligated to play the game. The nature of loot crates is simply addictive.

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Loot boxes are promoted with the best looking skins everybody would like to have. What they don’t tell you is how high your chance for obtaining one is. Hint: It is VERY low.

Another reason is YouTube. Openings of loot crates gather quite a lot of views. I have to admit, I like to see people waste their money from time to time too. Those videos give me an opportunity to participate in a lottery I wouldn’t spend money on. Youtubers alone make up for hundreds of players. They buy ridiculous amounts of keys just to make a video. Every game with loot crates is yet another niche to fill, so people can watch money wasters in their game of choice.

The last reason I can think of is is simple. Majority of people would rather spend a little money from time to time rather than spending a full price on a new game. 5$ once a week isn’t that much, Even though you can buy a game for that price.
These are all the reasons I can think of right now when it comes to explain why microtransactions are successful.

Microtransactions are more and more invasive and even single player modes have them like in free2play games. Buy in-game currency to get through easier or waste your time grinding it. Battlefront 2 introduces a progress system through loot crates, which means that whoever spend the most on the game will have an advantage over those who don’t. Progression through microtransactions can ruin a fun for a lot of people who simply can’t afford to buy additional upgrades, because they’ve just spent 60$ on a game itself. I bought a game, I supported you, why can’t I have fun with the game already?

However, let’s go back and answer a question asked previously: Do microtransactions ruin video games? When I started to write this article I took microtransaction as a pure evil. They are destroying more and more of gaming aspects by turning game’s features into in-game purchases, which obviously suck. However when I consider everything and compare how the same elements were looking before microtransactions era I have to admit, it did some good.

There is a shimmer of light

As I mentioned, it spawned a lot of creativity with skins. Developers can put amazing skins constantly, which is rewarding for them. They put a lot of effort into designing them, because it will pay off. Players can choose whether to support it or not and they have growing choice of skins. I love Rocket league and I bought a few additional cars. It is fair, satisfying for a customer and does not ruin the fun for others, who didn’t buy it. In case of other games like League of Legends or Overwatch, where skins are for heros/champions, a development of skins has a good side effect, which is a material for cosplays. That’s just loose reference but worth keeping in mind.

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Balancing the game? Fixing bugs? Nah. We know you want another Ahri skin!

Microtransactions allowed developers to make content for the game after its release. As somebody who doesn’t stay with single player games for too long I never cared for DLCs unless I am a fan of the game. However, I know many people do care about expanding the game they bought. Microtransactions and DLCs allows developers to expand and earn money on the game they already released. Obviously, developers are utilizing it to the point, where day one DLC are a thing, which is a cheap and dirty move. Square Enix claimed that they consider “games as a service” to be a future of gaming. I hope it won’t appear to be true. After this claim I am afraid Square Enix will follow this route… Just please don’t ruin Kingdom Hearts 3. (I can already see $$$ next to the gummi ship’s parts.)

In conclusion, microtransactions are not pure evil*. This system motives creators to continue on their job over a game. It really depends on developers how they utilize them and what gets monetized. More and more things are getting monetized in AAA games. I can only hope microtransactions won’t ruin majority of full price games like they already did with some. The best ones are those, which do not interfere with game’s experience. Personally, whenever I see microtransactions, especially like those presented in Battlefront 2 or For Honor it repels me quickly. I like to collect games, I like to play different games, so when I see that after a purchase I may get incomplete experience… why would I want to buy the game? It also causes games to be worthless over time. Microtransactions may become unavailable and a lot of content will be unavailable or obtainable after tons of grinding in the best case scenario. These games won’t be worth playing after years and nobody will care about them after their time pass.

I love physical games and this is something I want to support. We vote with our wallets, so if you like microtransactions I can’t hold you back. I will not for sure. Just don’t buy anything in Battlefront 2. I don’t want unplayable multiplayer games in the future. Microtransactions aren’t going anywhere, it is rather the opposite. They are evolving and I am afraid the ones like we see in Battlefront 2 is not the final form. It is the shadow, that threatens the video games as we love.

*- they are.

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