Micro-transactions are a part of gaming now, whether we like it or not; that much is clear. But is there a point where it gets a bit too much? Chris and Emily discuss the arguments for and against them - but what do you think? Let us know on the forum.
This is the acceptable face of micro-transactions. If a game’s essentially free, then throwing some money the developer's way both ensures that they can feel justified in the approach, and can keep the game fresh with new content. It's when you've already forked out for a full-priced title that it can seem a mite greedy.
It’s uncertain where subscriptions fall; Head Writer Sam sees them as a sort of forced micro-transaction. For example, a Final Fantasy XIV subscription would cost you a whopping £100 over a ten month period, whereas that same amount spent on Neverwinter would make you a total badass, and you wouldn’t need to spend a penny more thereafter. To keep playing Final Fantasy XIV, you’d have to keep up with that £10 a month sub. Emily sees things differently, as you’ll discover in due course.
...we've now come to accept DLC, even welcome it, as long it's not of the micro variety
My take on subscriptions is similar to Sam’s, although if you know you’re going to put a lot of hours into something I see no problem in paying upfront. I renew my Xbox Live Gold subscription every year, for example, even if I’m currently slogging through some massive single player RPG. The fact that we console owners already pay a fee for multiplayer privileges is possibly why subscriptions aren’t looked on too favourably. It would have to be something pretty special to charm me into paying a monthly sub. Of course, not having to cough up for DLC is a definite plus point.
Destiny's The Taken King DLC could set you back as much as a new game, but it's packed with content and most seem to believe it's good value for money. Now look at the horse armour pack for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It only cost pennies and almost everyone agreed that it was a bit naff. In both cases the pricing appears to be a fair reflection of the content. The only difference is that we've now come to accept DLC, even welcome it, as long it's not of the micro variety.
Understandably balance can be an issue, especially in a competitive multiplayer title. If a game feels 'pay-to-win' many will avoid it, but more and more often we're seeing only cosmetic items offered for real world cash, like costumes, weapon skins and, you guessed it, horse armour.
Even then, most games offer an in-game currency system that’ll allow you to earn items without spending a bean. Paying in these situations is basically just using a fast-forward button for people who don't have as much free time and still want to experience all aspects of a game.
I say leave ‘em to it.
I've bought micro-transactions in the past (no, not the horse armour) and will continue to do so as long as I feel the price is right. Sometimes even when it isn’t I’m compelled to offer something as a thank you gesture to a developer that’s spent countless hours of their time crafting a product I enjoy.
Ultimately, I think micro-transactions serve the same purpose as kickstarter projects, or early access releases. They let the creators know that you like the idea and want to see more, as well as giving them the funding to continue. Vote with your wallet, as they say.
Think about that the next time you laugh at a completely ridiculous armoured horse.
Ok, I'm going to start by saying I had the Horse Armour in Oblivion. My horse rocked that bad boy like Beyoncé in the Single Ladies video. Then, I'm going to go on to say that in some circumstances, I can see why developers include micro-transactions, and the benefit of them. However – for the most part I think they’re a pointless addition to console gaming that represents nothing but greed, impatience and in some cases, the gullibility, of human nature.
Perhaps that’s overly harsh, you think. Maybe even offensive, though that’s not my intention – I've fallen prey to it myself before. My biggest gripe is with games I've already paid good money for. I'm talking the likes of Destiny, Mass Effect 3 and more recently, Tales of Zestiria, which I'm going to use to make my point.
I would rather pay a £30-£40 price tag and/or a small monthly sub to help the devs with upkeep
Part of the fun of games, for me, is the learning curve. When games like Zestiria introduce paid bonuses like ‘instantly gain 10 levels’ that you can pay real money for, it defeats the object of it. I could part with a few quid and breeze through most of the game being massively over-levelled. Similarly, if I can use real money to buy the best weapons early on in the game, what’s the point in exploring to find and collect more? The game renders its own systems obsolete.
On the subject of MMOs and other free to plays, I only have experience of Neverwinter (entirely free to play) and Final Fantasy XIV (which I paid for initially, and has a monthly sub fee). In Neverwinter, I can (and did, before the expansions appeared) get through the entire game parting with no money in the process. As much as I wouldn’t describe it as pay-to-win, however, I would say unless I’m willing to put silly amounts of time into farming Astral Diamonds, or to just pay out for them, it is ‘pay-or-get-left-behind’ when you get to the higher levels of 60+. I need a silly-high gear score to do late-level Epic Dungeons, which is really difficult to attain, and in a group my lowly basic horse mount means I get left behind within a few seconds and miss bits of the mission.
Actually, I would rather pay a £30-£40 price tag and/or a small monthly sub to help the devs with upkeep, and have items readily available and equal opportunity to everyone else in the game without having to spend 60+ hours a week playing it. Also, on a side note, pricing up some of the items in the store on Neverwinter, the prices run up to nearly £100.
Now, take Final Fantasy XIV. I paid around £25 for a digital copy of the initial game and the Heavensward expansion. With that I could play for 30 days, at which point I needed a subscription to carry on playing. The sum total of that is around £10 per month. In game, the only extras you can pay for are essentially pay to look different – costumes that were available in past events, and different mounts. The only difference between those things is the appearance. I have no disadvantage to anyone else of my level for not having bought them. If I want to craft something, I can just do it. I don’t have to ‘wait 6 hours or use X amount of currency to fast-track’ that item. To me, this method is highly preferable to waiting hours for things to finish, or to getting my arse kicked in PvP because I refuse to part with more money. I would also point out, that the servers on the game I pay monthly for are much more reliable than the free-to-plays I've encountered.
There is of course a happier medium with games like Elder Scrolls Online, which you need to pay for initially but has no sub fee, following much backlash when they considered porting the PC system over to consoles. Whilst it therefore has some of the issues I found in Neverwinter with transactions in game, it doesn't suffer quite as badly for it.
Now, where did I leave my armoured horse…