The Future: Microtransactions in Console Gaming?
Online functionality for console games was a heated topic when it was rumored that last generation’s consoles would have hardware that would permit you to take your gaming online. There were some games where this functionality was absolutely necessary: sports franchises, fighting games, games like that, where multiplayer was already part of the whole gig. There’s games, though, single-player games where online functionality was really questionable.
You can say what you want about this, money spoke louder and took gaming down the path of opening up online functionality for all annals of gaming. Everybody, regardless of what the vocal minority would pump into the internet, bought into online functionality and it’s continued to develop since.
Now, it seems that the hot topic that might change the direction of gaming as we know it, something that is already a huge – if not integral – part in mobile gaming. Rich Stanton wrote an article referencing a certain title called Dead Space 3, going on about the features of microtransactions. Given, there’s been game feature unlocks via Playstation Network and XBOX Live purchases but Dead Space 3 actually ties its in-game currency directly to purchases made on said networks. I’m not going to bog you down with details but this means that your purchases will buy in-game currency and resources and not feature unlocks or content add-ons.
Some might say that since this already works for mobile gaming, this should not be a problem for console gaming. In a certain model, this works really well: in the Android Market, nine of the top ten grossing games are free. Most of these games are really basic and, while they don’t force you to buy in-game purchases, they certainly strongly encourage them. You don’t pay for the game and every purchase made in-game goes directly towards game progress and makes you feel like you’re not just paying for the privilege of playing the game but rather paying for the optional ability to do better without having to make an additional effort to do that much better.
However, when you introduce that same model into a game that you already paid for , things start to take on a different light. You’re paying for the ability to play and you’re still being encouraged to pay so you can progress faster than players who don’t. I believe the argument, here, is that this will only progress to the point where you will only be able to attain certain things only by making purchases in-game, that you will be pressured into purchasing like you are in much of mobile gaming. While Dead Space 3 doesn’t look like it’ll be giving you the same pressure, just yet, but the platform leaves that option wide open.
What do I think about all this? I have a pretty solid line of thought that states “a fool and his money will part quickly.” It’s not often that I make in-game purchases but, more often than not, when I do, it’s for game add-ons. I don’t often get stuck purchasing in-game currency or “power ups” but I know a lot of people do. In an industry where money talks and bullshit walks, it’s obvious that gaming will go down this path, should it prove profitable. The only problems that I find with this deals directly with the opening to this article – the online forum: this would make the playing field extremely uneven. In sports franchises like EA Sports’ NHL 13 you have people who can, in a way, buy their way into arenas they would otherwise have no business being in: their play being a clear indicator of the fact that they did no actual playing to get where they are, their play showing to others that they just didn’t care enough about the game to do what it took to play it well, they only cared about winning in the most shallow way possible. Online rankings would mean even less and this could even mean that trophies and achievements could be bought out, with time. This would turn so much upside down to cater to a lazy generation that I can’t even address this issue without my stomach aching.
This, to me, means that gaming would return to an age of shovelware where milking fans of their money and instant gratification are the only important factors. I, as an industry enthusiast, cannot and will not allow that to happen. I will do my part to ensure that doesn’t happen. I believe in earning your place as a good player who doesn’t even have to be skilled at a game to be respected in the field. I believe that enjoyment of a game comes from enjoying the content of the game and succeeding after hardship, not simply winning and attaining a rank after you’ve butchered the hell out of your credit card.
What do I say about this? Keep your microtransactions, free-to-play games. I’m fine with them existing in the mobile world and even in games for consoles that you don’t already have to pay for because I feel that succeeding in games you didn’t even have to earn means a hell of a lot less to me. If you succeed in something you had to earn by paying for it with money you should have earned through some kind of work, then you learn to appreciate it more. I feel that if you try to pressure me into paying additionally in a game I’ve already paid for, you’re trying to take advantage of me and you’re calling me an idiot. Especially if you try to entice me with purchase incentives or items you can only buy with in-game currency – it’s bad enough you’re calling me an idiot but now you’re calling me a simpleton who can’t think for themselves.
I cherish DLC and add-on content. The digital world has changed and expanded the way we look at game longevity. I really appreciate that because replay value is cherished again and games stay fresh longer, allows me to simply enjoy my game in different ways for even longer. It has to stop here, though. If we get bogged down in microtransactions, we’ll be stuck in a world like we will be in comparing real food to fast food: you can either learn to appreciate the effort it takes to give you the real deal, something you can take away and have pride in sharing with others and competing with the skills you’ve earned, or you can shovel your fucking face.