Are Microtransactions the Way Forward with Next-Gen Consoles?
So you've spent your hard earned dollars on the latest games console. Add to that the other $60 you've spent on one of the new games only to be told you should buy more content in the form of microtransactions in game. The term micropayment or microtransaction is sometimes used to the sale of virtual goods in online games most commonly involving a currency or a service bought with real money and only available within the game. This is something most PC gamers will have heard of where games such as Guild Wars 2
use the microtransaction system. Well the idea has made the jump over to consoles and we look at the issues the Xbox One is having with the switch over.
The next-generation consoles have evolved and so have the business expectations of games companies and this has opened up opportunities for microtransactions. Microsoft, for one, is experimenting the scheme in the games Ryse
, Forza Motorsport 5
and Killer Instinct
and like so many PC and mobile developers understand, analytics will be key going forward.
Microsoft Studios' general manager Phil Spencer had this to say:
"I want to be able to learn from what we put in," Spencer said. "So let's make sure we are crafting the game and the analytics so we can see what the consumers, the gamers, like and don't [like]—if you assume buying habits are a reflection of what people like –so that we can craft the experience better for the gamer."
Spencer sounds very aware that a bad microtransaction scheme could cause an uproar with the console crowds, and knows that pay-to-win is out of the question, as well as "pay $5 for 1000 achievements"-style offers. "In reality, that's not what the gamers are looking for. They're usually looking for customization and their gameplay style opening up," he said.
Now I totally agree that if a game is free to play then the microtransaction method is a great way to get revenue for the game, but when you're paying upwards of $60 for a game then surely you have paid for the right to play the full game. Well obviously Microsoft think differently.
Christofer Sundberg is the creative director and one of the founders of Avalanche Studios (Just Cause
, Just Cause 2
, The Hunter
, Mad Max
) and he says that both subscriptions and microtransactions as the main business models that will drive the games that will launch on the Xbox One and the Playstation 4.
He tweeted, “Micro-Transactions, subscriptions and other biz models will be the next generation of games. It is that simple.” He adds, “There will be f-ups for sure. Hopefully we can lower the initial price-point and build the game with the community instead.”
At the moment, the team at Avalanche Studios is working on a Mad Max
game that will be launched on the Xbox One from Microsoft, the Playstation 4 from Sony and the PC, most likely in 2014 and reading the feedback from him will most likely include the microtransaction factor.
Microsoft's own argument goes that these microtransactions are optional, and an extension of player choice. For example. In Crimson Dragon
, the microtransactions are unobtrusive, and are even being dialed back a little for launch, but at a cost of $20 is surely a ploy for more money. The problem runs deeper in Forza Motorsport 5
as unlike in older Forza games, cars aren't offered as rewards for success: instead, the only option is to buy them in a grind that can eradicated with real-world money.
Unfortunately the future looks pretty clear. More game developers will be using the microtransaction model to try to lure in gamers in a pay to win style model whiles also reaping the rewards with deep profits. I can see this system being integrated in games like Gran Turismo
on the PS4 for more cars/colors/mods etc. and in RPG or MMORPG games like the Elder Scrolls Online
where you could trade real money for armor/potions/in game money etc. Even though this does pump some cash back into the gaming industry, I feel it is us the fans who lose out when we spend $60+ dollars on a game you will only get 50% of worth out of, well until you spend another $30 on the other half that is.