Microtransactions and Gaming – Here to Stay

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*Updated 9/12, in time for the release of NBA2K19*

To be clear, I am not completely against microtransactions. Independent developers need to generate extra revenue which will in turn allow the production of new content for their game. Microtransactions can be beneficial in this regard and can be seen as a requirement for sustainability. Developers have no reason to include a pay to win plan even if their “reasoning” is to help those gamers who feel are at a disadvantage against more experienced gamers. That logic is asinine as those microtransactions aren’t locked to a more skilled player.

If you want to create a level playing field, developers should put a focus on matchmaking. It’s a cash grab, plain and simple, further insulting the intelligence of your fans is a great way to losing revenue and consumer trust. I generally applaud when a developer is upfront about features in the game, but promoting the features of the game that are locked behind a paywall is nonsensical.

In my opinion, no full priced game should feature any type of micro-transaction, cosmetic or otherwise. Larger developers have the assets to create a quality game as they are generally backed by a major publisher. Two to three year development cycles for a video game is more than enough time to craft a fully realized world that is fit for the consumer. Microtransactions become borderline egregious if you include multiplayer in the package. You can bet that if competitive multiplayer is featured then DLC is going to follow. So, to break this down, you have a full priced game at 60 dollars, a season pass for about half the price of the full game, and then additional microtransactions that may or may not be pay-to-win based off the developer’s message to the community.

While publisher EA got absolutely smeared because of their pay-to-win loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront 2, it did nothing to deter other publishers from removing microtransactions. In fact, it looks like it is only going to force publishers to be more transparent regarding the features included in their products. The real reason micro-transactions won’t be removed is because of the financial implications. There is simply too much money involved when included micro-transactions.

In 3 days, Fortnite mobile made over 1 million dollars with cosmetic transactions. That is an incredible amount of revenue in such a short time. Fortnite is a free-to-play game that doesn’t feature in-game ads for those microtransactions. Which is vexing, because Shadow of War featured ads that would essential help unlock the end-game faster. Hopefully at some point consumers will become savvier to these questionable business practices. But honestly, if games are becoming more costly to produce, then it may be in the best interest of the publishers to increase the price of the game instead of facing the scrutiny involved in including microtransactions.

So, 6 months have passed since EA and WB games were heavily criticized, leading to those microtransactions being either temporarily or completely dropped from their respective titles. While these acts were met with trepidation from the community, some believed it was too little too late, there were those who believed that publishers would learn from these mistakes and make micro-transactions less prominent. Of course this positivity wouldn’t last as when publisher 2K, as it does every year, announces a new entry in their basketball series.

Microtransactions have been associated with the 2K series for a few years and while it was expected to have a role, it was surprising to see that role grow from being an option to practically being mandatory. The Virtual Currency can be earned in game, but 2K has decreased the amount you can earn making far more difficult to level up your attributes. The currency is also used to purchase MyTeam packs, with the best packs being exclusively sold at a high dollar amount. This has made the competitive portion of NBA2K feel like its locked behind a paywall. Which, if you haven’t guessed, is a bunch of bullshit.

Here’s the kicker, 2K is well aware of the communities opinion on microtransactions. This year, they took a subtle approach in regards to the announcement of 2K19 as it wasn’t until August when details were released. This was a month prior to game release, so the strategy was to keep the community in the dark in the hope that gamers wouldn’t notice or ask too many questions. It was a little too late for that as in the previous months, 2K was pleading that fans ask their countries to allow microtransactions, this was limited to Belgium and the Netherlands who considered them illegal. This is a particularly sad sight as it shows that publishers are willing to go to any length to squeeze money out of consumers.

Regardless of consumer opinion, microtransactions are here to stay. As cost of development rises, publishers will work their ass off to ensure they turn a profit. It’s a sorry state of affairs, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. It begs the question as to whether or not publishers will be as transparent when divulging the particulars of microtransactions as they are in regards to gameplay features. Once again, free to play or budget titles can get a pass when it comes to microtransactions, but premium, full-priced titles shouldn’t. It’s only a matter of time before another controversy arises. 2K might be the next big publisher to fall in the crosshairs.

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