The Year of The Microtransactions

While this year was amazing for video games we cannot ignore all the anger video game fans had towards microtransactions. Many of the anger is justified since many companies poorly implemented them without thinking about the core fundamentals of what makes them work. Given the need to maximize profits and that it has worked for so many developers some games tried implementing them to disastrous effect.  

I understand the frustrations many have to bad microtransaction but I also do understand why so many developers need to find ways to generate more profits. Running a business is hard especially in entertainment when you have so many forms of entertainment to compete with from shows, movies, to music. It’s why we see movies taking less risk and shows focusing on longer series.   

Even video games are competing with so many different types of video game experiences. I am not even talking about video game genres but ways to pay and play video games. Free-to-play is probably the biggest reason why video games don’t cost more than $60 and for good reason. Many free-to-play games provide a service that so many gamers are more than satisfied to fill their gaming needs with, I mean just look at Twitch right now and see what the top games are.

We have many more gamers than we ever had but we also have games that are endless thanks to many games that consider themselves a service with the constant amount of updated content. I mean just look at World of Warcraft a game in which some players have had characters they created go through over 10 years of updated content. That is something only possible because of passionate fans supporting that world.

Gamers are the most passionate fans since we interact with our entertainment more than any other medium out there. Our interaction with games shapes the experience which is why our opinions are not only important but necessary to create the best interactive experience for everyone. It is why most games go through user testing and open betas.

Which is why when creating games as a service you have to be extra careful to make sure you don’t upset your fans. Whatever you are selling has to be something that the fans are ultimately alright with paying for. That will differ from game to game and audience to audience. It is extremely hard to predict how fans to react to certain revenue models but in this day it can make or break games.

One of the most effective ways to make sure that this is done right is through communication. I remember when World of Warcraft decided to sell character level boost for $60. This is an expensive purchase that significantly affects gameplay, but Blizzard communicated to their player base why it had a high cost. They wanted players to still value leveling up but since Warcraft had become so massive they did want players to have this option.

Just look at The Game Awards 2017 and all the games nominated for Game of the Year. Every single one of them had in-game content that could be obtained through additional purchases. PUGB had loot boxes, Zelda and Mario had Amiibos that affected gameplay, Persona had character skins, and Horizon Zero Dawn had a whole new region to explore. All were done in a way where the player bases did not feel taken advantage of.

While I understand most of the frustration is around loot boxes one has to understand that these practices have been around. Magic: the Gathering is always the best example that people point to because of how successful it was. You can see these are predatory but understand that to the fans of Magic it was an extremely enjoyable experience that so many fans were willing to support regardless of the buying method.

No one is forcing you to support methods that you do not agree with and choosing not to support can be an effective way to change behavior. Communicating clearly is another reasonable way to affect change since many developers are listening. Using methods that can gather support from not just fellow fans but also other developers is how you change games from using certain practices because at the end of the day we are all gamers.

Games are changing due to many different circumstances and personally, I think that is a great thing since it leads to innovation.  We have so many options of games to play that if you honestly do not want a game that has additional in-game content then you have a trove of other games to play, many created by independent developers who would love the support. Just understand when developers do choose it is so they can survive.