2 September 2019

INSTANT GRATIFICAION, MICROTRANSACTIONS AND YOU

 

As the saying goes, time is money. But is your time worth literal money? Anybody who’s picked up a free-to-play game on their mobile phone would tell you that these app developers certainly think so.

 

The Problem
In this day and age, everyone demands convenience. They want their express delivery, their food on the go. Need a question answered? Google it. Everything has to be now, now, now. Even dating is instant and easy, just swipe right. Our current generation has been so pampered and coddled by having everything within arm’s reach that the slightest inconvenience turns us into irritable babies.

 

And that standard has seeped into every aspect of our culture, including gaming. Just lost a match? Power up with some gems! Don’t want to wait 12 hours for your building to finish constructing? Spend some gold bars! Oh, no, you failed the stage? Spend a couple of Big Bucks for some consumable items and try again!

 

And to make things worse, a lot of such mobile games will deliberately make the game unusually difficult and frustrating, offering unreasonably tough challenges that are not balanced in relation to the amount of time spent in the game. Another common tactic is to implement restrictions on how much you can play. This can be in the form of an energy bar that replenishes over the course of the day or a fixed amount of daily entries to a stage or resource.

 

These games prey on our need for instant gratification, our need for having things done quickly. There’s always a shortcut, a cheap way to get out of a sticky situation (but not on the wallet, haha). The answer to making quick money on a free-to-play game is to make it frustrating to play, and this is not healthy for the video game industry.

 

Microtransactions (MTX) done right!
That’s not to say all microtransactions are evil, some of the most successful games use an MTX model and they’ve done it right. Essentially, the following examples do not give an unreasonably unfair advantage to paying players (aka pay-to-win/p2w players)

 

Instead, these games let you pay for graphical changes, visible customizations or minor quality of life improvements. Such examples include skins for your character or weapons from big hit free-to-play games like CS:GO, Overwatch, Warframe, DotA2, and League of Legends. Path of Exile even offers skins for different abilities! Many card games like MTG Arena and Hearthstone, give you the option to pay for premium animated cards (although sadly, they do allow purchasing packs with MTX, which is said to be pay-to-win).

 

In terms of gameplay improvements and quality of life changes, Path of Exile offers you a myriad of different premium stash tabs, giving you more inventory space and the ability to customize the colors of your tabs. For example, there’s a special tab that will sort all of your crafting components when you deposit them automatically. Another prime example is selling loadout slots, bank stash and other similar forms of convenience.

 

Benefits of MTX to the industry
With all of what I’ve written so far, I’ve brought to light both the good and the bad about microtransactions, but here’s the bottomline question that matters the most: “Is this healthy for video games?” The answer is yes, but only if it’s done right.

 

Microtransactions in a free-to-play game allow players to try a game without having to invest any initial payments for a game they might not enjoy. Also, MTX games can cater both to the player who wants spend 5 dollars and the player who wants to spend 500 dollars. It allows the consumer to set the payment scale that they are comfortable with.

 

So how do you do MTX right? Firstly, playing for free has to be viable. Without players, a game dies. A game is only as successful as how much it’s community is willing to support it. Designing a game with predatory practices will drive those players away. Having a game where content is earnable, or a game that is generous will make a player more likely to stay.

 

Secondly, do not sell power. Offering power for purchase will force a player’s hand to pay in order to enjoy, and strong-arming a consumer to do that will not earn any favors. Instead, sell convenience and cosmetics, such as the ones I’ve listed above.

 

Lastly, do not split your playerbase. Offering a premium game mode, map, or any kind of content that splits your player base is not something that should be done. It secludes the paying players from the free-to-play players, diluting the player base which can lead to less interactivity and longer queue times.

 

There you have it, ladies and gentleman! My thoughts on microtransactions and what impact they have on our video gaming culture. I hope you enjoy this read as much as I did writing it.

 

And with that, I’m off! Keep gaming and keep positive!

Written by: Dexter Lim aka Trilz
The views expressed are those of the author and do not in any way, represent nor reflect those of HP OMEN and its affiliations.