Microtransactions: our free range days are over

Cliff Bleszinski writes an excellent post about how we should chill out about F2P/microtransactions.

And he’s absolutely right. But people forget.

People forget that in the 1970s, games were very different. You had to go to an arcade (which seemed much less sleazy than modern arcades) and you had to turn paper money into coins.

For your coin (when I was a child in the 70s, it was 10p, now it’s £1) you commonly got three lives. You had the game for a limited amount of time and when you were dead, you had to pump another coin in. We were being assaulted by the outrage of microtransactions from the very beginning!

It’s particularly odd when software developers debate over Twitter that the latest Real Racing game is poor value. It’s free to play but makes you play to get back in the race quicker. Some people are loving it, some people are hating it but the bottom line is – what is the game actually worth?

If Real Racing 3 was a pay up front game, how much would it be worth? The visuals seem to suggest that it would be almost a £40 console game. It should be commanding a great price on tablets as well but they give a different option. Or 18.

My theory is that being nickel’n’dimed isn’t the problem. I don’t believe that microtransactions are the issue. I believe the real issue is the impression there is no upper limit. The fact that you can spend $1700 on a ‘free’ game is not a good thing. The fact that some game developers refer to their most profitable customers as ‘whales’ reinforces a type of predator mentality. They’re gleeful that they have hooked a whale. Delighted to start carving up the blubber.

Whalers, like Captain Ahab, get a lot of bad press.

There’s nothing wrong with microtransactions, for anything, from any company. If Blizzard can sell a picture of a pony, then EA can sell you stickers for your race car. You don’t have to buy. But creating a ‘Buy Everything’ in-app purchase would remove many of the issues people have with these new business models.

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