The Talk On Microtransactions

Written by Andrew Moynihan on Sat, Mar 16, 2013 9:00 AM

For those that don’t know by now, Microtransactions are defined as small, real money purchases for small amounts of game content, usually with an in-game store.

Of course, they’ve gained a lot of notoriety recently, so I thought I’d ask our Gaming Guru Squee for his thoughts on the subject...

Symphona: Microtransactions are generally linked with the Free To Play game model, which has seen a lot of success in the past in various forms. Firstly, what do you think about Microtransactions as a whole? Is it a viable way to fund a game?

Squee: Funding games is weird. No, let me back up a minute. Money is weird. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I have a weird thing about eBay 'sniping'. If you just put the amount you are willing to pay for an object, then it goes for 20p more than you put in as your bid, you should be fine about it, because it was more than you were willing to spend. Simple.

I see microtransactions in a vaguely similar way. It's more about perceptions than anything else. If you're playing a free-to-play game and it's crazy awesome fun, but then you realise that it would be better if you had a horde of robotic bats to command, but the robotic bats cost a dollar, you freak out because it's 'THE MAN' trying to stealth money out of your pockets. Thing is, you're playing the game and 'THE MAN' currently has nothing to show for his hard development work.



When they first appeared on the scene I was definitely concerned. Which is strange, really, because the earlier versions of the same concept such as DLC, I'm mostly okay with. There was a really ancient game out on the Amiga called Corporation, a prototype first person shooter where you play the part of a secret agent infiltrating a skyscraper. There was this little slip in the game box that you could return with a photo, and they'd digitise your photo and it would appear on your status bar in-game. I wanted that thing so bad!! There's your first (purely cosmetic) microtransaction: 1990.

Sym: Lets look at some popular games: DOTA 2 has only cosmetic items to purchase, meaning the gameplay is never altered, and a day one player has all the gameplay a veteran has; In Tribes: Ascend (before recent patches), it was very hard to earn enough currency to unlock unarguably better weapons; you needed to drop real money if you ever wanted more than one. Would you say that the reason people are so set against Microtransactions is because they seem to disrespect the consumer? Because the games are designed for a “pay to win” scenario?

Squee: I don't know if the difference between cosmetic and mechanical is really the difference between respect and disrespect. I guess DOTA does quite well from the cosmetic stuff - Personally I'd sooner buy horse armour than cosmetic touches for a multiplayer game. Still, I think that if the market for cosmetic microtransactions is there, who are we to try to stand in its way?

'Pay to win' is one of those phrases that gets used in a uniformly negative way, and I understand that it's annoying when someone with more money just waltzes through. What if the differences are minor, though? Let's say, for the sake of argument, a fancy sports car for a racing game. Now just as in real life, the prestige of being able to afford - and then choosing to buy - such a car will certainly impress some people, but it might also make you a target. Who doesn't smile when they see a broken-down Porsche beside the road? Seeing as how in the traditional model you had to pay to even play the game, free-to-play but with paid upgrades doesn't seem so bad - if you put a pot of cash aside for the game, say, the price of a few pints, and then customise the game the way you'd like to play it, is that really so awful?



Many people think we are moving back to how Art was done in the history books; a full work of art was done by an artist, who showed it off for free, and people who liked it gave some money in appreciation. We’ve seen Musicians do the same thing today; is it time for games to head that way?

Well I'm not really sure it's currently working that way, except in a few small cases, such as the Indie Bundles. There is a difference, though, and it's about the money that needs to be poured into a game to get it anywhere near decent. The so-called 'honour' system would be a great thing to see, and it may work - I've not really looked at the economics of it. The success of Kickstarter as a way of funding what would traditionally be considered full-price projects suggests that people are ready to find new ways to support the industry they love. Unfortunately, cynicism and greed can creep into things like this and ruin it for everyone.

To be honest, I'd be surprised if we saw a system like the one you describe, but we do already have a system (in Kickstarter) that is almost like the same thing in reverse (where you pay before the work's even done), so it's anybody's guess really.

Finally then, I think we can say that inherently, Microtransactions aren’t bad. Do you think we’ll see a slowing of games taking up the Microtransaction fad? Will game designers ever truly find the balance between “pay to win" being better, but not overpowered?

Actually, I think that coming up with new and imaginative payment methods is probably easier than creating a game balance that will keep free players and paying players all happy at the same time.

Symphona: So, that's our round up; what are your opinions? Are we going to see more or fewer microtransactions in the future? To the comments!

Are you for or against Microtransactions in games?

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15:56 Mar-18-2013

i can accept it in f2p ,but in a game i payed 60 euros for ,never.

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13:26 Mar-18-2013

Paying for DLCs are enough. We should not have pay for stuff we already payed for. Microtransaction is fine for F2P but for games bought in hardcopy? I rather quit gaming and become a monk

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15:33 Mar-18-2013

I agree, I don't mind paying for stuff like dlc's, but stuff like better weapons so you can beat players who haven't played easily is unfair.

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01:50 Mar-18-2013

Im fine with them in f2p or cheaper games, but I understand if I cant earn the same items, but I really like if I can or can get something equal just not as cool looking.

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13:06 Mar-17-2013

Only in FTP games.

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03:56 Mar-17-2013

Well the only game I've spend money on with microtransactions is League of legends because they are only cosmetic and unlike other games youre not buying firepower. So I'm in favor of them but only cosmetic content on free to play games.

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13:16 Mar-17-2013

+1

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03:28 Mar-17-2013

I play lots of F2P games, so i would like to say something about some of them;
1:) A.V.A = Its a great F2P FPS, so many maps, game modes, weapons, etc. but in game Microtransactions allow players who pay real money to buy weapon at lvl 1 which would usually unlock at lvl 20. So obviously he gets the upperhand, i just hate that.
2:)Ghost Recon Online = I must say it is best F2P shooter out there, in this game microtransaction allow you to buy helmet(which only make difference in your look,no change in armor) and weapons but even if you pay real money you will be buy gun when you reach the set lvl so there is fair game between each players(unlike A.V.A) and its very easy to earn RP.(BTW my ingame name is IndianPatriot)

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23:50 Mar-16-2013

Personally, I pay enough for the game itself. Can't afford these microtransactions too.

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21:54 Mar-16-2013

ONLY IN FREE TO PLAY GAMES !!!!!

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23:58 Mar-16-2013

Agreed.

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21:46 Mar-16-2013

I wouldn't do it for a game I'd already payed for. F2p is understandable because they need to fund the game, and I often end up spending way more than I should...for example, I've spent roughly 250$ on Star Wars The Old Republic the past week in a drowsy gambling stupor. Wouldn't advise it, it was a big mistake, but it was my decision and I accept it...not advising against paying for things in game; I'm advising against spending quite that much, at least, all at once. But still, it's fair to ask for money in an f2p game or maybe just MMOs in general, but anywhere else, I probably won't be spending a cent on microtransactions.

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19:39 Mar-16-2013

Imagine while reloading magazine in the game they strip you off let's say for 50 cents. Are they trying to make games more realisitc, to feel the impacts in your real life, litrealy?

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23:43 Mar-16-2013

Wouldn't be surprised if that was EA's next idea :D

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01:51 Mar-18-2013

SHHHH!!! Dont give them ideas...

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19:38 Mar-16-2013

I think its fine if the game is good and especialy if the game is free to play. Like in League Of Legends I like to support the game by buying skins for champions and so on.

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20:14 Mar-16-2013

LoL is the only F2P game I spend money for. Unless I end up getting irritated by the amount of advertising.

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20:32 Mar-16-2013

Ye same goes for me :D Dont even wanna think how much money I have spent on skins and so on. Way too much :D

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18:35 Mar-16-2013

well guys, I play Dota 2, and I like that way of microtransaction for having only visual, cosmetic purpose, not to make the other heroes more powerfull that the other, on example i play top eleven menager on facebook, my team is 22.8 strong, and 3 teams in my league are 36-37 strong just coz spending 100-200$ on ingame items ( tokens ) and kinada makes the game unfair for guys who play it for free,no way to win the league,champions,cup.

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18:10 Mar-16-2013

As long as they're on F2P games and they only offer "shortcuts" it's ok,but I'm against getting a game for $$ and paying even more afterwards because they made a "new" mode or weapon etc; that's not really fair ,because it should be free,that's why I was a little disappointed when I got the "Ultimate box" version of BP,and didn't get the island or the legends car pack when they came out.

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17:38 Mar-16-2013

It is ok as long as I that do not pay for certain things in game get the same item as a unlock. Example people who buy the assault class unlock for BF3. I will also get the same weapons it will just take me longer. That is fine. BUT if you pay to get a better weapon or other weapons that the non payer won't get....that is not cool. I liked the fact that you could sell items for real money in diablo 3 for instance. That system did not put any player at a disadvantage because most of those items were for sale on the in game currency system as well.

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14:02 Mar-16-2013

I'm okay with microtransactions in F2P as long as it affects only cosmetics and nothing else that might make a game Pay 2 Win or stop people from exploring new content until they pay (I take Turbine games, such as LOTRO or DDO, as an example) .
Will we see fewer microtransactions in future? My answer is "I Don't think so", basing on how optimal it is for developers and publishers to make money on donations.

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13:33 Mar-16-2013

Only in F2P

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13:10 Mar-16-2013

microtransaction i think is okay for free to play games, since it's the way that the developer get their money,
but microtransaction in games that we already pay is a big no-no, it's like selling ice cream cone to kids for 2 dollar but ask for additional money again for the "cone"

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12:20 Mar-16-2013

i hate microtransactions and DLC i think they ruin games and make them feel like a demo. I was looking forward to C&C Generals 2 but when i heard it was free to play with microtransactions, i've changed my mind

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12:26 Mar-16-2013

double post..?

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17:50 Mar-16-2013

not again, whats going on everytime i type anything on this website it seems to post it twice like an hour later

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11:27 Mar-16-2013

i hate microtransactions and DLC i think they ruin games and make them feel like a demo. I was looking forward to C&C Generals 2 but when i heard it was free to play with microtransactions, i've changed my mind

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11:14 Mar-16-2013

I think they're good as long as they keep them as a 'shortcut' :D

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11:16 Mar-16-2013

yea, that is totally right :D

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11:45 Mar-16-2013

i agree

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