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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I do wish there was a way to regulate the amount of microtransactions in a game now. Apparently there is a company out there that is allowing players to pre-order microtransactions. It basically works like stocks, you buy it before the game is released on the chance that when the game comes out they will be worth more, and you can make an actual profit by selling the microtransactions. I believe the game is a mobile game called Reality Clash?

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15 hours ago, frob said:

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 have also noticed some strange behavior from my own players.

They ask me to provide the micro-transactions items for free and use more adverts instead, it's a free game, yet they don't buy things from the adverts; so I don't make any money from the adverts. Strangely it is the customers who buy micro-transactions that also click on the adverts.

7 hours ago, Novadude987 said:

n the blog for the development of Super Meat Boy Forever someone literally asked if the game was going to be free.

I see the same thing when browsing the web. People often say "If they block me from viewing with adblock on, I will go else where". They say it like they think the website is loosing something by them leaving.

It's like they fail to realize that the website wants them to leave, all they do is use resources without giving anything in return. It's not even like they say this on social sites, they do it on comic sites and sites that have limited user interaction.

 

I think free users have reached a point where they believe they should get everything for free. I also realize that in many ways that also refers to me, as I use websites as a free user; although I have never installed adblock in my life.

7 hours ago, Novadude987 said:

I do wish there was a way to regulate the amount of microtransactions in a game now.

The fools way is to try and use the law, like so many players want now.

Developers spend there life working around problems and working with rules. Every time a new law is made to deal with micro transactions, developers would find fifty ways around it.

Not to mention that if a law is too broad it could damage good existing games.

 

Micro-transactions regulate them self by player spending, players should only spend there money on what they want.

8 hours ago, Novadude987 said:

. Apparently there is a company out there that is allowing players to pre-order microtransactions.

You forget that there are people who like that kind of thing. Players of all kinds.

I for example I like collecting so I enjoy TCG and Gacha games, even if most people consider Gacha games as a bad thing.

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On 18.11.2017 at 5:41 AM, 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.

I can agree to that... but there are limits.

If that money can allow me to skip fun and engaging gameplay which I simply don't have time to engage in, I feel like I am making a decision myself. And the free loaders, which are also important to flesh out the servers population, have fun while putting in the time. Everybody wins.

If the gameplay I skip is repetitive and boring, I feel kinda pressurized to jump over it with microtransactions. I no longer feel like I am making a decision here. The games dev tells me to give him money, and helds the engaging gameplay ransom. The free loaders on the other most probably have long left the game before they come to the stage I am jumping to, so all I am paying for is to skip the boring part of the game where most free loaders are being "worked to death", while getting to the fun gameplay where only the few whales who used money to skip the grind are playing with each other in rather empty locations.

 

And that leaves the whole discussion about skipping the l2p phase of the game, and noobs entering the end game with no idea how to play the game ans screwing over their team in team based, high skill ceiling games. Sure, not everyone needs a 100h grind phase to gid gud, but the people who are NOT fast learners straight jumping into the end game against people who have a hundred times more time invested into the game and know their stuff will certainly quit the game quickly.... while again, in team based games making everybody else bitch about endgame wallet warriors in their Teams, even IF the p2w aspect is kept in check.

 

All in all, I agree with some youtubers:

Microtransactions are fine in a f2p game, if kept under tight control (no p2w, some mitigation for straight buying into endgame content, making the grind not too grindy).

Microtransactions have no place in premium games or, even worse, single player games. If a game cannot be made for 60 bucks and still turn a profit, increase the price. Reduce the scope. If really needed, move part of the game into DLC (which will inevitable incur some bitching by the players). Never ever sell single characters for ludicrous prices like SF5 did (I am waiting for the complete edition of that game that will give me all the 120+$ worth of DLC for 50$, with the base game. Screw you Capcom for trying to hold Cammy at ransom, she should be a part of the base game). Never, ever do lootboxes. That is scummy in F2P games. In Premium games -> Instant no-buy for me. I will not support a game that tries to take advantage of peoples addiction, AND then asks me to pay for entry too. No casino asking for an entry fee would survive long.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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3 hours ago, Gian-Reto said:

And the free loaders, which are also important to flesh out the servers population, have fun while putting in the time. Everybody wins.

Wouldn't necessarily call people who buy a $60 game and choose not to pay for microtransactions free loaders.

 

3 hours ago, Gian-Reto said:

If a game cannot be made for 60 bucks and still turn a profit, increase the price. Reduce the scope.

Not sure if it is that simple. I feel that companies, especially AAA companies, are putting out the same game. As much as I love Fallout 4, it seems to try and be everything that it never was. I see more Borderlands in Fallout 4 than I see Fallout. Looking at the new Assassin's Creed, I see more of the Division and Destiny than I see Assassin's Creed. Even COD: WW2 tries to have a headquarters between matches to serve as a social tower. 

I feel that perhaps because companies try to make their games include everything at once to satisfy all types of fans, a game loses its identity, quality, and makes said company have to resort to a significant amount of microtransactions. Fallout 4 can't just be an open-world post apocalyptic rpg to Bethesda. To satisfy all fans it has to be a deep rpg, polished shooter, and a building simulator all at once.  In my honest opinion it is this attempt to focus on making 3 different games in one that made me feel that Fallout 4 wasn't as good as Fallout 3 and the arguably better Fallout: New Vegas.

Even after all of the $60 copies that Bethesda sold, even after winning GOTY, even after trying to port Fallout 4 every way they possibly can and even include mods, even after 2 story dlc's (3 if you really want to count Automatron, and don't even count the workshop dlc's which is significantly less than the dlc offerings of Fallout3 and New Vegas), the game still found the need to include the Creation Club.  This "Go big or go home" approach is killing our favorite games.

The consumers might even be slightly to blame. (There's a can of worms I just opened) Take Mass Effect: Andromeda for example. I enjoyed this game, and I was excited for the series' fresh new start and a whole new trilogy. There was no doubt in my mind that the game was worth the $60 I paid for it. Upon beating the game,however,  I seemed to discover that the game just wan't good enough for a large percentage of players, most citing the somewhat plastic and unnatural facial animations. And making Youtube videos titled: "What Went Wrong With Andromeda" or "Andromeda: Worst Game of the Year?" The backlash was blown so far out of proportion that EA shutdown any additional content for Andromeda, and hinted at the possibility of putting the entire series to rest. Suddenly it wasn't about the animations, it was about evil EA killing off Mass Effect (not to say that they don't deserve being called evil, but they are a large corporation and cutthroat decisions is kinda large corporation bread and butter.)

There is just so much pressure on AAA devs to deliver. Working 50+ hours per week, having to release a sequel every year just to keep up, having to put everything in a game at once. There is just so much blood, sweat, and tears that go into making these $60 games that the profit margins don't seem to be enough. And god forbid if you tried to sell the game for $70 instead of $60. Reddit would have a field day with that one.

Just take a look at Jim Sterling. His entire youtube channel is surrounded by bashings of AAA companies and being so painfully pro-consumer that he reduces all of a games flaws to greed or laziness. As consumers, we have a tendency to... well, CONSUME EVERYTHING. Devs take years trying to make a game, but it isn't enough to satisfy our hunger. MORE guns, MORE quests, BETTER graphics, MORE MORE MORE. It is just our nature. Are the game devs greedy, or are they just succumbing to our greed? I'm thinking more of the latter.

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3 hours ago, Novadude987 said:

Wouldn't necessarily call people who buy a $60 game and choose not to pay for microtransactions free loaders.

Well, the freeloaders was more directed at non-paying players in F2P... as I wasn't sure if we were discussing just F2P or Premium games, or both.

From the view of some publishers it seems they see the people just paying the entry fee also as "free loaders"... but that is a whole new discussion - lets just say given the open nature of the discussion, the term was probably poorly chosen here.

 

3 hours ago, Novadude987 said:

Not sure if it is that simple. I feel that companies, especially AAA companies, are putting out the same game. As much as I love Fallout 4, it seems to try and be everything that it never was. I see more Borderlands in Fallout 4 than I see Fallout. Looking at the new Assassin's Creed, I see more of the Division and Destiny than I see Assassin's Creed. Even COD: WW2 tries to have a headquarters between matches to serve as a social tower. 

I feel that perhaps because companies try to make their games include everything at once to satisfy all types of fans, a game loses its identity, quality, and makes said company have to resort to a significant amount of microtransactions. Fallout 4 can't just be an open-world post apocalyptic rpg to Bethesda. To satisfy all fans it has to be a deep rpg, polished shooter, and a building simulator all at once.  In my honest opinion it is this attempt to focus on making 3 different games in one that made me feel that Fallout 4 wasn't as good as Fallout 3 and the arguably better Fallout: New Vegas.

Even after all of the $60 copies that Bethesda sold, even after winning GOTY, even after trying to port Fallout 4 every way they possibly can and even include mods, even after 2 story dlc's (3 if you really want to count Automatron, and don't even count the workshop dlc's which is significantly less than the dlc offerings of Fallout3 and New Vegas), the game still found the need to include the Creation Club.  This "Go big or go home" approach is killing our favorite games.

I think in essence it is simple... games to big to be made when "<projected number of sales> X 60$" is not breaking you even and paying a healthy profit? You screwed up. Now either cut your losses by dropping the project immidiatly, see if you can reduce the scope if you are still early enough in development to release a smaller game with enough quality to warrant the 60$, or just be honest and ask for 80$ or more.

 

We know the last one will not be easy to swallow for most customers used to games costing 60$ since they can remember (I remember my SNES games costing me at least 100$ new in the early nineties, I was a broke teenager back then and it was pretty much okay. But then the idea of buying 20+ games on sale during a steam sale to then have them linger in my library and never play would have sounded like madness to me back then)...

We also know how cutting corners usually goes (insert any kind of broken or bad games that got bastardized during development because of cost or time constraints)

We know how many games still get shot down early in development. As a longterm gamer, seeing the results of project leads NOT cutting the cords when there is still time, I have become very tolerant to this approach. Even if its a game I looked forward to, even if I wanted to play the game so badly. I rather get disappointed by the game being dropped in development than getting a crap game on the shelves and a) either paying 60$ to get even more disappointed, or b) risking the whole franchise to not get touched with a ten foot pole anymore because of bad sales.

 

But yeah, I know where you are coming from. We all know that games have NOT become so expensive to make. At least not games that a) have focus, b) have more than just eye candy to carry the game, c) are put out by game developers which are still in the market to deliver entertainment to their customers (which are gamers in this case) instead of delivering RoI to their shareholders.

IF games have become too expensive to make. I highly doubt this is REALLY the markets, or the gamers fault. While I do know there are the visual candy addicts out there... when a REALLY great game comes out with mediocre graphics, only a small minority will moan about "subpar graphics". As long as the graphic is EFFECTIVE, and/or STYLISH, and fitting, people will not care if its the most high detail 3D Scan or just a low poly model ran through a clever toon shader.

Its game developers who try to sell games on visual candy when running out of ideas, game developers trying to keep players "trapped" in their games for as long as possible to maximize the exposure to their microtransactions, and keep interest in future DLC high, that drive up cost of games.

 

But trying to argue with Suits in big studios this way is futile. IMO its much more effective to tell them simply to price the games higher or cut costs when they bring the "games are expensive to make" argument when trying to justify all their money making schemes involved with the moder AAA industry. If a game has to sell 120$ per copy... why not ask for 120$? if you can sell more copies by having a base price, and then the full price... doesn't that mean that you sell more copies at a reduced average price now (how many people will really spend the full additional 60$ for additional content... unless most of the game has been sealed off into DLC, at which point people will soon catch up and either not spend even the base price on the game, return it when they find out about the scam, or simply drop the game when reaching the paywall).

 

3 hours ago, Novadude987 said:

The consumers might even be slightly to blame. (There's a can of worms I just opened) Take Mass Effect: Andromeda for example. I enjoyed this game, and I was excited for the series' fresh new start and a whole new trilogy. There was no doubt in my mind that the game was worth the $60 I paid for it. Upon beating the game,however,  I seemed to discover that the game just wan't good enough for a large percentage of players, most citing the somewhat plastic and unnatural facial animations. And making Youtube videos titled: "What Went Wrong With Andromeda" or "Andromeda: Worst Game of the Year?" The backlash was blown so far out of proportion that EA shutdown any additional content for Andromeda, and hinted at the possibility of putting the entire series to rest. Suddenly it wasn't about the animations, it was about evil EA killing off Mass Effect (not to say that they don't deserve being called evil, but they are a large corporation and cutthroat decisions is kinda large corporation bread and butter.)

There is just so much pressure on AAA devs to deliver. Working 50+ hours per week, having to release a sequel every year just to keep up, having to put everything in a game at once. There is just so much blood, sweat, and tears that go into making these $60 games that the profit margins don't seem to be enough. And god forbid if you tried to sell the game for $70 instead of $60. Reddit would have a field day with that one.

Just take a look at Jim Sterling. His entire youtube channel is surrounded by bashings of AAA companies and being so painfully pro-consumer that he reduces all of a games flaws to greed or laziness. As consumers, we have a tendency to... well, CONSUME EVERYTHING. Devs take years trying to make a game, but it isn't enough to satisfy our hunger. MORE guns, MORE quests, BETTER graphics, MORE MORE MORE. It is just our nature. Are the game devs greedy, or are they just succumbing to our greed? I'm thinking more of the latter.

 

Haven't played Andromeda, and after the controversies, don't plan to. Not because I expect it to be just as bad as the reviews make it out to be.

But a) because I will not pay for a defective product, until its fixed. And don't get me wrong, I expect a lot of the bugs to be fixed by now. I just don't expect all of them being fixed by the time the dev gave up on fixing that dumpster fire to not get impacted by them when playing the game. b) I don't want to pay for rushed products. I think the industry needs to learn to take their time again, and push release dates back if needed. If the investors, or studio heads cannot spare the time to let an unfinished product simmer in the oven a little longer, I cannot spare my time and cash on a product which will most probably deliver a subpar expierience, if only for immersion breaking bugs.

c) would be that I have a whole GOOD trilogy to still play BEFORE I would waste my time on the arguably least highest rated entry in the series, so even if one day I would find my love for Mass Effect... I probably be busy enough playing the first three entries and finding out what the controversy about the ending of part three was all about, before coming back to give Andromeda a shot. Buying it used by then, of course.

 

You are certainly right about that pressure. But then we need to ask, who is responsible for that pressure? Its certainly not the gamers. While its true SOME gamers might be pretty toxic and have a quite distorted expectation of games, MOST gamers are not, and just expect entertainment products that work and are worth their money.

We can talk about a feedback loop here that also causes gamers to expect ever more of their games. But there are two sides involved in a feedback loop, and the AAA industry is quick to feed into the hype and inflation of expectations.

At the end of the day, the pressure is simple: investors expect an ever increasing return on an ever decreasing cost. That puts the AAA industry in a very uncomfortable position for sure. But one they can break free from with some agility (as in, not put all your eggs into one basket, not just work on 500m$ mega blockbusters), some creativity (as in let creative people also make some decisions, not just the suits who have no idea what a game even is), and some listening (to players for once, not just marketing shills, focus groups and investors).

 

As to the price discussion. As said, I grew up in a time where paying 100$ was normal for a game, at least where I lived. So 60$ is already CHEAP to me.

But then we are living in a society where an increasing amount of people are trained to expect everything to be free, not seeing how they pay for Free google stuff with their data and so on. So yeah, as much as I wished for the AAA industry to have some more flexibility on pricing, we know this is not going to happen. The stupid vocal minority will go apeshit if a game only ups the price to 70$, and even if MOST people interested in the game don't care (because players ON AVERAGE are in an age group that generally works for a living, thus has disposable income and not enough time to play every new game coming out... that may be a viewpoint informed of me living in a rich country where games are not that much more expensive to buy, still, point stands)...

At the same time we know if people start accept AAA game prices between 60-120$ ... all AAA games would suddenly go up to 120$. Maybe after some years, if sales are dropping, they would start moderating themselves again and settle at 90$... still, we know if the AAA industry sees a way to make more money... they have a hard time controlling themselves.

 

Well, Jim Sterling is making a show of it. He certainly is bashing on things to feed of the negative emotions that drives people to watch bashing videos.

He is right at the heart though. When entertainment industries are more concerned with generating profit then entertaining their audience, there is something wrong with that industry. There have been people climbing the ranks in the AAA industry that should never have. Because as much as they make money RIGHT NOW, they are laying the seeds for a big crash to come. Either to the company they are now conditioning to go after the maximum profit right now... or the whole industry if some bad practices continue to spread and the companies are so stubborn that even a greedy company like Disney has to tell them to stop when they are trying to sit the sh*tstorm out. Holy **** EA, did Disney just show you how to react to customer outrage? Disney the evil destroyer of franchises? :) (and yes, I am still salty about Disney aquiring Star Wars)

 

.... the good thing, as always, is that there are other companies. Companies that put out great games for 60$, not walling off any content, and then working on DLC for some time to give people who want more more content for a fair price down the line. Who do not need gambling mechanics and all that crap in their games advertised as premium games (as said, in F2P games, go to town... as long as your players swallow it, and until the regulators step in)...

Who seem to still care about after sales support just as much as about the sales pitch. Who deliver quality over quantity. Who are, obviously, still able to do proper project management so they can deliver a game of a big scope for 60$ and get enough profit out of that.... something the likes of EA, Ubisoft and other AAA giants seemed to have lost along the way to ever bigger profit margins.

 

Its easy to say its the fault of players. Yet all the outrage I hear as of lately seems to be very justified and deserved by a few bad players in the AAA industry and games which were proven to be rushed,  and/or subpar in quality, and monetization strategies which were most probably unneeded at best, bordering on predatory at worst.

As much as gamers can be held accountable for TRAINING the AAA industry wrongly on their needs (we need the best graphics ever) and their limits ("**** that game I preordered, its crap, I will never preorder again... Oh, is that a new Star Wars game? And it is supposed to be good this time? Hit that pre-order button now!") ... its not the gamers that profit from the current sad state SOME parts of the AAA industry are in. I am not sure ANYONE will profit from it longterm... but some execs sure as hell make a killing at the moment. If they are for once not screwing up so badly it affects sales.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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1 hour ago, Gian-Reto said:

When entertainment industries are more concerned with generating profit then entertaining their audience, there is something wrong with that industry.

I'm tired of this point of view. Why should developers not be concerned with profits? Developing games, especially AAA titles require a large amount of Capital. If you are going to put forth the time, the effort, the many many late nights developing a game, does that mean you should not be concerned with profits?

Consumers, specifically like Jim Sterling, demonize any company that doesn't play the Robin Hood mentality. Suddenly the dev is greedy, evil, and is concerned with nothing more than profit margins. The game industry is competitive, hard, and ultimately AN INDUSTRY. Games are and INDUSTRIAL product. If a dev is trying to feed their family by making a game, that is their right, their business, and their choice. They shouldn't be seen as greedy.  

Pay to win microtransactions are very unethical, and is basically a big middle finger to players. But, if a $60 AAA game wants to add a balanced and reasonably priced microtransaction to a game for people to save time, they shouldn't be castrated for doing so, regardless of whether they are charging $60 for the game or $20.

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16 hours ago, Novadude987 said:

I'm tired of this point of view. Why should developers not be concerned with profits? Developing games, especially AAA titles require a large amount of Capital. If you are going to put forth the time, the effort, the many many late nights developing a game, does that mean you should not be concerned with profits?

Consumers, specifically like Jim Sterling, demonize any company that doesn't play the Robin Hood mentality. Suddenly the dev is greedy, evil, and is concerned with nothing more than profit margins. The game industry is competitive, hard, and ultimately AN INDUSTRY. Games are and INDUSTRIAL product. If a dev is trying to feed their family by making a game, that is their right, their business, and their choice. They shouldn't be seen as greedy.  

Pay to win microtransactions are very unethical, and is basically a big middle finger to players. But, if a $60 AAA game wants to add a balanced and reasonably priced microtransaction to a game for people to save time, they shouldn't be castrated for doing so, regardless of whether they are charging $60 for the game or $20.

Why? Because it SHOULDN'T be your first priority. If you first and foremost priority as a ENTERTAINMENT company is not to ENTERTAIN your audience, well, I sure hope the ENTERTAINMENT market spits you out as soon as it finds out you are not really doing your "job".

Me playing Devils Advocate here? Maybe.... but really, its about an attitude. If all you are seeing your customers as are dumb sheep to be sheared for profit, well, I would say that is not a healthy attitude that will last you long in about ANY industry. Maybe you find enough dumb customers to sustain yourself. A lot of shady businesses can survive SOMEHOW, and I am not yet going to compare having a bad atitude towards your customers with these shady businesses... not until you go full casino mode.

 

But lets be real here. Consumers can be simple minds at times, easely manipulated by marketing stunts and hype. But this is a shortterm game. In the end, consumers will call out bad behaviour towards them. And while such things start as online dumpster fires only reaching the vocal minority at the beginning, in time the outcry will reach parts of the mainstream and will affect sales.

And besides that (because making MORE with exploitative microtransactions and stuff like that might make up for what you lose in sales due to outcry and people being fed up), it will damage a companys reputation. Over multiple iterations of that cycle, you WILL at some point see sales slipping.

The most important thing though is this: when the dev (either because of their own gr... ehr... need for money, or because they are forced by a publisher) concentrates on maximizing the monetization strategy of a game, I am dead certain that time that could have been used to make the game BETTER is wasted on that. If you already have a fantastic game to begin with, and plenty of time left, sure, that might not have any detrimental effect on the end product. When your game is in urgent need of balancing, or not finished at all, and you start altering the game to maximize profits, messing up the balancing for pay2win mechanics (or by simply cutting out content to put behind a paywall), and hampering the efforts of other devs to playtest and complete the game due to constant business driven changes, you are hurting the games quality in an effort to maximize the monetization. You end up with a perfectly monetized game which is obviously undercooked, buggy and badly balanced.

 

THAT is what I mean when I say "Concentrate on satisfying your customers need BEFORE finding ways to generate more money out of them". I am not saying "build it and they will come", nor am saying never ever put ANY additional revenue streams into your games. All I am saying is this: Concentrating on MONEY only in an industry where your end product is not MONEY (financial industry would be an example for that) will hurt the product you put on the market in the end.

 

As to Jim: No, he isn't. The average AAA company NOT delving deep into the monetization rabbit hole is not exactly Robin Hood. And yet Jim lauds every good AAA game that is both GOOD, delivering value for money, AND not partaking in this monetization madness that has gripped the industry.

And while you say games are an INDUSTRIAL product... I don't think many of your customers want to play an INDUSTRIAL product. Not matter how much it is an illusion, players want at least the ILLUSION of games as an art form. There MIGHT be a market for yearly recycles like the FIFAs and Call of Duties... yet even there, at some point the Industry feels a need to innovate.

Again, nitpicking about the meaning behind a word... you might have meant INDUSTRIAL to have a different meaning to you.

And as to how the industry should be perceived.... that is for the customer to decide. Just as much as it is the industries right to be "greedy", it is my right to call it that as a customer. Can I stop them being "greedy"? Maybe, by not buying their products, and telling others to do the same. Its the right of every customer on this planet. And its the reason why this industry should bloody well learn who really has the power to make or break them longterm: not their investors, but their customers. If that slow moving mass of players one day starts to not buy their products anymore, the investors at some point will HAVE to take the customers side. The greedy dev or publisher can then decide to cling to their ways on a ship heading for an iceberg, or start making course corrections.

And yes, I put the word greedy in parantheses here. Because in all honesty, I see why people would get stuck up on the word... its loaded, and not that accurate for what are either bad business practices, or one just focusing on the interests of one side over the others. Calling it greedy is a kind of... populistic way of putting it. I don't think its WRONG per se to perceive it as greed... but its certainly not helpful. So that is where the parantheses come from.

Jim does it more vocally and certainly with a lot more exaggeration than needed, but ultimately, he is right IMO. Even if he certainly shoots way, way over his target with his sometimes quite... toxic language he uses.

 

As to the last point, we can agree again.

IF a 60$ game adds a balanced, well thought out way to generate more money, while at the same time putting out a finished, GOOD and complete game for the base price, I will not complain.

If you are able to create a fully featured game for 60$, and have enough time and resources to produce ADDITIONAL content above and beyond that, which isn't pay to win, and you are not artificially screwing with your game to force people to pay the additional content (unreasonable grind and so on), then I have nothing against that. And most other customers probably wouldn't complain either. Hell, I don't think Jim Sterling would complain about that.

But when you are asking for more money than others, you have to accept that you are putting yourself under a microscope. Do ANYTHING wrong with it, and you will be targetted by the hatemobs... sometimes even if you didn't mean it that way. I don't think there is much you can do about other than to be aware that everything you do might be seen as cutting out content, using manipulative tactics to increase revenue, and adding pay2win once you go down the route of additional monetization, and try extra hard to make your microtransactions and DLCs look proper. Maybe even shy away from day one DLC even if it is ready from day one. Giving at least the illusion that said content was worked on and finished after the release of the base game can make a lot of the whining about it disappear (given it wasn't obviously content cut from the base game).

To me personally, it always come down to two factors: is the base game good (thus do I actually want to play that game, or is it riddled by bugs and balancing issues, or just plain boring), and is the additional content worth the money (not going to spend 5$ on an additional SF5 Fighter that should be part of the base rooster of fighters... both because it is obviously content cut from the base game to be put behind a paywall, and because an additional fighter I might use that much is not worth 5$ to me. Not when I am not the biggest fan of said fighter, and only expect to play SF5 as a party game when friends are over)... different people might feel differently about a game, or the value of additional content being sold as microtransactions.

 

That still doesn't mean I will not call out this practice when it obviously has hurt the quality of the base game. Which, in many instances lately, it did.

 

 

As to the usual smoke and mirrors tactics of "games are expensive to make"... yeah sure. They have been expensive to make since decades. Yet game devs survived on 60$ premium games sales and expansion packs until very recent. Has the market since become fiercer? Sure, nobody is denying that.

But the customer is just as little in the market to feed a dev as the dev needs to cater to every need of the customer. The customer wants a product? He has to bloody pay for it. The Dev wants to sell something? He better offers good value for money or sit on his products and go bankrupt. Its a give and take situation for both really... if the customer wants to continue play sequels of his beloved franchises, he has to support the dev by buying his products.

If the dev wants to stay in business, he has to cater to his customers needs... which could also mean to listen when the customer feels taken advantage of. Even if untrue, there is still merit to the old saying "the customer is always right".

 

Again, if creating games and pricing them the olden ways becomes unsustainable, changes have to be done. But if those changes have been the right one are ultimately for the market to choose. If the market is responding badly to changes to monetization, maybe the industry should pivot their approach quicker, instead of doubling down and blaming the gamers.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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1 hour ago, Gian-Reto said:

Why? Because it SHOULDN'T be your first priority. If you first and foremost priority as a ENTERTAINMENT company is not to ENTERTAIN your audience, well, I sure hope the ENTERTAINMENT market spits you out as soon as it finds out you are not really doing your "job".

Me playing Devils Advocate here? Maybe.... but really, its about an attitude.

Publicly listed companies, which are owned by and run for shareholders, are legally obliged to always put their shareholders interests first. That is to say, it is illegal for companies such as EA to put entertainment before profits.

Yep, EA sure is being spat out of the market for not doing their job :| That's happened. Three decades of scandals and complaints has finally caused consumers to turn against them. Yep. 100% :P 

If you've gathered together $10M of other people's money in order to build an entertainment product, those people have given you the money in order for them to make more money. They don't want a 3% return on their investment, otherwise they'd just put their money into a typical savings account and be safe in knowing that they're making $300Kpa profits safely with no risk. They don't want <10% return on their investement, otherwise they'd just put their money into index funds and be safe in knowing that they're making $1Mpa profits safely with no risk. They want a huge ROI, and are willing to take the small risk that maybe this blockbuster product won't perform quite that well, that's why their gambling their money. They don't care that it's entertainment or cheese graters or bank notes -- it's a box that consumers will buy. And again, as the person who has been lent this money, it is illegal for you to put the interest of your customers (i.e. entertainment) over the interest of the investors (i.e. profits).

You're not living in reality, here.

This is why people love indie games - because they're made by self-funded humans who aren't legally restricted in how they spend their money. They can (and do) choose to do the "dumb" thing and put the love of their craft above their own financial well being. AAA games don't have that luxury.

Quite often you see successful, profitable studios shut down and completely dissolved by their publisher, despite the fact that they just released a critically acclaimed (and profit-making) game. This might seem like a really stupid move on the part of the publisher... but when a successful business looks like it's doing something stupid, the more likely answer is that they simply know more about making money that we do and they're acting completely rationally. In the case of this studio liquidations, the publishers know that a 3% ROI, despite being "a profit", is not enough to satisfy investors (who can get that kind of ROI safely from a bank), and they won't be able to procure the capital required to keep such a studio running. So smart choice for them is to liquidate the studio, recover whatever capital they can from it, and re-invest that capital into other projects that are set to make 10%+ ROI.

This seems cruel, heartless, inhuman. It's capitalism. It's how the world works.

You try convincing someone to lend you $100M and see how well you do at it.

1 hour ago, Gian-Reto said:

I don't think many of your customers want to play an INDUSTRIAL product.

Let's just ignore the record breaking sales and rediculous profits of the churned out yearly AAA 'garbage'...

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1 hour ago, Hodgman said:

Publicly listed companies, which are owned by and run for shareholders, are legally obliged to always put their shareholders interests first. That is to say, it is illegal for companies such as EA to put entertainment before profits.

Yep, EA sure is being spat out of the market for not doing their job  That's happened.

If you've gathered together $10M of other people's money in order to build an entertainment product, those people have given you the money in order for them to make more money. They don't want a 3% return on their investment, otherwise they'd just put their money into a typical savings account and be safe in knowing that they're making $300Kpa profits safely with no risk. They don't want <10% return on their investement, otherwise they'd just put their money into index funds and be safe in knowing that they're making $1Mpa profits safely with no risk. They want a huge ROI, and are willing to take the small risk that maybe this blockbuster product won't perform quite that well, that's why their gambling their money. They don't care that it's entertainment or cheese graters or bank notes -- it's a box that consumers will buy. And again, as the person who has been lent this money, it is illegal for you to put the interest of your customers (i.e. entertainment) over the interest of the investors (i.e. profits).

You're not living in reality, here.

This is why people love indie games - because they're made by self-funded humans who aren't legally restricted in how they spend their money. They can (and do) choose to do the "dumb" thing and put the love of their craft above their own financial well being. AAA games don't have that luxury.

Which is why for me, at least, Crowd Funding is the future of investment, even if that future probably never be funding many of the big AAA products.

 

Investors ALWAYS bring a conflict of interests to a game development shop or publisher. Because, as you rightly say, a company that is traded in the stockmarkets has to put the interests of their investors first.

That doesn't mean that this is a GOOD Idea IMO... just that its a reality, and a conflict of interests these companys have to deal with.

 

I am pretty aware of that reality... I am still calling it out, because while a big publisher like EA probably will never be able to sustain itself without investment by entities having other interests than their customers, and being in the business of creating profits, they should be a little bit more aware that there are conflicting interests at work that, when not kept in balance, could result in slipping sales... not to speak of a bad reputation.

Thus EA will probably always try to deliver the minimum product for the maximum amount of product they can get away with. But it is the markets right to tell them when they overstepped their goal, and should make corrections. And the likes of EA should thanks the market for the feedback and make corrections, instead of complaining. Which they did in case of SW BF2.... just way, way, WAY to late to avoid the fallout. Why it took EA so long and Disney stepping in to realize people wouldn't stop complaining about something perceived as p2w is beyond me.

 

I am not lambasting anyone for having a "business first" mentality... I am just playing devils advocate here because SOME AAA companies seem to have forgotten they are selling a product to people, and not just dumb bots who will never complain. And complaining aside, vote with their wallets.

I am talking about a Utopia world here maybe... one can dream, right?

Again, its everyones right to make bad decisions. And again, its just my opinion I am voicing when I call these decisions "bad". In the end, its the market that decides about how good or bad a decision was in the long run....

If the likes of EA and Ubisoft do shady stuff and keep getting away with it, while raking in the profits... sure, I cannot say really the market proves them wrong. I still think they might be reaching a breaking point somewhere... that is why I don't think a shortterm "smart" move from a financial perspective will be a longterm "smart" move.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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Great topic.  You'll never reach a consensus but I don't think that was requested ;)

I think microtransactions are fine from a cosmetic standpoint.  I don't think they are fine when it comes to letting players get more powerful or reach end game content because then it turns into "pay to win".  I also strongly disagree with elements of gambling ala loot crates.

Now that being said, microtransactions have been raged on for years and years and there is no sign of them stopping.  Why?  Because they are successful.  People buy into them regardless of the rage.  

Gone are the days when one person could write a game and do its art and make a ton of success from it.  Indie developers are like musicians and artists.  For every one dev that makes it "big" or produces a minecraft there are thousands you'll never hear about.

Making a financial success in the game dev industry is very hard, much like being a successful musician or artist is.  Microtransactions help that.  

Edited by IcedCrow

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My oppinion:

- Single player games on any platform should never ever introduce microtransactions in any way.
- Multi player games can have microtransactions for cosmetics or speeding up the grinding only but for nothing else.
- DLC´s are fine when the core game does not feel limited/incomplete and the expansion actually enriches the game by at least 1/3.

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I think the whole problem is that the way the industry is at the moment is how it works.

Players complain but it's there actions that has lead to this. Players say the want a game that doesn't force them to spend, one that they can pay for when they decide. Then if you make a game that players can play with out spending it, no one spends on it.

It's like the unlimited trial thing. Give users a trial that they can keep using without paying, then the users won't pay.

 

Maybe EA will make a huge profit. It is possible, as players who pay for both the game and micro transactions is worth 4-5 players who only pay for the game; some whales spend thousands. Then maybe that would move all AAA games in that direction, leaving the indie developers to fill the gap.

At the moment EA is the canary in the AAA market.

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14 hours ago, Hodgman said:

Quite often you see successful, profitable studios shut down and completely dissolved by their publisher, despite the fact that they just released a critically acclaimed (and profit-making) game.

Case in point: Respawn Entertainment. You hit the nail on the head with this one.

 

14 hours ago, Hodgman said:

This is why people love indie games - because they're made by self-funded humans who aren't legally restricted in how they spend their money. They can (and do) choose to do the "dumb" thing and put the love of their craft above their own financial well being. AAA games don't have that luxury.

 

Exactly! I like to think that Indie and AAA are two very different animals. I enjoy many AAA games and many indie games. I also understand that because a product is AAA, you might have to deal with the occasional AAA mishaps. As was the case with EA and Battlefront. Investors run EA, and if EA doesn't deliver a goldmine with their investments, there is no point in even gambling your money. You wouldn't gamble $10,000 at a casino for a chance to make a $30 profit. (Or at least I would hope you wouldn't)

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10 hours ago, Scouting Ninja said:

Players complain but it's there actions that has lead to this.

My thoughts exactly. I'm starting to see more and more games, especially AAA titles, falling victim to the "Overhype Train". I hate to say that it is the consumer's fault, but I feel that there are so many expectations and so much pressure to deliver a game. Gian-Reto can say that he has no problem paying $80 for a full game if it needs to make profits, but I think we all know how that would go over. Reddit would light up like a warehouse full of dynamite and kerosene.

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