Love them or hate them, microtransactions fuel the gaming industry in a massive way. These are viewed as convenient for some that want to play games for free, or as a nuisance by others that feel they get in the way of the gameplay. Could these be the way forward for online games?
The Dawn of Microtransactions
So where did the concept of microtransactions actually come from? We can look back to season passes and in-game items as far back as the early 2000s. These extra items weren’t necessary for the gameplay and usually accompanied a paid game. This seems to be the base for microtransactions to grow and form a more integral part of the gameplay.
The mobile market has given these a massive push to the fore, as people tend to want apps they can play on for free. Of course, there has to be some trade-off to make this profitable for developers, whether this is through advertisement in the app or microtransactions.
These have become something of a hot debate over the years, as some of these games are marketed towards children. There have been some cases of these transactions being charged to a parent’s account, without their knowledge. This has given them a bit of a poor reputation of late.
On top of this, we’re seeing these being used more in casual online games, in the form of loot boxes. These can be seen to give a player an unfair advantage over the competition when compared to the standard gear available in the game. This can be seen as pay to gain an unfair edge over the rest of the players.
Where will the Industry go Next?
There are other options out there for those that want to play games without spending a lot of cash. There are many games online that you can play for free, like online bingo for example. Although there is the option to pay for these games, it’s not necessarily required. Paying players have a chance to win more and have less restrictions imposed on them, but this is a fair trade-off for most.
Loot boxes are continuing to prove controversial too, so we may see these dropping out of favour. They’ve been likened to illegal gambling and paying to win, with companies like EA coming under heavy fire for this. This has a serious effect on their image and even led to the most downvoted comment on Reddit ever.
This kind of bad press can easily do a number on player interest, as the internet can be a breeding ground for this kind of contempt. Negative press of this kind is damming for a game, so we may see more developers steering away from them.
Only time will tell whether these microtransactions will remain a part of the industry as we go forward. With pros and cons to using them, developers have tough choices to make about the way they fund their ventures in future.