Love them or loathe them, microtransactions are here to stay. Recent research found that more than 77% of all gaming revenue was a combination of microtransactions, DLC and subscriptions. For all the vociferous complaining, there must be a heck of a lot of folks out there engaging with these systems.
So, if we were to begin to accept that microtransactions are going to be around whether we like them or not, what’s the best way for them to be implemented?
We’ll start things off by spinning things around. The prototypical way to not include microtransactions in a consumer-pleasing manner is surely Star Wars Battlefront 2. Whatever your views on this, the backlash has made it loud and clear that a large chunk of fans isn't happy with this system. And, well, it’s easy to see why.
Pay-to-win is an ugly system that rewards the haves rather than the have-nots. I suspect a lot of us have had enough of that in real life, and games are a place where we go to escape rather than be beaten down by an actual emperor with a lightsaber twice as powerful as your own. Whatever EA does to sort out this sorry mess, unpicking the pay-to-win mechanics permanently seems an unlikely prospect, it's intrinsic to how it wants to monetise Battlefront 2 in the months and years after launch.
While a lot of this is conjecture at this point, it seems likely that EA and DICE were on the back foot from the moment they said all post-launch content for Star Wars Battlefront 2 would be free. No map packs, no season passes, no segregated matchmaking. For EA execs, that lost revenue then had to come from elsewhere. The natural solution is one which we’ve seen with the likes of Overwatch, Rocket League and Rainbow Six Siege - paid cosmetics. Disney probably baulked at the idea of gamers putting a Father Christmas hat on Darth Vader lest they sully his pristine image. Blocking cosmetic MTX, having already offered up free maps, modes and heroes, kind of left EA in a sticky position. There probably wasn’t much choice in the matter at this stage. They were too far down the tunnel to come back, and Star Cards and loot crates were born. Cue several apologies, a number of embarrassing climbdowns, a complete lack of confidence in the product, and harsh reviews.
Right, so that’s exactly how not to do it. But how do you do it right? Arguably, some have got the formula nailed down. Rainbow Six Siege is absolutely littered with microtransactions, including currency backs, Renown boosters, Alpha Packs (loot crates) and weapon skins, yet there are rarely many complaints. The trick seems to be in restriction microtransactions to cosmetics as much as humanly possible, as well as offering a substantial amount of content in the base game (16 Operators). Subsequent Operators are expensive and time-consuming to unlock but they’re an achievable goal for regular players. Crucially, you’re never at a major disadvantage if you’ve just got the base Operators, they’ve mostly got their uses. Playing for longer or paying more doesn’t mean you do more damage, or you move faster, you’ve just more choice at your fingertips.
There are obviously many ways that the same problem can be handled, but if we’re to assume microtransactions are an ongoing thing, how best should they be implemented? Which games do you play regularly that you don’t mind have microtransactions? Let us know in the comments section below!