Is There a Bright Spot in the Future of Gaming Microtransactions?Nov 5, 2017 | 1 Votes by Mikhail 10 rate Gaming microtransactions have become a norm today, making certain games blatant cash grabs. With them in mind, are there things we can look forward to in the future?
It’s easy to say that microtransactions is slowly ruining the gaming industry. Though paying for premium currency is injecting much-needed cash into indie game developer companies’ coffers (paving the way for more games), it has reached absurd levels. Triple A game publishers and developers are as guilty: instead of providing a fantastic gaming experience to their customers, they are focusing on putting more cash on their pockets.
This leads us to ask the question: is there a bright spot in the future of microtransactions? Will there ever come a time wherein gamers don’t need to purchase premium currency to actually enjoy a game? Considering that the gaming industry is leaning towards the following trends today, the future seems a little bleak:
You’ve likely heard of the phrase “pay-to-win” before, and it’s much more common in multiplayer games where you go head-to-head against other players. Basically, free players will get the short end of the stick. Whenever they are paired against a paying player, losing is almost inevitable simply because the latter has better items and a much stronger skill set thanks to premium purchases and upgrades. Although it’s undoubtedly normal for businesses to support their patrons. However, in order for free players to be on even footing, they’ll need to pay up.
Recently, Activision (known for publishing Call of Duty) is in hot water for patenting a disturbing practice. In a nutshell, this is a matchmaking procedure that makes weak players subpar items be paired up with stronger players with premium items. This is to encourage weaker players to purchase stronger items to quicken their progression and match up equally against premium players. Although Activision claims that it hasn’t used this method in any of their games, it’s an absolutely shady practice and we hope nobody ever does.
Freemium Mobile Games
Whoever made the freemium model never might have expected it to change the way video games are made. You see, instead of focusing on the players’ enjoyment and experience, a number of games today are more focused on urging people to premium currency. The most guilty party in this regard are real-time strategy game developers who create re-skins of more popular titles. Microtransaction pop-up every five minutes, asking you to purchase “gems” to hasten the construction of a particular building.
Whenever you download a free game on the app stores, just note that it isn’t really free. You will either have to contend with truckloads of pop-up advertisements every time you change menus or simply get the insatiable urge to type in your credit card and purchase $5 worth of premium currency. Before you know it, you might get drawn into an unhealthy habit of buying gems, and end up spending more money than you would have.
Payment is Progression
Unfortunately, several game developers and publishers have done away with the usual “grind and you will be rewarded” progression. Instead, you will need to buy your progression in order to get a worthwhile experience. This has been a common practice in freemium games, particularly on mobile. The only way to progress quicker is to buy gems to eliminate timers or buy new items to strengthen your character. This is present even in paid games: you have to pay $60 just to play it AND buy premium currency to fully enjoy it.
2K is one of the best examples of a developer personifying “payment is progression” and it showed in NBA 2K18, which was released last month. Apart from the cringey and unskippable cutscenes, the only way to progress is to earn “virtual currency” or VC by completing games both on the street (MyPark) or on official NBA games. You then raise your character’s attributes through VC and doing so gets absurdly expensive as you develop. Moreover, without community backlash and tons of negative reviews, they would not have made character haircuts and shoes cheaper. Note that before they tweaked it, haircuts cost 1000 VC, and you will need to play two full NBA games to earn that amount.
Focus on Multiplayer
Today, triple A publishers like EA are more inclined to invest in multiplayer simply because they can monetize it better than singeplayer games. Even GTA V never even received a single player expansion due to Rockstar’s focus towards GTA Online. Does this mean the end of single player experiences? We hope note: GTA V was well worth $60, the same with this year’s releases like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Persona 5, and Cuphead.
The Bright Spots
Fortunately for us, the gaming industry won’t fall into the pure microtransaction pitfall any time soon. Even though there are developers who want money more than satisfying their customers, most still make microtransactions an option rather than a priority. Best practices include limiting premium items to character skins and costumes, much like what Falcom and Atlus are doing. Both are known for the Trails and Persona series, which are fantastic single player RPGs
Expansion packs are also viable, with CD Projekt Red introducing the Blood & Wine expansion for The Witcher III. Some developers even did away with microtransactions and went free-to-play, like Epic Games with Fortnite. Although you need to pay to play the PvE mode, the battle royale mode is completely free.
Overall, the future of gaming is bright, with ever-improving hardware and the boundless potential of virtual reality. The battle royale genre is just getting its feet wet, with more games like PUBG and Fortnite coming soon. Microtransactions will always be around, given the expenses and manpower needed to create and maintain a game. However, we hope developers and publishers will continue giving us immersive gaming experiences without burning holes on our pockets.