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Published on February 27th, 2018 | by gareth


The Publishers Argument For Microtransactions

The issue of Microtransactions has become a very polarizing and toxic topic to gamers. While it is a fact of life for many games, they seem to be tolerated far more in free to play games than in AAA exclusives. I wrote that it was interesting to me that EA Star Wars Battlefront 2 got destroyed over their use of Microtransactions but Call of Duty: World War 2 got a pass from gamers for the most part over their inclusion.

Many people I spoke with said they are ok with cosmetic and other enhancements but have issues with the “pay to win” aspects of Microtransactions. This is when players can buy enhancements that many consider to be an unfair advantage that tips the balance of play in their favor. Tougher armor, better weapons, ships, and abilities do change the course of play.

I got the drop on an enemy ship in EA Star Wars Battlefront 2 the other day, and after an extended volley of laser fire and a torpedo hit, all of which landed squarely on my target, he flew away and took me out with a single shot. His profile showed little damage but an extensive set of cards in place all of which greatly enhance his ship. While they are currently available to all through random chance, once paid transactions arrive, they will be available to anyone willing to pay to get an edge.

Let us now take a look at the Publishers side of the debate. I have worked for two major publishers in my past and I have seen how many of the decision used to be made. Now this was in the time where dial up modems were common and not everyone had access to high speed internet which became a mandate for most serious gamers. As such downloads were not as extensive in size so naturally this was a time before DLC was all over the place.

Game companies look at rising costs for offices, labor, development, marketing, and convention space. They have been able to save money by moving many forms of distribution to digital platforms, but there are still many boxed units making their way to stores. There are also more developers now than ever before and as such; competition is bigger than ever.

The price for an AAA release still starts around $59.99 for most titles and has remained here for a while. It seems that aside from Special Editions, most gamers may not be eager to pay $69.99 or $75.99 for a title. We have seen games like Alien: Isolation move over two million copies and be seen as a sales disappointment by the publisher so for them, it is all about limiting their risks and maximizing profits.

As such most games have a DLC option which allows developers to practically double the price of a game; $59.9 for the game and $49.99 to $59.99 for a Season Pass is a great way to make money as even if only 25% of a game base buys the DLC, it is all profit.

It is the other set where Publishers have focused their attention. They are trying to find ways to keep the revenue for a title going for those not purchasing DLC.  Blizzard and others had a way around this with a paid monthly fee to play games on their servers, but as the gamebase for World of Warcraft dropped, they had to look at new ways to make revenue from the title.

For those who do not have a title as vast with opportunities as Warcraft; then they need to be creative. That is where we end up with so many MIcrotransactions in shooters and action games. Twitch, You Tube, eSports, and online have driven people to flood to the nets trying to draw followers, sponsors, and attention to their streams. As such; they want an edge, and paying to get a jump on others is a good way to do this. They do not see it as paying to win; they see it as an investment in their business.

It sadly looks like Microtransactions are not going away, but after the fallout in 2017, Publishers will likely be less blatant in how they include them and you can bet they will be less likely to make them so obvious in pre-release builds as this is what fanned the flames against EA Star Wars Battlefront II before it was even released.

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