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The Soapbox: Pay to Play and Micropayments

Posted March 4, 2013 by The Laymen's Gamer in Features

You’re in the middle of your game of Facebook game of choice and you run into a roadblock: in order to progress past a certain point, you need to either pay the creators a small fee, bug your friends into joining the game, or bug your friends that are already playing the game into helping you. If you’re unwilling or unable to do those things, you simply can’t progress.

Welcome to the world of pay to play and micropayment: a world where, while you’re not forced to pay in order to progress, you’re strongly encouraged to do so. Some games will not limit your play if you choose to play for free, only offering power-ups and the like so that people can progress easier and faster; others, however, almost require that you pay to progress, pushing these requirements in your face time and time again.

If I didn’t pay to play a game, initially, like most Facebook games, I don’t have a problem, because if I get stuck due to being unable to progress, there’s no commitment. I don’t feel like I lost anything.  It used to be limited to this kind of market: stuff like World of Warcraft and Facebook games. However, with the advent of things like downloadable content, add-ons, unlocks, and the like for consoles, things have changed and now this market is slowly merging into console gaming, as well.

Current generation gaming has brought micropayments into the front with services like Playstation Network and XBOX Live but console gaming has moved closer and closer to the market described earlier. This is where I have a problem – it’s only going to gravitate towards the point companies like Mobage have brought mobile gaming, creating games are created strictly to encourage in-game purchases. Whereas Mobage will often create low-quality games to this end for free, some of those games you will have to pay for, console gaming is moving towards this; the hottest topic on this subject is Dead Space 3.


I’m really divided between what to think on this issue. Honestly, I’m not above paying more for a game if I feel that it adds more to the game. If I’m having trouble in a game and I feel that paying $0.99 will actually help me succeed and better enjoy the game, then I will gladly do so. However, I don’t feel comfortable with the amount of pressure some companies would put on the gaming public to pay further in order to fully enjoy something you had already paid a good amount for. Like I said before, when I haven’t paid anything at all or an amount that feels discounted or lessened for whatever other reasons, I don’t feel like I’ve lost out if I have to pay more; when I’ve already paid around seventy dollars for a game, though, things seem to change, in my mind.

However, the length to which I’m willing to throw down about this one is kind of limited: the problem here is, primarily, the industry is going to milk you for your “hard-earned cash”, if you’re easily to manipulate, regardless of the method. There are some people out there whose goals are simply to make money – got to remember, gaming is an industry for a lot of people, and some people in this world participate in industry in a less ethical yet completely legitimate way than others. This is what I see of this issue: a completely unethical way to milk money out of you, only if you’re foolish enough to spend every penny doing it. What really gets me is when these companies will force you to pay for the game and not even give you full access – this was the argument when Bioware/EA put out Mass Effect 3 and released From Ashes on the same day. People felt that this was an unlock for content available within the game you purchased when it was proven otherwise. If this were true, I would have been irate – don’t make me pay for a game, only to charge me for a portion that should have been available to me in the first place. This is where I have a serious problem but it hasn’t been a huge issue since then.

I think that the only people who have problems with this are the people who simply cannot resist spending their cash on frivolous purchases. These people seem to have no willpower and just go for it, thinking that they’ll get exactly what they’re advertised, buying into the hype without doing an ounce of personal research – a large amount of the same people belong to the whole “Mass Effect 3 Ending Sucks” argument but that’s a discussion for another time – and if that’s the case, I can’t have any sympathy for them. This can be avoided by understanding what helps you enjoy a game and what simply causes a bad taste in your mouth and make purchases accordingly. If you think that way and speak loudly with your wallet, the trends will change along with it, too.

In a digital age, this is the way we’re going to see console gaming moving towards and, like it or not, you’re going to have to deal with it.  I would rather just avoid what I dislike and gravitate toward what I like. I only make purchases I feel add to the game instead of giving me an experience that I feel entitled to after paying the full price for. I want to feel like I’m getting more, more content, more experience, more replay value.

About the Author

The Laymen's Gamer

I'm just a guy who has made a lifelong hobby out of gaming and would love to share that love for the games and the industry with everyone I can. I'm a straight shooter that won't hold anything back but is fair and reasonable... I know where the industry's been and I like to think I might know where it's going. This is my passion. Be sure to check out my personal blog @ !

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