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Novadude987

Debate: Proper Time For Microtransactions?

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So me and my associate were discussing microtransactions the other day. He believes that microtransactions have no place, to any degree, in video games. I disagreed. I believe that many devs rely on microtransactions for their profits. Many mobile games, as well as free-to-play games, use microtransactions as their only source of revenue for that game. As with many debates, I have my opinions and he has his, but I was curious as to what the GDNet community thought?

Please keep your replies civil, and respect altering viewpoints. If we can, I would love to get feedback from both indie and AAA devs, seeing as it is mostly the AAA devs that are getting bashed for microtransactions. It would also be great if you can cite any sources or examples when presenting your argument. Thanks guys! :)

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I'm an adult, with a wife and kids. I value my time more than my money. In that context, microtransactions that allow me to skip some of the tedious parts of a game can be really welcome.

However, I think that players who would rather not pay should not be disadvantaged compared to me; I prefer games where they can achieve all the same stuff by putting in the time - I shouldn't get any advantages they outright can't have by paying.

 

As for cosmetic stuff? As long as it's not ruining the feel of the game, who cares - it's completely optional, people can buy it if they want and it doesn't really effect everyone else.

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35 minutes ago, jbadams said:

I'm an adult, with a wife and kids. I value my time more than my money. In that context, microtransactions that allow me to skip some of the tedious parts of a game can be really welcome.

Out of curiosity, would you have then paid to unlock Darth Vader in the recent EA's Battlefront 2? The general population seems to disagree with their microtransaction scheme.

My own opinion of microtransactions is that it can ruin the game. One practice that I find common in mobile games is to create a ridiculously powerful item with very very low chance of acquiring, e.g. 0.1% drop rate and you gotta collect 50 of these 'fragments', and a 10% success rate to forge the fragments to the real item.

Or charge a ridiculous real money for it. This is an obviously a scheme to get people to pay.

If you happen to get a whale among your players, then that player can single-handedly ruin your game for other players, because it can basically just one-shot other players in a PvP combat with this powerful item.

So, you need to find the right balance. If you intend an item to be acquirable through normal plays, then use reasonable metrics so that free players can enjoy and get their "sense of pride and accomplishment".

If you are selling an item through microtransactions, then I think the items should be exclusive for paid players only, while at the same time not too ridiculously powerful that it could ruin the game for everyone.

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Non-free mobile games don't sell. It's either micro transactions or advertising, or both in that part of the industry. Preferably both in a way that meshes with the game design and doesn't piss off the players. 

Note that when run as a business, a successful model *will* piss off the perfect percentage of players. Pissing off players loses you money, but obnoxious micro transactions makes you money. The balance is in the middle where you monetise the crap out of it and piss off some people, but not too many. The best way to make money isn't going to be pretty. You can ask individual people to be nice and not try to make the most money possible, but you can't ask a publicly traded corporation not to to that!

Pay to win micro transactions in a full priced PC game is always going to piss off your players, and IMHO will completely undermine your gameplay too. I actually don't know how EA thought this would work... 

Cosmetic micro transactions are pretty much forgiveable in any game though... 

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I believe that GTA5's GTA Online handled microtransactions pretty well. I didn't have to pay a dime for the free additional content, but at the same time the shark cards were tempting. If I didn't want to grind to get that $2,000,000 helicopter, I could just buy some shark cards. This way, the dlc pays for itself. Not once did I feel like I had to buy a shark card to progress or get what I wanted. I just grinded and earned it or bought it if I was too lazy. 

 

I also don't mind microtransactions in games like Second Life and the now defunct PSHome. Especially since both titles are free to download and play.

I will say, however, that a lot of AAA publishers (and I can't stress enough "publishers") pressure their devs into placing microtransactions in their game. Such was the case for Konami and Kojima Productions. I feel that big publishers like Konami and EA (Battlefront 2 anybody?) are not being responsible with microtransactions and as wiseman Ben Parker always said: "With great power, comes great responsibility." The gameplay suffers, the story suffers, and the brand as a whole suffers. 

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It's not like most studios have a choice about including microtransactions. They can certainly make them more/less objectionable (for the most part, more/less impact on the game play, and more/less ability to pay fixed price for items). But at the end of the day, average AAA game development costs somewhere in the $50-100 million per title range, and with game prices stagnant for decades at the $60 mark, one has to make back the development costs somewhere...

I don't mind microtransactions that are (a) largely cosmetic (i.e. don't tilt the game balance in my favour), and (b) direct payment for product (so that I don't have to spend $90 on loot crates to get that one skin I wanted).

I'm also in favour of paid DLC content, particularly where that DLC adds significant story and/or multiplayer content. I think most folks intrinsically understand that you are selling me a $90 game, but due to competitive market forces you had to break it up into a $60 base game and a $30 expansion.

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I also value my time more highly than my money.  That's why I uninstall any game that wastes my time with grinding or annoys me with microtransactions.  I already have enough non-abusive games in my backlog to last for the rest of my life, so why would I put up with any abuse at all from my games?

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Micro transactions are a amazing idea.

 

Players don't want to pay for games upfront anymore. Demos also turned into such a waste of time for developers that they abandoned the whole concept.

Micro transactions is a way back to that concept that benefit both players and developers.

 

Developers should just learn how to use micro transactions in a way that doesn't leave the buyer feeling like they are cheating or was cheated.

For this we can look back to board games and trading card games. The difference between loot boxes and booster packs is the secret to good micro transactions.

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9 hours ago, Scouting Ninja said:

Developers should just learn how to use micro transactions in a way that doesn't leave the buyer feeling like they are cheating or was cheated.

That is one of the most difficult balancing acts within the business of games.  

There are some highly vocal, high profile people who will complain about the existence of microtransactions.  There are some highly vocal, high profile people who will decry any game that requires people to spend time on games, that everything should be unlocked and available instantly.  There are highly vocal, high profile people who will decry any games that use a progression system or story mode to advance, that anything requiring effort by the player is actually grinding and should be removed.  There are highly vocal, high profile people who will shout to the world how whenever a player must pay for a game it is extortion.  There are highly vocal, high profile people who tell others that the games are a great value.

No matter what the company does there are highly vocal, high profile people who will shout it down.  The tricky part is to balance them out.  You want enough people giving positive feedback and actually paying for the game, but you also want a portion of the people to be offended because otherwise you won't make money and will go out of business.

It further hurts the entire industry that many communities are highly toxic, where threats of felony crimes against the developers are commonplace and even encouraged. I've had co-workers get death threats before, including some where FBI agents came to talk to everybody after finding the death threats to their family members were actually credible threats. There are also other developers, even a few amazing indie developers, who have left the industry due to the highly toxic players and repeated threats from so-called fans. 

There is nothing "just learn how" about it.  No matter what developers and publishers do there are people who will be deeply offended and will publish it all over the Internet. A good balancing point is incredibly difficult to find.

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17 hours ago, swiftcoder said:

and with game prices stagnant for decades at the $60 mark

Publishers used to get a tiny percentage of the $60 retail box price. Now EA takes 100% of it on PC and 70% on other platforms (for digital, which is steadily replacing physical boxes). The size of the market that buys AAA games has also grown.  Their income has not been stagnant despite the RRP staying unchanged - it's gone up by a significant multiplier. EA definitely has a choice. They also have a choice on how they marry their monetisation strategy with their game design - more so than companies that aren't full of experienced designers and who don't own a highly successful free-to-play / mobile branch. 

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