BY NATHAN FOX
Microtransactions have ruined video games.
There was a time when you could purchase a game from the store, come home, insert it into your gaming console and play. Simply play. No extra hoops. No downloading. No extra money. That is not the case these days.
While it’s true that not every game offers or intends microtransactions, these money-eating monsters lurk in the shadows (or sometimes on the surface) of many games released today.
Sports games are some of the biggest offenders. Both Madden and NBA2K cost around $60. Sounds reasonable enough. However, lurking beneath the surface are game modes that will quickly drain your bank account.
Both of these games offer modes which allow you to build a fantasy roster of past and present players. There are certain tasks you can perform to unlock these “cards” as they’re called in the game, or you can spend money to obtain them. The more money you spend, the better cards you have.
Yet, spending this money doesn’t guarantee you anything. On the contrary, spending this money allows you the opportunity to purchase a box of cards, which has the “chance” of containing certain rare, unique or valuable cards.
Many would label this gambling—spending money to receive a reward you may or may not obtain. For those spending this money, it is their way to get ahead of the competition. They are incentivized to spend more and more of their money to receive rewards that will offer them in-game advantages.
Specific to NBA2K, MyPlayer is a game mode that allows you to create a custom character and play out an NBA season, but to improve your character’s attributes, you must spend virtual currency.
Conveniently enough, NBA2K has made the option available to spend real world money to purchase virtual currency. Though you don’t have to spend money to increase your player’s skills, it’s virtually imperative to spend money to remain competitive. Once again offering an “opportunity” for an in-game advantage.
There’s the rub. Spending money to obtain in-game advantages over other players makes for an unbalanced game. To those with disposable income, they meet few rivals. To those with less money, the game isn’t fun anymore. Either way, the game companies are taking a comfortable stroll all the way to the bank and paying their overworked employees.
This raises another wrinkle in the ethicality of microtransactions.
Many games released today are simply unfinished. Game developers run their design teams into the ground to meet release deadlines. More often than not, the game is full of bugs, doesn’t run properly or is blatantly incomplete.
To make matters worse, certain sections of the game may be guarded by a “paywall” meaning players would have to spend even more money to access additional content. “Just how much did the purchase price buy?” is a question many gamers ask themselves when met with this decision.
Console games are not the only offenders here. In fact, they’re not even the biggest offenders. No, the real culprit behind this money-grubbing scheme are mobile apps that offer in-app purchases. Of course, there are utility apps that offer more features if you purchase more content within the app. Those are not the focus of this article.
The apps in question are games that offer in-game rewards or even the ability to continue playing the game by spending money. Yes, there are some games that require you to spend money to continue playing the game. You could wait an extended period of time and return to it with one more try, or you could spend $1.99 to continue now.
With the release of dopamine you just got from beating the previous level, this measly $1.99 purchase seems like a drop in the bucket. But what if you don’t beat it this time? “Am I willing to pay $1.99 again?” you’ll ask yourself. Before you know it, you’ve spent roughly $10 just to pass the next level.
This scheme is disgusting. I’m not talking about the act itself. It’s understandable that we convince ourselves to pay money to continue gaming. When we play games and are successful, dopamine is released into our brains, and it makes us feel good. The option to continue is a no-brainer. We want to continue feeling good, and the only hindrance to that is $1.99 and, in some cases, even more.
There doesn’t seem to be a way to escape this system. You have to be aware of what games do and don’t have microtransactions. There are games that release with none of these microtransactions included.
However, until we stop paying for these in-game purchases, companies will keep using this money-making tactic. Until then … to continue reading this article, simply pay me $4.99. This has to stop. Game developers, please give us the full game or price it appropriately at launch.
Sincerely, disappointed (and now-broke) gamers everywhere.