Up For Debate - What's the Right Way to Handle Microtransactions?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sun, Nov 26, 2017 12:00 PM

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!

Our favourite comments:

none, peopel say "cosmetics are just fine" but it still promotes the bad behavior of microtransactions. Remove them all

Chuuko

I think assassins creed origin did it quite well, the microtransactions were hidden away in a store you could only acces by the esc menu. So people who want to buy them can find them, but people who don't want to buy don't even see them unlike battlefront etc. where you are constantly seeing the option to spend real $.

teun2408

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12:35 Nov-27-2017

Well there is no best way to do microtransactions in a game that's not free. Because microtransactions shouldn't even be here. They were built for a freemium market and that's where they should be used. But as the article said, microtransactions are here to stay. Also, best example of microtransactions.. Warframe. Definitely. The game is freaking F2P and has more ethical and suitable microtransactions than 60$ AAA games. You can play missions, earn Prime components using relics and sell them on the in-game market to get a respectable amount of the freemium currency called "Platinum". You can also make loads of platinum if you've got some good "Riven" Mods (you have a shot at getting one of these mods everyday). Or.. if you're like me..

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12:39 Nov-27-2017

You can haggle the f*ck out of other players' items and then just resell them at a higher price :P
Just like the real world ;))
Also, these "items" that are buyable with platinum, they don't impact gameplay. At all. They are purely cosmetic.
And BTW to the people here that use the argument "It's only cosmetics" for non-F2P games, that logic is flawed. Because allowing "only cosmetic" MTX to exist in the first place is why we have the mess that we have in the AAA industry right now. Also, goes to show that a frickin' F2P does not have P2W MTX whereas a full priced AAA game has P2W MTX :DDD

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10:00 Nov-27-2017

I think assassins creed origin did it quite well, the microtransactions were hidden away in a store you could only acces by the esc menu. So people who want to buy them can find them, but people who don't want to buy don't even see them unlike battlefront etc. where you are constantly seeing the option to spend real $.

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10:53 Nov-27-2017

Yeah for sure, I played the entire game and didn't even really know they were there.

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08:14 Nov-27-2017

Years ago, the main issue was the game's balance (Pay to win awards), now the biggest issue is turning each game into a grindfest - getting items earlier than others, isn't that pay to win as well? - I'd say not exactly, as you can achieve the same progress by playing / grinding, quite a lot slower though.

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08:16 Nov-27-2017

This is their current excuse.
I think that if the developers / publishers just look at how many free to play games have failed with the microtransactions, it should be enough to scare them

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02:50 Nov-27-2017

I only buy em if it's something i like (like a skin). otherwise they should stay out of single player games, and never give an advantage to a kid with daddy's credit card on online games.

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02:47 Nov-27-2017

The right way to handle that (scam!) is by having none of it in video-games... the end!

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01:36 Nov-27-2017

Remove ALL MTX from all retail priced games and leave that crap to free2play games! If triple A publishers want mtx then maybe they should move to mobile.

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23:26 Nov-26-2017

I wonder what would happen if people stopped paying for microtransactions and dlc. What exactly would happen to the gaming industry given that nearly 80% of their revenue comes from that. Does the gaming industry stop becoming attractive. Do we suddenly get lesser developers? Maybe mobile games becomes the only source of gaming? There needs to be a balance gamers agree too or else repercussions.

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22:19 Nov-26-2017

none, peopel say "cosmetics are just fine" but it still promotes the bad behavior of microtransactions. Remove them all

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22:19 Nov-26-2017

The right way to handle microtrashactions is for people to have some self-control for once and not buy into them! No money in them - no need to put them everywhere.

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22:17 Nov-26-2017

Really depends on the game. For multiplayer, they should be limited to only cosmetic. Maybe alternative weapons, like Team Fortress 2, where stock weapons are mostly at least ok, if not even best by being most balanced. For singleplayer, they have to be entirely optional, game has to be made to be played without them.

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22:18 Nov-26-2017

For both progression items and stronger weapons are no go, those should be entirely tied in gameplay. Game shouldn't be built around microtransaction system. They always should be entirely optional and anything in them that is not cosmetic only, should be obtainable by playing. Again like in TF2.

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22:20 Nov-26-2017

I can understand games can be expensive to make, so I am ok with compromise. I am willing to even pay more than 60EUR for game. I do understand that. But sacrifices, like ones EA made in Battlefront 2, they are just not worth free DLC and all other stuff we are getting. They are sacrificing too much.

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22:22 Nov-26-2017

And there is plenty of proof you can do better, like Witcher 3. Or even some indie games, which prove you don't need top end ultra quality 3D to be good, just ask Couphead. And there are plenty of others. So no gameplay and fun should not be sacrificed for pay to win, just to get more expensive game out.

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22:24 Nov-26-2017

As for people saying no microtransactions. Well, gaming has become major risk for developers and very expensive thing. Games are no longer made by 10 nerds sitting in basement. And I can understand that. Microtransactions do help fund that. And game price is 60EUR for decades now.

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22:26 Nov-26-2017

Because every single other good in last 20years has become more expensive. Be it bread, fuel, cars,... except gaming. Gaming is always 60EUR per game top. And noting is exempt from inflation, not even games. Which is why developers need some way to adjust to inflation.

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22:27 Nov-26-2017

Which is where DLC and microtransactions come in. And in case of Overwatch, lootboxes actually make more sense than fracturing playerbase with DLC. In singleplayer you can do with DLC, if it is properly done, where it doesn't feel like you got cut game, but rather like you got extra content.

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22:30 Nov-26-2017

Also in some cases, like MMOs, I would prefer subscription. Since I do understand you need to pay for servers, electricity,... as well as past game development and future development. Similar goes for Overwatch as well.

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22:32 Nov-26-2017

But following all above, in case games would just stick to 60EUR, something would have to get cut. And that would be development time, developers, servers, game quality overall,...which is not exactly what I want to see. But I would love to see them spending less for marketing and more for developers.

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19:01 Nov-26-2017

Remove them entirely.

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17:46 Nov-26-2017

  1. ONLY cosmetic

  2. Only to fund the future developement of free updates for everyone (like csgo or overwatch)

  3. Not for full-prize titles that get a new release every year anyways (like COD or Fifa)

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17:06 Nov-26-2017

Start by not treating your non regular paying customers like total crap. They may not support your game monetarily, but there are many other ways to support a game. If they like it they'll spread the word about it, and most probably find multiple people who are willing to pay into the game.

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17:07 Nov-26-2017

Put everyone on the same playing field regardless of how much money they've spent on your game initially or through the course of the game. Sense of "pride and accomplishment" comes from getting better while playing the game and not through artificial and needless hours or days of grinding to unlock the basic necessities.

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17:08 Nov-26-2017

If you feel the desperate need to have premium only items in your game, make sure they at least don't impact the gameplay in any way, shape or form. Be transparent, be open and treat everyone playing your game equally. That'll incentivize players to support you monetarily because they want to, and not because they feel like they have to.

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16:59 Nov-26-2017

well titanfall 2 has good mtx system imo

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16:37 Nov-26-2017

Loot boxes should either be cosmetic only, or only include minor buffs (like battlepacks in BF4 only gave weapon attachments, no whole guns. The boxes in halo 5 gave 1 time use things that wern't incredibly more powerful)

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16:39 Nov-26-2017

If the game does have microtransactions that allow permanent large unlocks, the player should be able to choose exactly what they get, not get it through a loot box, unless the game is co-op only.

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16:41 Nov-26-2017

All Items should be obtainable just by playing the game. If the game has its own in game and premium currencies there needs to be a reasonable earn and value rate for the non-premium currency

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16:43 Nov-26-2017

And last of all, the microtransactions should always be an entirely separate, optional system from the rest of the game. No having loot boxes you can also buy as a progression system, have the microtransactions as a separate thing.

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16:21 Nov-26-2017

one should only pay to purchase the game, one has to work hard to acquire his precious and beloved items and skins,
fret not, for your efforts shall not be in vain.

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16:10 Nov-26-2017

I simply don't buy such games. Pay for what you get straight away. No DLC if it is not having at least 7-8 hours of gameplay. These are the Standards I like to follow and have Painless gaming

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14:07 Nov-26-2017

I just bought Rainbow 6 Siege Starter and i was surprised just how much the game had those micro transactions but it never has caused problems for me in any way. I dont buy them and im cool to play. Everyone except EASSHOLES know it right

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13:36 Nov-26-2017

I don't really mind microtransaction as long as they are cosmetic or items that can be found without buying them. Sure there is lot of pay 2 win out there and I don't like how they work, but if the purchasable items are similar to the heirloom in WoW they do give an advantage early game but it's not overpower either.

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13:21 Nov-26-2017

It's simple - You get what you pay for and what you pay for is clearly visible.


No Virtual Currency
No game of chance via loot boxes )you like a skin or cosmetic, pay $2 and it's yours. Simple.)
No loot boxes
Charge directly for in-game items in dollar value


And most importantly BIG Gaming...don't kill the enjoyment of games via Micro Transactions!

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