Microtransactions: Good or Bad?

Microtransactions don't have to be a bad thing.

Microtransactions are becoming more common in video games and some people are not happy about it. It's easy to see why, since a lot of companies seem to do everything they can to make microtransactions as painful as possible.

Personally, I think microtransactions are a great tool for developers to make money off of their games, but they have to be done right. There has to be respect between the developer/publisher and the consumer. There are a few things that companies should keep in mind when applying a microtransaction system to their games.

Don't Let People Pay for Power

Nothing breaks a game more quickly than a free-to-play game with a cash shop that breaks the balance of the game. Allowing people to pay for power in a game is the quickest way to drive away the players that play for free. Once you've driven them away, your community is going to be massively reduced and that's just going to drive away more players. Nobody wants to play a game if no one else is playing it.

If you're going to sell things to the players, it needs to be things that won't break the balance. For example, in Guild Wars 2 you only get 5 character slots by default. This is not enough to play every class and it made me want to purchase more character slots. The same can be said for aesthetics for your character. If you want me to buy things in your game, I'm more likely to do it if the game is fun and well balanced.

Stop Treating the Free Players Like the Enemy

Some publishers seem to have a problem with the idea that many of their players are paying for free. You should be embracing the players playing for free. You should view them as potential paying players instead of freeloaders. If they are treated with respect from the developer or publisher, they are more likely to actually spend their money on things.

Let Us Earn the Cash Shop Currency

Allowing players to earn the cash shop currency in game gives the player a fair shake at acquiring the cool looking gear that the paying players have, but at a much slower rate. Obviously you wouldn't want to make it super easy to earn the cash shop currency. Once you have linked time and money together, players can more easily rationalize purchasing the cash shop currency. If it is going to take a long time to make enough money, it is easier to rationalize dropping a few bucks for the money you want. EVE Online figured this out a long time ago and have benefited from it ever since.

In the end, microtransactions can be a good thing that promote good community interaction and fill the wallets of the developers, but only if there is mutual respect between both parties. Hopefully we will see more developers and publishers get it right in time.

What do you think about the prevalence of microtransactions in video games?

Correspondent

I am a simple man with simple dreams. I one day wish to play all of my steam games. Yo videogames!

Published Aug. 26th 2013
  • Faowri
    Contributor
    I don't mind them as long as they're done right. Subscriptions suck because they're mandatory, usually overpriced and make you feel guilty every time you're not in there getting your money's worth. Microtransactions allow me to support the developer while only spending extra cash on things I WANT to buy.

    I don't know if any MMO has truly got it right though, not yet. MTX should be focused on the cosmetic, and concepts with very dubious ethics like 'chance' items, where you spend real money for a usually terrible CHANCE at the item you want, give me a real bad taste in my mouth. I refuse to spend real money gambling in an MTX store and I look less favourably upon studios that plug this stuff in their cash shops.

    Yeah, I'm looking at you, ArenaNet.

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