Chances are you’ve come across someone that absolutely despises the idea of microtransactions in a game. To them it’s merely a greedy and absurd way for developers to squeeze cash out of their players by taunting them with elements that should be available to everyone.
No matter how good or bad the game is when it comes to implementing a cash shop or DLC, microtransactions are a step in the wrong direction and a disease – for them, at least.
The truth is, game monetization has become one of the most polarized discussions in games. For every person you find that say microtransactions negatively impact the quality of a game, you can just as easily find another that desn’t mind a good title that happens to have pay-only content.
Thus, it’s interesting to see how this business model has not only become dominant on several platforms but also shows no signs of disappearing.
The Initial Success
When it comes to social network and mobile phone games, there’s no denying that monetized games run the show. We’re confident that every Facebook user in the world has received an invite to Candy Crush Saga, a game that offers in-app purchases where players can buy more lives.
Despite forcing players to either wait for more lives or pay to get them instantly, King’s match-3 puzzle game is one of the most popular games online with over ten million downloads so far.
Supercell’s Clash of Clans, which is available on iOS platforms and Google Play, uses a freemium model where people can download and play the game for free without ever having to pay anything. This strategy game has a cash shop that lets you buy Gems to spend on various perks that you otherwise only get by waiting for a time limit to expire.
Because it was well-designed and doesn’t offer a significant advantage or disadvantage between those that buy and those that don’t, Clash of Clans generates one of the highest revenues on Google Play and the App Store.
Influence On Other Platforms
It was only a matter of time before this business model would jump to consoles and PC games. To the surprise of many, it has proven to be quite successful when implemented correctly, as games like League of Legends have proven.
One of the most popular games in the world right now, League of Legends can be enjoyed without ever paying a cent – and yet, it continues making Riot Games incredible amounts of cash by offering content you can also obtain by paying.
In fact, many games climbed out of a downhill situation by ditching subscription fees and going free-to-play but with microtransactions. For example, The Lord of the Rings Online saw a decline in their subscribers and thus went free-to-play with cash shop options, resulting in a tripling of profits.
This microtransaction model has served to keep many games alive in a time when a good number of titles would have met their demise had they not switched.
The DLC Issue
If you really want to fan the flames when discussing the idea of ‘pay-to-play’ content, you can’t go wrong with bringing up DLC.
The idea of paying for new maps or a new story campaign when you’ve already paid $60 for the title is enough to make players lose it, especially when they find out that some of that content is locked away on the disc they already own.
But despite all the angry comments flooding most gaming sites, DLC has become the norm simply because enough people are actually buying it. No matter how much hate publishers get for making us pay for new content, even if it’s there on the game’s release date, they’ll still keep making it available if enough gamers buy DLC.
Developers and publishers are convinced by our wallets much more than our words, it seems.
Here To Stay
So whether you’re a fan of season passes and microtransactions or you think they’re a plague on the industry, count on more games using this business model in the following years.
Even though older gamers long for the days when paying the $50 or $60 price tag meant you got everything the game had to offer, it’s ignorant to disregard pay-to-play and freemium games entirely when there are plenty of great ones.
Fortunately developers are getting better at finding that sweet spot of offering a monetized game that can be enjoyed whether you buy extra content or not.
For the gamer that’s busy and prefers the option of purchasing content they would otherwise never see due to lack of playing time, games like Clash of Clans are perfect. No one is forcing anyone to buy DLC or map packs, so if you really feel strongly against this business model, the best you can do is not buy it.