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Daily Reaction: The Future of Gaming Will be Dished Out One Microtransaction at a Time

February 27, 2013 Written by Dan Oravasaari

Coming as a surprise to no one, microtransactions have not died out, and have only become more prominent as time has gone one. With that, the Daily Reaction crew of Seb and Dan discuss the future of the industry and how the gaming landscape will change over time.

Dan: The ability for developers to recoup the cost of producing games is going to be increasingly difficult, just as we have seen over the past few years. This will become a bigger problem as budgets for titles are rising, and are seeing another 5-10% increase as we move to the next-gen, according to EA’s Chief Financial Officer Blake Jorgensen. A figure that Jorgensen speculates will grow for larger future titles, something that leaves companies in the difficult situation of figuring out how to bring in more customers, or finding ways to get more out of each customer.

One of the biggest markets that has gotten the attention of everyone in the industry has to be the booming mobile space, which has been able to generate a revenue stream that rivals games with multiple times the budget. The one method that has become increasingly popular has been the microtransaction model, which allows consumers to pay out in small increments for improvements or the ability to cut corners. One of the biggest games to recently include microtransactions has been EA’s Dead Space 3, which allows gamers to purchase crafting materials instead of having to find them themselves. This is something that hasn’t exactly been received well in the public space, as gamers are starting to feel that the titles are losing their effect, as a few well placed dollars can cut a corner or two.

The idea to include features that allow people with less time to compete by simply subsidizing their time for cash is, in theory, a decent concept, but generates a number of problems in the digital space. The first being that any gamer who feels that their time can simply be traded for a few cents, begins to perceive the actual lack of value of their time or investment in a specific title. This becomes a problem even for the people who are subsidizing their time for cash, as part of the appeal of gaming is the ability to actually earn something, and feel some sort of achievement. But, the inclusion of the microtransaction model is still new, and in time could change shape as developers are seeing that numerous problems with it.

Seb: After yesterday’s bizarrely positive Daily Reaction, I have tons of built up bile, and this is the perfect topic to let it loose on. Microtransactions on paid games are a horrible idea, introduced by publishers who aren’t satisfied by the huge amount of money they have already received from a $60 title. The majority of microtransactions in games, and the types that EA wants to put in all their future games, involve paying to skip content. Paying to skip content that you bought. Awesome.

It’s a pointless endeavor that sucks people in by dangling the option to skip, and many will, paying good money until they realize they’ve been a part of that terrible Adam Sandler movie Click, which now seems like a genius prediction of our gaming future. Even if you never ever plan on using microtransactions, this will still affect you. Just like how I described how F2P developers were changing the design of their games for the worse, simply to get you to pay, we’ll see that increasingly in full priced games. There’ll be missions that are boring, long, tedious, pointless or hard, and it’ll say “Oh, it looks like you’ve died 5 times, how about you skip it for $0.99?” The fact that games might become harder is the only potential highlight, as I’ve stressed the problems with the dumbing down of games, but I do fear that the increased difficulty will be in annoying ways, not challenging ways. We also have now completely lost cheat codes, because they were free which seems crazy now…

The fact that F2P has been a success, despite many games utterly abusing the system and making you pay again and again to make it any fun, shows that microtransactions will, sadly, be a success. Dead Space 3 came with $50 worth of packs, which means that if even a reasonably small amount of people used it, EA raked it in.

Instead of Free-to-play, we’re seeing Pay-first-to-play a crappy title, with the option to Pay-more-to-not-actually-play the title and skip ahead as if you had played the game. It’s going to be an increasing trend that we, as gamers, have to fight.

Public outcries and media condemnation against always-on DRM and on-disc DLC has not stopped them from happening, but it has lessened their spread and their use. We will not be able to stamp out the rise of microtransactions, but by making it clear that this is not something “consumers love”, we can stop it taking over completely.

What do you think of microtransactions? Has the ability to purchase something instead of finding it in a game ever helped your experience? Will microtransactions allow developers to needlessly cut corners? Let us know in the comments, or by following Seb and Dan on Twitter for a small fee.