So we knew that microtransactions were going to be a thing in the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V, which was again confirmed sometime ago. I made it obvious even then that I wasn’t exactly a fan of such things, regardless of the fact that they’re ‘optional’. It’s the year 2015 and it is honestly sad to see microtransactions in full priced games today since microtransactions in general were a thing that, as far as I can recall, born out of free to play games that gave you something for free and if you liked the game enough, you could spend money to improve your gaming experience in it in various ways possible.
A lot of people defend microtransactions in full priced video games while others, like me, are concerned about this trend that seems to be taking off with game developers and publishers alike across the gaming industry. I want to address that concern while also address whether microtransactions in full priced video games are justifiable.
One of the usual defense I generally seem to get when I showcase my hatred for microtransactions in a full priced video game is that “publishers/developers need to earn their bread.” Now while this is the most common argument I get against my case, this is also probably the most laughable one hence I’ll address this first. For every game that utilizes microtransactions today, there are several others that don’t and end up being quite successful, eg. The Witcher 3. There is absolutely no reason for publishers or game developers to put microtransactions in a video game, it’s like asking someone more money to fully utilize a product after you’ve already sold them the product that is supposed to be a full experience in and of itself. If a game isn’t able to meet the publishers or developers expectations, it’s probably because they had unrealistic expectations or their business model isn’t viable. The Tomb Raider reboot which we all enjoyed in the year 2013 sold about 8.5 million copies by April 2015, but if Square Enix was to be believed, it was a game that performed poorly and failed to hit expectations.
When Assassins Creed Unity came out last year, surprisingly, it had microtransactions as well. Who would’ve thought Ubisoft would stoop so low? #Amiright? However, the problem isn’t the fact that Ubisoft tried to sell in game currency in Unity but the fact that some people were saying that selling in game currency doesn’t affect them in anyway whatsoever since it’s optional and hence, they don’t care. This is a classic case of consumers being unaware of the bigger picture or just not giving a fuck about their fellow consumers. First of all, if something doesn’t affect you, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect anyone else either and once you stop giving a shit about your fellow consumer, the companies who are making the products will have the upper hand and will use every tactic in the book to take more money out of your pockets while not improving on the base products. A short look at the iOS app store shows us what the gaming industry could become if microtransactions become the norm of the industry and I very much doubt that’s a future any gamer would want to be a part of.
Not to mention the fact that it doesn’t matter if there’s a microtransaction feature in a game that’s ‘optional’. It doesn’t matter because the developers obviously put it in the game and more often than not, tweaked the game in such a way that you’re more inclined to buying said ‘optional’ features in order to have the ‘better’ experience compared to the people who aren’t buying it. Because let’s face it, why would they bother putting in microtransactions in a game if they didn’t want consumers to use said microtransactions in the game?
Probably one of the only other setting outside of free to play games where I can understand the need for microtransactions is in one time buy MMO games such as Guild Wars 2 because they need the regular inflow of money to maintain the servers that are needed for the persistent open worlds that are populated with thousands of people at any given time. It should be noted that I’m specifically talking about MMOs that need a one time purchase and not a subscription based game such as World of Warcraft since the subscription in itself is supposed to provide you a premium experience and keep you on equal footing with everyone else who is paying the same thing but even Blizzard abuses the microtransaction system to some degree, albeit not a lot, but it still does. They’ve been selling cosmetic items such as mounts in World of Warcraft since forever and have recently started selling pets, which are in some ways, a core part of World of Warcraft ever since the pet system was implemented back around the end days of Cataclysm.
While again, a lot of people will tell me that cosmetic items in full priced games or subscription based games don’t affect my gaming experience in any whatsoever, to this I’ll like to go ahead and say that in fact, it does. It irks me because unlike a free to play, I’ve actually paid money upfront in order to get a full experience from a game whereas the game goes ahead to gimp my gameplay experience in order to satisfy those who pay even more money to the creators just because it can.
Coming back to Metal Gear Solid V, while we know now that the Forward Operating Base isn’t locked behind a paywall, it does have microtransactions in it. We still don’t know how much we’ll have to grind in order to get MB coins and obviously people who go ahead to buy MB coins in the game will probably have a straight up advantage in the online experience or make you feel pathetic for not investing more money into the game, either way though, if you aren’t spending money the microtransaction system does nothing but provide a negative impact in the game constantly reminding you that you’d be able to have a better experience if you would only shell out a few more dimes.
I should also mention that microtransactions also deter people from buying a full priced game in places like India where piracy is already rampant enough as it is with India only making 0.1% of Steam’s global traffic even though it’s the second most populated country in the world and provides IGN with almost 3.6% of it’s overall traffic, making IGN one of the most highly ranked websites in India according to Alexa. Piracy exists because there is a service problem in the industry. Microtransactions in full priced video games is a kind of service problem.
So does full priced video games justify having microtransactions, specially triple A games for that matter? My answer to all this would definitely be a no. There are more then enough examples to prove my point, probably the biggest, latest and most used example would be The Witcher 3, a game which sold out of online retail stores in a place like India. But feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below whether you agree or disagree with me regarding the matter and why you do so.