I have to start this off by stating that I am of an age to have grown up with more primitive games and also grown up with the many changes that have occurred as this industry has grown. The first taste of gaming I had was on a ZX Spectrum, it had the light gun that was ground breaking when I used it on a massive (for the time) 14 inch TV. This was a period of time when gaming was only just breaking into the living room. If you were serious about getting the best graphics, the latest titles and showing off your highest scores, you had to hit the arcades and make sure you took plenty of change to pay for it.
I have always been of the opinion that micro transactions have always been a part of video games, the difference is that now instead of physically going out to the local arcade with your mates and sinking 50p’s into the latest racer or light gun game, we are being asked to just enter our bank card details into our phones and home consoles. This for me is where the similarities end. In the past you were paying the premium to play the latest games in the arcade as they just weren’t available in your home. Just like going to the cinema today to watch the latest blockbuster, you know you won’t be able to watch it in your own living room for a few months and when you do it is unlikely to be on such a big screen. This is the premium you pay to watch it first and this was how video games worked in the past.
Arcades are pretty much long dead and wont be making a return on a large scale across the country. Where we once gladly paid a premium to play games that looked light years ahead of what we could play at home. Now we are being asked to do this in our own home and on our very own consoles, tablets and phones. From what the numbers are saying many people are, but why?
Games are now released on virtually any device with a screen, from the latest ‘AAA’ titles on our consoles or PC’s to a quick time wasting game to help our journeys go faster on our phones. The traditional home release sees a one off payment to purchase the title, this is what I am used to, I call this the traditional way to game. This generally has the highest start up cost, around £40 for a new release. The newer ‘mini’ game approach used primarily by iOS and Android capable devices sees a much smaller and sometimes free initial cost. This can then allows the player to upgrade or advance through the game through the old way of grinding, or by now buying their way through the levels or rankings, of course there are a few games that use both elements.
I personally don’t have a huge problem with the current wave of games that use micro transactions. We have all heard the horror stories reported in the media of kids racking up huge bills on their parents iPad, after buying endless numbers of coins of power-ups- but these are by and large in the minority. The majority of these games state up front and very clearly that micro transactions can be used to help you get through the game, some people just don’t have the time to grind through levels and are quite happy to spend a bit of money to speed up the story.
I do however have a big problem with games that are released as full priced games, such as Ryse that was a release title on the Xbox One. Ryse allowed players to upgrade their online character to get ahead of the game, this in my opinion is wrong. Competitive online games should have absolutely no micro transactions that allow people to buy their way up the rankings. There is no fairness and it takes the competitiveness completely out of the game. This of course on top of the £40 you already paid to buy the title.
Imagine being in the arcade and playing Mortal Kombat against someone who put in an extra pound to get double damage? It just isn’t fair and more importantly it takes all the enjoyment out of it. This type of micro transaction does just feel cheap and as though someone, either the developer or publisher, is milking the customer for everything they can get. Worryingly many people are allowing that to happen.
I personally have never used them, but I feel that is likely because of how I have grown up with games in the home and I have always taken the learning curve as part of playing the game. Difficulty in modern games is another article for another time though. I have never fully enjoyed a game that is easy to complete, part of the fun is overcoming the challenge. The journey to the end is normally far better than the actual end. I don’t play games just to complete them I play them to experience everything that they have to offer, with this in mind, I can’t help but feel that by allowing people to buy their way through the game, they are surely missing out on the actual experience of playing it?
I have already stated that I feel as though micro transactions have always been a part of gaming, I personally don’t understand why people are happy paying a premium for something that isn’t worth paying more for. Unlike in the past you aren’t playing a far superior version of the game you can’t get elsewhere, you are playing the same game you are just making your version more expensive than mine.
One thing is for sure though, if you don’t want them to be the future then just don’t buy them. This whole industry, like most, is driven by consumer demand. If people don’t buy early access cars in Gran Turismo for more than the cost of the actual game, instead of unlocking them the old fashioned way, then the developers won’t bother putting them in. It really is as simple as that. I don’t support them so I don’t buy them. I like to know how much my game is going to cost upfront, but maybe I am just behind the times. So what do you think, do you mind them in your games, do you play them?