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The Hidden Evil of the Microtransaction

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the continue-reading-for-only-four-ninety-nine dept.

The Almighty Buck 147

An anonymous reader tips an opinion piece at #AltDevBlogADay written by Claire Blackshaw, lead designer at Jagex Games Studio, about where companies go wrong with microtransactions. While microtransactions aren't inherently evil, she says, they're often misused by marketing folks to the detriment of everyone. She encourages game developers to fight back. Quoting: "The problem with all this is this it is an ambiguous, grey area. The real kicker is that grey areas are always green-lit by greed. In the interest of a 'little more,' so much wrong has been done. So many ideas ruined, communities broken, and teams overstretched by wanting that little bit more. The old sustainable farming arguments come into play here. The massive problem is that you as the Games Designer or other development members do not always have the final say, but you can still fight your corner. You can build your arguments and try to provide some strong research and data to help your money people see the long term view."

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Microtransactions (-1, Troll)

serkit (2358056) | more than 3 years ago | (#36759786)

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My only problem... (2)

c0mpliant (1516433) | more than 3 years ago | (#36759818)

With micro transations is that sometimes they don't seem micro at all. My idea of micro transations are less than €1. I came across a game there recently (Burnout Paradise for anyone who cares) where all the micro transations that were available combined cost more the original game did.

Re:My only problem... (1)

Tukz (664339) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760054)

There is a difference between "addons" and "micropayments".
I assume you are talking about car packs and the like for Burnout Paradise (play it myself), and I don't concider those micropayments at all, but more DLC or addons.

Unless they recently added micropayments I'm not aware of, of course.

Re:My only problem... (5, Insightful)

Mad Merlin (837387) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760084)

I think the bigger problem with microtransactions is that games that utilize them have a strong tendency of virtually everything revolving around microtransactions to the point where it's completely impossible to play without buying something every 5 seconds. I hate the concept of buying your way through a game, I mean, what's the point? Sure, I could actually try and enjoy this game, or I could dump $100 into it stretched over a few weeks so I can spend less time playing it. But aren't games supposed to be enjoyable? Spending less time playing them seems to defeat the purpose.

Personally, I think if a game offers something something in exchange for real money (aside from possibly the game itself), it should not affect gameplay itself. Maybe someone really wants a slightly different looking avatar, and if they want to pay a few dollars for it, so be it, it doesn't hinder anyone else's enjoyment of the game. Regardless, that's why you won't find any microtransactions (or macrotransactions, for that matter) in Game! [wittyrpg.com] , as it focuses on being fun to play, apparently a novel concept these days.

Re:My only problem... (1)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760472)

You pretty much summarized the article in a first person point of view and far more clearly than the /. summary did.

If I had a mod point, it would be yours, but I don't so all you get is a reply.

Re:My only problem... (1)

Archimagus (978734) | more than 3 years ago | (#36761368)

What he said.

Re:My only problem... (1)

Zaatxe (939368) | more than 3 years ago | (#36761536)

[...] I think if a game offers something something in exchange for real money (aside from possibly the game itself), it should not affect gameplay itself. Maybe someone really wants a slightly different looking avatar, and if they want to pay a few dollars for it, so be it, it doesn't hinder anyone else's enjoyment of the game. [...]

You should check Turbine's Dungeons & Dragons Online. They made it pretty right.

Re:My only problem... (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 3 years ago | (#36762576)

[...] I think if a game offers something something in exchange for real money (aside from possibly the game itself), it should not affect gameplay itself. Maybe someone really wants a slightly different looking avatar, and if they want to pay a few dollars for it, so be it, it doesn't hinder anyone else's enjoyment of the game. [...]

You should check Turbine's Dungeons & Dragons Online. They made it pretty right.

Maybe off topic, but while they handled micropayments right, the favoring MP versus spell slots is pretty unforgivable for a D&D implementation IMHO.

Re:My only problem... (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 3 years ago | (#36762392)

I think the bigger problem with microtransactions is that games that utilize them have a strong tendency of virtually everything revolving around microtransactions to the point where it's completely impossible to play without buying something every 5 seconds. I hate the concept of buying your way through a game, I mean, what's the point? Sure, I could actually try and enjoy this game, or I could dump $100 into it stretched over a few weeks so I can spend less time playing it. But aren't games supposed to be enjoyable? Spending less time playing them seems to defeat the purpose.

Personally, I think if a game offers something something in exchange for real money (aside from possibly the game itself), it should not affect gameplay itself. Maybe someone really wants a slightly different looking avatar, and if they want to pay a few dollars for it, so be it, it doesn't hinder anyone else's enjoyment of the game. Regardless, that's why you won't find any microtransactions (or macrotransactions, for that matter) in Game! [wittyrpg.com] , as it focuses on being fun to play, apparently a novel concept these days.

i think a good example of this was portal 2 hats. but people still got extra angry at them.

Re:My only problem... (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#36763906)

Hello $70 monocle!

Re:My only problem... (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 3 years ago | (#36762944)

One game I play (Guild Wars) feels the same way. Yes there are some add-ons that people buy along with DLC (costumes) but they don't significantly change game play. Very nice and not a subscription based game so I can enjoy it until they shut the servers down.

Re:My only problem... (3, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760218)

The core problem with these micro-transactions is that in such games there tend to be A LOT of transactions. Time and again you have to make a payment. Even if that payment is only 1 or 2 cents (notwithstanding the fact that there is still the issue of processing such payments), time and again the user is asked to make a payment decision. Do you pay or not? Is it worth it, or not?

Or imagine the news paper requiring micro payments. And is asking every article you want to view "this article costs you $0.02, accept?" - that's irritating at best. Having a pre-paid credit that is then automatically debited when you view an article is already better, but you still know you have this payment to make, and you (unconsciously) still have to make the decision if it's worth the extra cost or not.

And that's where it usually goes wrong. However with telephone calls (this is actually a working micro payment: small amounts for each call) people don't seem to have this issue; you pick up the phone and place the call, without thinking too much of the costs. But then a phone call is not as lightheartedly and easily made as clicking on a link to read an article, or to get a new level for a game.

There is much more to micro-payments than the payment amount or the method of payment. It's the psychology that blocks it, and in the end makes it infeasible. And no-one yet has found a way to fix that, really.

Re:My only problem... (1)

dosius (230542) | more than 3 years ago | (#36761350)

Here it's usually flatrate for phone service. And if it weren't either flatrate like my landline or a large number of upfront minutes like my hellphone, I prolly wouldn't bother with it.

-uso.

Re:My only problem... (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 3 years ago | (#36762424)

Micropayments with Magazines and Newspapers would be nice. How many magazines are sold just because of the person on the cover, only for the buyer to find out that picture on the cover is the only thing about that person in the magazine? The same goes for the front page article that people buy a paper to see. It would be nice to only lose the 2 cents rather than the 300 cents or whatever. The problem with micropayments is they have to get you to make enough of them to make the profit huge. So with magazines, they'd take the article you want to read and split it into 15 parts that you have to pay for separately. Perhaps webpages with click-thru ads are a form of micropayments for magazines.

Re:My only problem... (2)

sootman (158191) | more than 3 years ago | (#36762878)

This was covered in detail over a decade ago. [openp2p.com]

[M]icropayments create a double-standard. One cannot tell users that they need to place a monetary value on something while also suggesting that the fee charged is functionally zero... users will be persistently puzzled over the conflicting messages of "This is worth so much you have to decide whether to buy it or not" and "This is worth so little that it has virtually no cost to you."

There are many reasons why micropayments haven't caught on in the decade+ that we've been hearing about them and they're all covered very nicely in that article. His talk about the mental effort involved in transactions may sound like psychobabble BS but this part sums it up nicely:

Imagine you are moving and need to buy cardboard boxes. Now you could go and measure the height, width, and depth of every object in your house - every book, every fork, every shoe - and then create 3D models of how these objects could be most densely packed into cardboard boxes, and only then buy the actual boxes. This would allow you to use the minimum number of boxes.

But you don't care about cardboard boxes, you care about moving, so spending time and effort to calculate the exact number of boxes conserves boxes but wastes time. Furthermore, you know that having one box too many is not nearly as bad as having one box too few, so you will be willing to guess how many boxes you will need, and then pad the number.

For low-cost items, in other words, you are willing to overpay for cheap resources, in order to have a system that maximizes other, more important, preferences. Micropayment systems, by contrast, typically treat cheap resources (content, cycles, disk) as precious commodities, while treating the user's time as if were so abundant as to be free.

I'm not saying that small payments can't exist anywhere, in any form, but it's pretty obvious that the more small payments you ask for, the worse a game gets.

Re:My only problem... (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760384)

Well that sounds more like an expansion pack then a microtransaction. I personally have no problem with expansions as long as they don't screw the user like how certain games were released with "DLC" that was available on the disc at RTM which to me just smacks of crippling a game so you can nickle and dime the content that should have been in the game in the first place!

But as long as they are relatively cheap and aren't game breakers (by game breakers I mean things like weapons that give those that pay an advantage over those that don't) then I don't see any real harm. My youngest has probably spent $50 on game cards for his MMOs so he could buy little things like extra character slots and my oldest ended up buying Mines of Moria for LOTRO because he figured it would be cheaper than buying it all ala carte.

So done right I can see it giving the gamer a reason to spend without having to run off many players with a monthly fee. I myself don't have enough free time to justify a monthly fee but if I find an MMO I like I could easily see paying a few bucks here and a few bucks there for some extras, it is when they go apeshit with it like EVE and the $60 monocle is what turns folks off the idea, along with as I said cutting pieces out of a game to sell later on as DLC.

Re:My only problem... (3, Funny)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760418)

You're looking at it the wrong way. It's a microtransaction in that you get very little for that $5, $10, or $20.

Re:My only problem... (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760480)

On Steam:

Borderlands: €5

4 DLC packs: 4x €2 each = €6

Borderlands GOTY edition (game + 4 DLC) €12 ...wtf?

Re:My only problem... (2)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760540)

"4 x 2 = 6" might be your WTF problem. Unless you're saying that steam sells them as a pack of 4 for €6 but individually at €2 each. It's ambiguous from your comment, but 4 x 2 does not equal 6.

Re:My only problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36760718)

Math not your strong point?

Re:My only problem... (1)

daid303 (843777) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760784)

How about $70 for an monocle, that does nothing but show up in your ingame avatar.
http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/06/22/eve-online-now-sells-70-monocles/ [pcgamer.com]

Re:My only problem... (1)

ZeRu (1486391) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760888)

Monocles in EVE are the least problematic, since by wearing them you don't gain any sort of advantage over players who don't have them, nor they add actual content to the game. They, much like Rolex watches, exist only for the rich and the stupid. If CCP sticked to their original plan to sell ships (who are supposed to be player-manufactured in EVE) and other gameplay-relevant items, now that would be a problem.

Re:My only problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36762122)

> f CCP sticked to their original plan to sell ships (who are supposed to be player-manufactured in EVE) and other gameplay-relevant items, now that would be a problem.

They have not denied they will be introducing non game effecting vanity items, and in fact have attempted to mislead people through very carefully chosen words as you can check by yourself by examining their statements. Do of course feel free to play the game until it "lasts" but be sure this is what the future will bring, little by little. I left EVE around maybe 3 years ago, was considering coming back, and I see they are not only using the same PR crap as back then to try to paper up stuff and how EVE's development is, again, more or less abandoned in the traditional sense in favour of the WoD crap. Do you think the walky walky crap is for your benefit? No. They will add more and more annoying stuff so that you are forced to spend more time in walky walky mode so they can push their crap.

Just as people accepted the GTC/PLEX stuff and it became the norm, people will bit by bit accept micro transactions.

Re:My only problem... (2)

daid303 (843777) | more than 3 years ago | (#36762138)

I suggest you get an update on the full story. Because they never had plans to sell "game breaking" equipment. They had in internal news letter that was made to start discussion about it, which leaked, and caused people to draw conclusions. And with those conclusions they where the noisy protesters, that gained followers. The end result was even more spam in local, a lot of lasers being fired on monuments, and me being even more happy to fly in nul-sec.

Have you read the leaked document? Because I have, and it looks nothing like "this is our plan!", it reads like, "these are views we can take on the subject"

Deevaluation seems to be the problem (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36759822)

As I see the problem, it's the old fashioned wrongfull assumption that pretty much everyone makes at one time or another: Your actions affect price.

It's like when someone writes "Since yesterday, Stock A's price went up 100 dollars, If only I'd bought a million of them and sold today". This is only true if the act of purchasing a million of them would not have no effect on the price, which is highly unlikely when you purchase large volumes.

With microtransactions is the case of putting in products. They want to generate objects which have som intrinsic value, so people will buy them. But when ever they see that 10% of the people bought black sunglasses for 10 Dollars they go "hmm, lets get them out to the remaining 90%, lets drop the price to 1 dollar" Suddenly they are screwing over the original costumers by devaluating the objects they purchased and eventually they completely ruin the value of the object, becase who wan'ts a pair of sunglasses everyone has?

At the root of the problem is the fact that microtransactions are god from the machines in these small virtual worlds. They have complete power to put in content at any price or volume they want, and they simply do not understand the caution which must be taken exactly because of that level of control. And ofcause you have no free market at all, because production price of the objects are virtually zero, they simply cannot allow competition as the prices would be undercut to the point of there being no profit.

Wrong M-word. (2, Insightful)

jthill (303417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36759840)

they're often misused by marketing folks to the detriment of everyone

Bill Hicks, God rest your soul.

You mean the entirety of the concept? (3, Insightful)

rebelwarlock (1319465) | more than 3 years ago | (#36759858)

I would argue that microtransactions are completely and utterly evil by their very definition. There is no "gone wrong" or "abuse" when it comes to microtransactions, because the sole purpose, the driving force behind them, is to deceitfully make large amounts of money. People are inherently bad at understanding how much money they're spending, particularly if it is done in small amounts. In fact, people will treat a five dollar bill differently than five one dollar bills. You buy an energy refill here and a potion there and all of a sudden you've spent $100 on that facebook game and have no idea what happened. That's exactly what they want.

Re:You mean the entirety of the concept? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36759888)

You buy an energy refill here and a potion there and all of a sudden you've spent $100 on that facebook game and have no idea what happened. That's exactly what they want.

Yes, and they want you to spend 0.0001 dollars per web page you visit. "Ah, that's so cheap", and then suddenly you've reloaded slashdot again and spent a 1000 dollars today!

Re:You mean the entirety of the concept? (5, Informative)

YutakaFrog (1074731) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760112)

I disagree with your black-and-white view of microtransactions, and cite my experience in League of Legends as an example. The game is free to play. There are no ads on their website, annoying or otherwise, or in the game. About the smallest useful "microtransaction" would be around $2, which you could use to unlock a very cheap champion or skin for a champion. Other skins cost what would be close to $10. However, the skins have no bearing on the gameplay whatsoever, and nothing that does impact gameplay cannot be purchased with the currency you earn for playing and (at a faster rate) winning games.

I think $10 is a little much for a single champion skin, but that's me. I did buy one skin so far for ~$5. So far, I've probably enjoyed 200-300 hours worth of gameplay. That's a WAAAAY better ratio of dollars spent to hours of fun than almost any other game I've ever played. If they were to stop their system of microtransactions tomorrow, then ... Riot Games would cease earning any money at all, development would cease, servers would go down, and the game would be dead. In the interest of keeping them alive and well, I feel no compunction whatsoever about choosing to support Riot by buying the various boosts and vanity items they offer that appeal to me. It's an absolutely *fantastic* implementation of microtransactions.

So yes, I believe there is a "non-evil" way to do microtransactions, and I'm grateful that at least one company has found it.

Incidentally, if anyone wants to try it out, you can sign up for your own free account and help me out in the process by going to http://signup.leagueoflegends.com/?ref=4ceace9718e1b841855707 [leagueoflegends.com]

Re:You mean the entirety of the concept? (1)

rebelwarlock (1319465) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760484)

While there may be a small handful of companies that don't use it as a weapon against their own customers, I maintain that they are the exception. It would be like saying that worms aren't all that bad because of Nachi/Welchia [wikipedia.org] . Yes, one example can be found of an instance where the sole purpose is not to destroy everything in sight, but that doesn't make the concept okay. The fact remains that the true purpose of microtransactions, like worms, is malicious. It would take a complete industry overhaul to change that.

Re:You mean the entirety of the concept? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760908)

The fact remains that the true purpose of microtransactions, like worms, is malicious.

Sorry, he gave you an example of where the use of microtransactions in a game is not evil. You respond, that while some companies may not use microtransactions in an evil way, since the majority do, microtransactions are inherently evil. Sorry, if something is inherently evil, there is no way to use it in a non-evil way.

Re:You mean the entirety of the concept? (1)

NoSleepDemon (1521253) | more than 3 years ago | (#36761384)

Unless he means inherently evil in the sense of 'power corrupts', which would imply that eventually Riot games will cave in to temptation and start using micro-transactions in an evil way.

Re:You mean the entirety of the concept? (1)

JarinArenos (955039) | more than 3 years ago | (#36762774)

This can easily be extended - with just as much basis in reality - that profit corrupts, regardless of the source. Or, to put it in a more classic phrasing, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." Microtransactions are just the latest variety of profit that can be turned to profiteering.

Re:You mean the entirety of the concept? (1)

NoSleepDemon (1521253) | more than 3 years ago | (#36762974)

The front-man from VNV Nation described humans in an interesting way that relates to this - that we're like drivers who bomb it down the motorway at 120mph, knowing that eventually we'll get caught. Yet we do it anyway and even celebrate it.

Re:You mean the entirety of the concept? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36763324)

While there may be a small handful of companies that don't use it as a weapon against their own customers [...]

Sorry, but the point at which you equate someone finding a legitimate way to make money, be it single person or large corporation, to using it as "a weapon against their own customers" is the exact point at which my Dogma-O-Meter starts spiking. Either you're a borderline sociopath who worships money at all costs and considers the spending of it (especially yours), in and of itself, to be a cardinal sin, or you're an obvious troll. Fortunately, the answer to both is the same: Nobody gives a fuck.

Re:You mean the entirety of the concept? (1)

PeterKraus (1244558) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760522)

Or you could play HoN :P

Trolling aside, HoN has a similar system - I am assuming they lifted it off LoL. You have to pay $20 to play the game - you get access to all the heroes and maps. In the shop, you can only buy stuff which does not affect the gameplay - like character skins (not heroes themselves), courier skins, taunts, sound packs, flags etc. You can do so with in-game currency (silver coins) which you earn for playing the game, or for real-world currency (gold coins) at a discounted price. Sometimes, there are "gold-coin items" only, but them being a different skin for that given hero, it doesn't affect the balance of the game.

There are good ways to do it.

(As a sidenote, the HoN forums are swarmed with people being crazy that most of the new skins are heavily discounted when bought with gold coins (~50% on average), and that S2, the developers, are trying to cash in. Well DUH!!! Though unlike LoL, you can play every hero right away with the vanilla game.)

Re:You mean the entirety of the concept? (3, Insightful)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760910)

I don't think microtransactions are inherently evil. They're often badly used, but in the end, it's just a tool. Like cash. Are cash transactions evil, because when you go out and spend the occasional $2 for a beer, at the end of the night it turns out you wasted $100 on stuff that just goes down the toilet?

Yes, people are foolish with money. Does that mean that more granular control over your expenses is a bad thing? It opens new opportunities. Some bad, some good.

Microtransactions ruin gameplay (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 3 years ago | (#36759886)

I think microtransactions are incompatible with good and fun game rules.

Re:Microtransactions ruin gameplay (1)

Tukz (664339) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760058)

Depends on what you get with the micropayments.
If it gets you a new hat or a new tie, no one cares.

if it gets you the über sword of omgwtfbbq, then yeah.

Re:Microtransactions ruin gameplay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36760594)

even if it gets you a new hat , it breaks the barrier between real world and the game world. think about going roleplaying and then the DM goes "blow me, then your ingame character is a cool rap dude and not a midget".

Re:Microtransactions ruin gameplay (1)

Irick (1842362) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760088)

I'm sorry, i couldn't hear you through all these crazy hats and the Heavy quoting Sinistar at the top of his lungs.

Re:Microtransactions ruin gameplay (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760420)

>>I think microtransactions are incompatible with good and fun game rules.

Only when they're entirely cosmetic.

As soon as they offer $$ to bypass hours of in-game time (World of Tanks) or automatically winning a battle (Stronghold Kingdoms), or, hell, gaining bonus everything (Civ World) but limited only by the cash you spend per day, it's fucking evil.

The really sad part is that without microtransactions, Stronghold Kingdoms and Civ World would be reasonably good games. Civ World costs $3/day to play competitively, though.

World of Tanks actually does it right (2)

VAElynx (2001046) | more than 3 years ago | (#36761620)

I was playing that game since closed beta and it's perfectly well playable without spending a dime.
Sure, those who pay will be able to use slightly better premium ammo, but that's not a gamebreaker.
Sure, they'll be able to support higher tier tanks without having to use tier 5 as a money maker all the time due to premium (FYI, that's the real value of a premium account - the double money makes tanks self-sustained up to tier 7,at least for a not too skilled but not a n00b like i was in the beta (back then we'd get some free gold) )
Sure they can get crew skills to 100 % straight off
Sure, they can platoon up with friends (the only thing that pisses me off, but then, WoT staff said they are going to put in free platooning in an update soon).
But guess what. asides from the last bit, (and that'll get fixed) i feel none of that is crippling trouble as a person who plays for free. I don't mind playing my KV and KV-3 more often than higher tier tanks, and the other advantages aren't that huge. Better ammo? Hell, i've killed people who had a better *tank*. Sure, it is an edge, but looking at how tank tiers mix in every game, it's the least of your worries as a free player. And premium tanks themselves aren't that great compared to same tier tanks fully upgraded (in some cases, outright worse) - they are mainly money makers.
In this way you can go through every paid advantage and see that in the end it doesn't amount to all that much.

tl;dr version: WoT does it right because unlike MMORPGs it relies a lot more on player skill, unlike FPS, the playing field is nothing close to level even without paid items, and there's little you can't do with free access.

Eh... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36759890)

While microtransactions aren't inherently evil...

Stopped reading here.

A fundamental problem (1)

vell0cet (1055494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36759910)

The problem that I have with microtransactions is that a game that's designed around them is usually (I haven't yet seen an exception) that the primary focus is to make profit off the player. Whereas traditionally, the primary purpose was to entertain the player and thereby make money off of them.

The issue of entertaining the player gets completely lost and replaced by psychological tricks to make people spend more and more money without ever actually experiencing any entertainment.

I actually think that "games" like Farmville or The Smurfs are a strange new form of gambling than actual games.

Re:A fundamental problem (1)

Serpents (1831432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760730)

The problem that I have with microtransactions is that a game that's designed around them is usually (I haven't yet seen an exception) that the primary focus is to make profit off the player. Whereas traditionally, the primary purpose was to entertain the player and thereby make money off of them.

Well, Team Fortress was a "normal" game, which is now free to play with a microtransaction system. The game is fun and the hats you can buy don't affect the game play that much ;)

Re:A fundamental problem (1)

warGod3 (198094) | more than 3 years ago | (#36761440)

So the primary focus of most any company putting out a product is not to make a profit?

I'm thinking that you might need to re-think that...

Re:A fundamental problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36761694)

So the primary focus of most any company putting out a product is not to make a profit?

I'm thinking that you might need to re-think that...

The difference is this:

With a traditional game the purpose of the product is to entertain.

With a microtransaction game the purpose of the product is to keep you playing.

Both products are produced by a company who wishes to make money on the sale of their product. However while the former is designed around an artistic model (make something people are willing to pay money to experience) the latter are based around an addiction model (make something people will pay money to avoid having to stop experiencing).

The keen observer will realities that those two goals are not mutually exclusive (you can make something that is simultaneously fun to experience and addicting), however in practice it's trivially easy to make something that's addictive, and generally much harder to make something that's "fun". As such the correct business decision is to produce something that's addictive for as low a cost as possible. This contrasts with the correct artistic decision which would be to make a game that is fun.

Re:A fundamental problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36763496)

With a traditional game the purpose of the product is to entertain.

You reeeeeeeeally ought to take off the rose-colored glasses and have another look back at your childhood with regards to video game companies and what you thought their purpose was back in the days of "traditional" games, for whatever feel-good definition of "traditional" you're using today.

The difference between now and then wasn't some grand artistic vision or their desire to emotionally touch the masses with their work. The difference is just the business model*. They were always there to make a profit. Plain and simple.

*: No, calling it an "artistic model" doesn't make it more magical than a business model.

Ok (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 3 years ago | (#36759954)

In my relatively short time in the industry [...] [claire-blackshaw.com]

`nuff said, probably. While microtransactions may or not be "evil", I find it a bit strange that the person who wrote this says on her blog: "Games Designer & Programmer (yes I still code)" and very recently described herself as having spent a relatively short time in the industry. Something doesn't add up.

Re:Ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36760446)

http://uk.linkedin.com/in/kimau [linkedin.com]
http://www.flammablepenguins.com/Code.html [flammablepenguins.com]

English is vague. "Relatively short" could be 10 months or it could be 2-3 years.

Why nitpick over an irrelevant detail? It seems to me as if you're being sexist. Nobody would have questioned a 23 y/o male lead designer who claimed to be a programmer.

Re:Ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36760490)

Oh, the author is here!

Re:Ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36760768)

Unless I recently became prettier overnight, then no, I'm not a female... or the author for that matter. Although, judging by her pic, she could possibly moonlight as a man in her spare hours.

I just think it's stupid to call out her "inexperience" in an industry composed of inexperienced college graduates. If you hate young'ins then I pray you never inspect GamaSutra's articles ;).

(I also think it's exaggeration to count a Jagex gig as "industry experience" but meh... whatever.)

Re:Ok (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760572)

So she's incapable of forming a valid opinion until she's had "years and years" in the industry?

"Isn't that cute, she thinks she knows what she's talking about! Don't you worry your pretty, naive head about it love! Go play some more hello kitty island adventure!"

Re:Ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36763320)

HKIA: fucking love that game.

Get Rid Of The Money People (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36759964)

Sadly it's completely senseless to argue against greed when developing games. You create useless carbon poluting code that justifies widespread destruction of our ecosystem. If you want to deal with greed, stop developing games, cause the whole premise of commercial game development is based on a pyramid of greed.try the ultimate game: Dealing with reality.

Granularity cuts both ways... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36759984)

It's arguably a problem of mismatch between economically feasible granularity(ie. the lower bound on currency unit or quantity of goods you can trade without transaction costs devouring both parties) and the "natural" granularity that people expect from various classes of product.

In some cases, increased granularity actually solves the mismatch, and thus makes everybody happier(Intel only sells CPUs by the 1,000 unit tray. Ordinary people think in a 'natural' granularity three factors of ten smaller. Thankfully, there are middlemen willing to handle this discrepancy for a small fee...)

In other cases, however, increased granularity moves away from an existing match between the feasible and the 'natural' and makes things worse: In this(and a fair number of other) cases, the villain is DRM. Without it, things like books, games, etc. can pretty much only be sold in lumps. There are grey areas(did game X phone in the last episode to sell a sequel/expansion pack? is book Y worthless outside of its trilogy?); but the rough outlines of both 'natural' expectation and economically feasible expectation are basically set. If it isn't big enough to be worth pressing onto CDs and shipping to retail stores, it isn't a product, ergo, all products end up basically being finished products, with the possible exception of some free patches or a sequel/expansion pack also large enough to ship retail. Once you get a reasonably robust DRM framework, though, you can slice and dice material almost arbitrarily finely and at low cost. Unlocks, metering, limited use objects, etc, etc. can all be easily implemented even if everything has to be burned to disk ahead of time. Once downloads come into the mix, you have even more room to move.

Microtransactions? Look at EVE's macrotransactions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36760008)

EVE Online has recently added so called microtransactions to their game but they are nothing but micro. The highest priced item is a monacle that your character can wear which is priced at $70! It's just another way of companies slipping unchecked greed into a game. Players, wake up, stop buying this crap!

And the Gaming Gods saith... (2)

lexsird (1208192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760116)

Let not thine bean-counters have party to the "fun", for surely upon that day that thou let thine bean-counters soil the "fun", the Lord, thine customers shall smite thee in thine wallet and it shall sting, And there shall be weeping and gashing of teeth in the outer darkness of the unemployment lines by the wicked unfaithful devs, so saith the Gods of Gaming. Amen.

My opinion has changed on these (4, Interesting)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760146)

I've noticed that microtransactions fundementally change the developer-player relationship. In a subscription-based game, a developer and a player are on the same side: the player wants to buy an entertaining game to stick with, the developer wants to make an entertaining game people stick with. In a microtransaction-based game, it's an adversarial relationship: the player wants to minimize their spending to find entertainment while the developer wants to maximize the emotional impulse to spend. This creates a qualitative difference in the entire atmophere of a game. So although I used to be ok with microtransactions, their presence is now an automatic "no sale" for me.

Re:My opinion has changed on these (2)

ZosoZ (1603973) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760362)

I really don't think it's that simple; regardless of payment model the majority of developers want to produce a good, fun, entertaining game, and regardless of payment model the publishers/accountants/whoever can put the screws on for cash.

Buy the box for a one-off cost: who cares about the long-term as long as you make the sale? Cut the content down as much as possible, charge more for DLC or sequels (DLC might seem light a modern phenomena in its ubiquity, but we've always had data disks, expansions, "deluxe editions", sequels using practically identical game engines etc)

If it's a subscription you keep your hooks in the player, if that's through a fun experience then lovely, but it's not like there aren't a barrage of other psychological techniques (as per Nick Yee's seminal Virtual Skinner Box [nickyee.com] piece from 2003 for a start). Subs are also one size fits all, in most cases a good deal for someone with a load of time to sink in, terrible for someone who wants to dabble in a few different games.

As TFA says, "MTX is a valid business model". No doubt it *can* be used for "evil", quite possibly in more and different ways than one-off costs or subscriptions, but if done well and transparently (ha!) I have no issue with it.

Re:My opinion has changed on these (1)

Therilith (1306561) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760492)

Like the OP, I will not buy or play any game featuring MTX. I feel that once you take that first step towards "the more money you give us, the more stuff we give you in-game", it fundamentally changes the feel of the game even if it's something as relatively innocent as a purely cosmetic hat. There is also the fact that every single time a game starts using MTX, within a relatively short amount of time all the oft-mocked slippery slope predictions turn out to be completely accurate.

Buy the box for a one-off cost: who cares about the long-term as long as you make the sale?

Bad reviews will cost you sales. Insidious psych 101 scams don't put people off in the same way that "this game sucks" does.

Cut the content down as much as possible, charge more for DLC or sequels.

I would put DLCs in the same group as microtransactions WRT the OPs statement. Not all, mind you, but most.

Re:My opinion has changed on these (2)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760416)

Sorry, but I don't really see the distinction between the two. The developer in a subscription model is there to make you continue to spend (because why would you continue to subscribe to a non-evolving world once everyone hit a certain level?), and the only difference is that the player is committed to spend only X amount per month for as long as it is worthwhile.

But then, I'm just a long-term gamer that has never played subscription games, never purchased anything in a microtransaction, and either buys games without any DLC (because they justify the purchase without it) or waits until they are stupidly cheap on special deals that include all the DLC in one hit (usually with all the "unique" DLC that pre-orderers got as well) - DLC that doesn't add longevity to a game is considered worthless.

I don't see the point in "renting" any game over an extended period of time (it's the most incredibly stupid idea I've ever heard but apparently quite popular now - would you *really* rent Office? Then why games?) or "having to" bump the value of a game you already have a perpetual right to. My gaming budget is limited, and such long-term, regular transactions would suck the life out of it in place of permanently owning a certain number of brand new games each month and being able to play however I want with them for life.

Note to software developers:

- I will not rent your OS.
- I will not rent your applications.
- I will not rent your games.
- Hell, I wouldn't even rent a PC/laptop/gadget.
- I don't rent movies (nor do I subscribe to movie channels, which is the same thing)
- I don't rent audio.

Of *COURSE* you want me to, because it's an ever-renewing income to yourself for zero extra work, but I won't do it and if you try to make me, or devalue my games pushing it, then I'll not buy anything at all from you.

Don't tell me you can't make money. PopCap sell tetris-like games under that premise and makes more money than most of the big software houses, the entire Wii catalogue is like that, and the whole "serious" gaming industry up until about 5 years ago was entirely pay-for-permanent-licence. If you can't make money, it's because you're churning out regurgitated shite (e.g. DNF) rather than giving people something they actually want to play (e.g. Half-life Ep 3).

Renting is for things that you need but can't afford to immediately own outright (e.g. houses, possibly cars for some people) and generates substantial profit for the owner of the thing being rented, which is why they do it. For everything else, I'll buy a permanent right or not at all.

The more you try to make me rent your game, the more you'll end up in the "not at all" category. Are you listening OnLive?

I measure my gaming value in hours enjoyed per money spent. Quite a few of the games I have are literally in the region of 400+ (a couple over 1000+) in that ratio (using UK pounds), and it grows every time I play them. Even the crappiest I've bought are in 1-2 at minimum.

Online games? The longer I pay a monthly subscription, the lower your ratio goes and the second I stop paying, that ratio stays still forever. After, say, a year the cost has already surpassed more than I've *ever* paid for a game in my life, so I'd expect the experience and hours of enjoyment to do the same, which is an *EXTREMELY* tough target for an online grind-fest.

If you really want me to pay a regular subscription you have to be able to convince me that I'll be guaranteed that I will be voluntarily drawn to enjoy hundreds of hours a month, every month, in order to come close to competing. If you want me to do microtransactions, the base games has to be so cheap, or so entertaining that it's worth it and every transaction has to add hours of replay value with the same ratio. Anything else, and I'm literally just pissing my money away.

Go look at TV subscriptions, etc. The fanatics get their money's worth in terms of hours / cost. Everyone else sees it as a bit of a con and ends up on free services or the basic packages topped up with free content. Don't even get me started on cinemas. But gaming is a much more fanatical atmosphere to enter - sure, you'll make money and if you're bright, you'll make a profit but that's true of anything. However if you want to break records, you need to consider exactly who's going to pay for that shite and continue to keep paying for it.

Re:My opinion has changed on these (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36761522)

tl;dr but...

would you *really* rent Office

I'd prefer "renting" MS Office if I only needed it on specific occasions -- which is usually the case -- and if the price was substantially cheaper... say, $5/wk. If that were possible then I might not pirate it.

Re:My opinion has changed on these (2)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 3 years ago | (#36763284)

- I don't rent movies (nor do I subscribe to movie channels, which is the same thing)

Please tell me you don't watch movies, or you see your movies at the cinema or buy them on DVD. Anything, except that selfish and destructive habit known as piracy. In the age of the TSA and the patriot act, the last thing we need is any more legitimacy lent to the **AA in their march over our liberties and privacy. Plus it has other effects, such as making it more difficult for new artists to survive, making it more difficult for publishers to sign on artistically interesting and less financially certain talent, as well as simply inflating the cost of entertainment for those responsible enough to pay for what we use.

If you don't pirate significantly, I apologise. I really feel passionately about it. There's this carefully crafted perception that people have adopted that any of its ill effects are somehow everyone else's fault, and that they only apply to people we don't like, so it's OK. I have heard not one argument of any worth that piracy is OK. Not one. And it's not from a lack of listening.

While I accept that, like most selfish and destructive habits, it is acceptable in moderation, using it persistently as your major source of entertainment is simply not OK. Renting is really not a bad option. I pay $5 for three weeklies down at my local video store, which is a very reasonable price for 4.5 to 9 hours of entertainment. It's an especially small price, given the alternatives either cost $10 and up per movie, or nothing except a slow erosion our culture and freedoms.

If you do indeed pirate movies (or whatever else), I want to assure you from personal experience, it is possible to wean yourself from the **AA's teat. I did it when I was younger, and had a lot less money to spend on entertainment. Renting videos is cheap. My local library has CDs that people can borrow. Youtube has some fine stuff, some of which are actually posted by the copyright holders themselves. You can also look at online music labels, such as jamendo, zunior, magnatune, etc, for free and legal music. Movies are harder to procure legally than music. For games, you can look at casual games on the internet, if that's your thing, or look for some of the many free games out there (e.g. Team Fortress 2 is now free, although there are still micro-transactions for cosmetic items). And, of course, you can usually save a bundle when looking for things second hand. Give it some thought.

Re:My opinion has changed on these (2)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#36763874)

I skip the cinema part and wait for the DVD. If you don't know by the time the DVD comes out whether it's a steaming pile of crap, you never will know. And at least then you can have it in a DRM-free (pretty much) standardised format that you *can* backup and play just about anywhere.

I work in IT within a school, that means I spend a lot of my time doing licensing compliance. I also program for a living and a hobby, and am an open-source advocate (pushing LibreOffice into schools). Nobody who works with OS should be able to look people straight in the face and say they use/copy/distribute copyrighted content against its usage license.

Re:My opinion has changed on these (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | more than 3 years ago | (#36763890)

I'm with you on this. I won't do monthly fees for games. The idea just makes me feel like I have to play all the time to get my money's worth, or I'm losing money if I'm not playing. I'm also streaky (play a lot this week, leave it alone for 6 months and repeat) and I don't want to lost my character or pay maintenance to keep it in the meantime. It's a perpetual, indefinite money sink, and I don't want to commit to it.

On the other hand a one-time small transaction isn't a big hit to my wallet, I can choose to pay or not as I like, enjoy the additional benefit, and don't feel any extra pressure to keep getting my money's worth or keep paying to maintain my account.

Wait, what? (4, Insightful)

quietwalker (969769) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760158)

I like to think of myself as someone literate, but I couldn't parse everything in the linked article.

All I know is that it had nothing to do with microtransactions, appeared to contain PHB-style solutions to problems that are no help at all (note, heavy rephrasing to make it sensible):
          Problem: Someone wants the game to make money and it may impact core gameplay.
          Solution: innovate, engage mindshare, customer focus.

          Problem: Someone wants the the non-core gameplay elements to make money
          Solution: Long tail opportunity, self-leadership, consensus-building ... and so on.

(Buzzwords were chosen because their nebulous nature seems to exactly nail the writing style, as though the article may have been put together by an auto-generator.)

Those aren't answers. Those are just concepts, and not well defined or even directly relevant ones at that. It's like having a business plan that just says "succeed". How do you fix the evil of a game that's meant to make money? Have a CEO that will stand up for you. Oh, gee, that helps. I'll get right on that.

This article appears to be entirely without value.

If you as a developer want to influence anything in your product, you'll want to start by working on your communication skills, especially when targeting other developers. This wouldn't even pass muster with PHBs.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760198)

For the low, low price of $0.02 per buzzword, you can buy access to the buzzword explanation!

Re:Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36760304)

My thoughts exactly. The article doesn't even bother to list a single real example. It's just a bad article.

You are missing something (0)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760620)

You are missing something important. It also said: Greed is NOT good. That's what it said.

If it said so, then it must be true, because the word "not" was capitalized like so: "NOT".

Re:Wait, what? (1)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | more than 3 years ago | (#36762222)

This. SO MUCH THIS. I'd +1 you if I had mod points. That article provided absolutely nothing even close to a coherent thought.

Re:Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36762892)

Linked Article Author, what you've just written is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent post were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this thread is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no mod points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

It's simple really (1)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760458)

Two things:
- On one side, the largest game publishers (hi EA) replaced free content updates released as part of game updates with paid-for DLC (and microtransactions).
Together with that came overbroad DRM with call-home-activation that doesn't work on the first week of a release and tightly controlled multiplayer that stops working as soon as the next game of the series is released.

- On the other side you have microtransactions being used as the "death by a 1000 cuts" - you can't really convince players to fork $200 upfront, but you can get them to spend that $1 at a time if you spread it long enough. Even worse in some cases, players pay a full game price up-front just to find out that they need to spend another $200 in DLC purchases just to be competitive in multiplayer (and for some of us, the whole fun of multiplayer IS the fighting in a level-field against equally skilled adversaries).

For those gamers that have been around long enough to have seen the prime time of gaming on the PC (when the 1st part of Quake including multiplayer was free, proper DEMOS were release for games and free game updates often had content updates), DLC and in-game purchases just look like a way of selling cripleware with hidden costs, monetising the (previously free) try before you buy period and sneakily turning the buy-to-own model into a buy-then-rent model.

I don't buy it (1)

davidbrit2 (775091) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760778)

While microtransactions aren't inherently evil...

[citation needed]

Have your trump card (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36760954)

A teacher of mine once said that we must have a trump card, that is an strong argument ready to create a shield between ignorance and wisdom. You may not have the strongest judgement... but keep in mind that an opinion is just a feedback based upon a logical argument and it is always be weaker than an indispensable idea built by human empyrean propinquity.

What a piece of crap (0)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#36760976)

This article fails to present any argument at all.

when they become evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36760992)

Microtransactions can certainly become evil:
90$ monocle.

Would anyone mind (1)

Legal.Troll (2002574) | more than 3 years ago | (#36761038)

Identifying what, exactly, the article is supposed to be saying about microtransactions? I was unable to identify any relevant statement other than that they may or may not be evil for some reasons not apparently mentioned.

Question here. (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36761108)

Has anyone ever enjoyed a game that included microtransactions? I tried NFS World but it was horrible. I kept thinking there was fun right around the corner, but it never happened. It was extremely...drab. And "drab" is not good for games.

If so, please tell me the name of the game. It is my theory that there is something about the microtransaction that causes the entire game to suck. Or maybe it's that any game that is actually fun wouldn't have to rely on microtransactions to get paid.

Microtransactions are scummy. They're like pay toilets. They're like having a girlfriend that requires you to swipe a credit card on the promise of future nooky, but said nooky never materializes.

Re:Question here. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36762024)

Has anyone ever enjoyed a game that included microtransactions?
...
Microtransactions are scummy. They're like pay toilets. They're like having a girlfriend that requires you to swipe a credit card on the promise of future nooky, but said nooky never materializes.

It's funny to me that you should make the natural association between microtransaction games and dating. Dating IS a microtransaction game. I have money, and I've used my dating life as an experiment.

Among women I've taken on financially impressive dates I've noticed a 500% decrease in the DUL (Duration Until Lovemaking); Whereas women I've taken on very inexpensive yet romantic dates such as picnics, sunset at the park and/or beach, starlit dinner & meteor shower (Lionid and Perseids), etc there is a typically much more DUL.

I'm not saying that all women are like this, or than the DUL is very important to me when assessing relationship status; Clearly there are outliers in the graph, but the stereotype holds true: The more money you spend on a date the sooner you will have the chance of a mock breeding session. Contrary to popular belief, I've also found that less DUL leads to longer more meaningful relationships 83.3% of the time (18 women sample-size). I believe this is due to an event known as "Love at first sight"; However, the term is ironically only applied after a period of meaningful relations.

Additionally, throughout the relationship -- especially during the initial dating courtship -- you will experience a microtransaction system; Thus the phrase: "It's the little things that count." Though spending money is famously not intrinsic to performing some "little thing", invariably, the majority of "little things" that get you browneye points have a monetary cost -- Unless, of course, you have access to a zero cost florist, confectioner, chef, day spa, and maid. The "little things" that have no monetary cost tend to consume time, and as they saying goes: "Time is money."

Interestingly, if you wish to "Win the Dating Game", you must first purchase a relatively expensive bit of jewelry called an "Engagement Ring". This bauble is a monetary token of your commitment; The accepting of which purchases you a chance to exclude all other suitors from cashing in their browneye points (only a chance because the required wedding ceremony may still not be completed). However, due to the lack of competition, the browneye point market collapses and you may spend much time and money and receive very little practice or real breeding thereafter -- excepting the "honeymoon" period during which the "moon" is "honeyed" thus no browneye points need be spent.

To answer your question: Yes, emphatically! This is truly the most enjoyed microtransaction game on the planet. Failure to play it as a race would result in either Extinction or Eternal Happiness depending on whether, after its ban, the microtransaction game is still a requirement for mating.

Note: Some may think it cold of me to treat aspects of my life experimentally, but truly I'm just being myself; For I am a scientist at heart, and life is my greatest experiment.

Re:Question here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36762766)

, the majority of "little things" that get you browneye points have a monetary cost

Pedant alert: You're actually referring to brownie points [wikipedia.org] , unless you really did mean to refer to anal, in which case, hey, go for it :)

Re:Question here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36763578)

I think the term you're looking for is "brownie points". Unless you're alluding to anal sex in which case it may well be "browneye points".

Re:Question here. (1)

ifrag (984323) | more than 3 years ago | (#36762462)

I like League of Legends, as do many other people. I'm probably somewhere around the ~1000 hour mark in-game time now. In fact that might be the first game I ever actually had a microtransaction. The "micro" part seems a bit out of place sometimes, even the skins are somewhat expensive unless on sale. I think I priced out a legendary skin to be something like $15.00 Of course that's probably the reason for using an intermediate currency like "Riot Points" instead of just putting a dollar value down.

And since League is a completely free account & download, I'm not sure what they could do other than "rely on microtransactions" to get paid. I guess they could ask for donations, but I pretty much look at the microtransactions as the "donate now" button.

Re:Question here. (1)

inject_hotmail.com (843637) | more than 3 years ago | (#36762528)

...a girlfriend that requires you to swipe a credit card on the promise of future nooky...

Uhhhh, I think you need to find a different "type" of "girlfriend"...either that, or maybe start paying afterward.

Battlefield Heroes or Play4Free (2)

KreAture (105311) | more than 3 years ago | (#36761286)

Classic examples of microstransactions gone wrong.
The games are free, and you can buy clothing/apparal with "credits" you earn as a soldier. However, they need to make money too, so the ithems you buy are always time limited to only a day or 3. For longer periods or permanent purchases you need to spend real money which you have exchanged for battlefunds.
This is all fine, except that the more powerfull weapons are ONLY purchasable via battlefunds, making them inaccessible to those without a creditcard or not wanting to spend more any or money. The kids running around with dads creditcard now starts ruening the gameplay by buying the most insane weapons and prancing around like invincable nitwits. Using healing-items like they were tictacs and blasting everyone away on first shot with some insane cannon costing around $20 or more.
With such microtransactions in play there is always the temptation to alter gameplay, prices and items to try and make more money. This is almost always viewed by the players as unfair as the items they invest in suddently become low-ranking tinkertoys to the new silly stuff they add. Oh, and you may not sell em back/trade so you can't get any money back. (Heroes is actually the worst as the purchasable weapons are a lot more powerfull than free ones.)

Fight Back? (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 3 years ago | (#36761370)

She encourages game developers to fight back

HAHAHA! If game developers don't fight back against lousy working conditions, domineering managers, horribly long hours on measly salary, unrealistic performance expectations, and changing requirements and deadlines, they sure as hell aren't going to fight back against such a low priority as how microtransactions get abused in gameplay.

"Dammit, they've worked me like a dog! 80 hours a week for months! Whips on my back! Low contrast monitors destroying my eyes! Gruel for every meal! But they'll have to pry the keyboard from my cold dead hands before they ruin the character of this masterpiece with [spit] microtransactions!"

You're wrong (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#36761458)

"While microtransactions aren't inherently evil..."

That's where you're wrong, right there. They ARE inherently evil. Their very premise is evil. They are nothing more than an attempt to trick users into spending more on your game than they intended to. You are trying to obfuscate the true cost of playing your game. In many games it's nothing more that a subtly veiled form of gambling that you're allowing 11year olds to participate in. It drives people, not only away from your game, but the gaming industry as a whole. Have no doubt, micro transactions will eventually be taken to an extreme we haven't even imagined yet and this subject will end up in front of congress who will hand down the first federal regulation of video games in American history... which will be to all our detriment and thanks entirely to the greed behind micro transactions.

Re:You're wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36762754)

Oh holy bullshit Batman!
Only because YOUR personal association with micro-transactions is this crap!

What is this "more" you speak of?? Micro-transactions are NOTHING more than transactions of small amounts of money. That's all they are defined as. Everything else is made up delusional shit in your prejudiced rotten brain. If I give you 50 cent for a Mars bar, that is a micro-transaction. What a load of bullshit, that this would always have to be evil. You look like an idiot!

I use micro-transactions with my customers to get money in return for actual work.
I have a modded Bugzilla, where I can set a price to add a enhancement. Then people can chip in until that price is paid. And only then will I start working and actual money be moved.
That way when I am done with my service, I can be OK with the result (information in form of software) being free for everyone (which it will be anyway, because of the laws of physics), and don't have to employ silly delusions about "ownership" and "selling" of information..

Now tell me to my face, that that is evil! Go on!
Although I bet an idiot like you will make something up, just so he "doesn't look like an idiot". (PROTIP: It's already way too late for that.)

Re:You're wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36763046)

Microtransactions are strictly what-it-says-on-the-tin: small transactions of money. They are not inherently evil. Now, if you wish to discuss implementation of said actions, go ahead, but don't dismiss an entire concept based on one implementation.

Objectivity is your friend.

Re:You're wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36763768)

Their very premise is evil. They are nothing more than an attempt to trick users into spending more on your game than they intended to.

No, that's just how most marketers end up twisting them. I occasionally play a game that has microtransactions 1. for cosmetic stuff, and 2. to speed up access to different (not more powerful) play options. I've yet to pay them a cent, and have never felt at a competitive disadvantage. At some point I'll probably throw them some cash, but my choices will be based on "how much money should I give them", and not "how much stuff do I want", because I can live without any of it.

Isn't this problem self-correcting? (1)

davide marney (231845) | more than 3 years ago | (#36761490)

If a game's financial mechanics breaks the game, then nobody will want to play it, and the money will dry up. I don't think this is very hard to explain to the money people. They understand the mechanics of investment. True, someone has to put it terms they understand: "If you put a microtransaction around that game element, we estimate it will suppress game involvement by 5%, which can reduce fees by $x per quarter."

Re:Isn't this problem self-correcting? (1)

Swarley (1795754) | more than 3 years ago | (#36763244)

That was indeed the point of the sustainable farming comparison (the article was poorly written and not at all any kind of in depth analysis or discussion so I'm not surprised people are missing things). The point of sustainable farming is that you produce less than you could in order to maintain the sustainability of your farm in the long term. You could over plant, over fertilize, clear cut forests, aggressively catch every fish you can possibly get and you'll make more money this month or this year and then the ecosystem will collapse and you won't make money anymore. The point being that aggressively taking EVERY dollar that micro transactions could possibly make you in a month will probably make you more money that month. But next month people will be annoyed at how you have destabilized the game or ruined the fun or whatever and stop playing. Short term gain vs. long term sustainability.

Re:Isn't this problem self-correcting? (1)

deadhammer (576762) | more than 3 years ago | (#36763546)

If a game's financial mechanics breaks the game, then nobody will want to play it, and the money will dry up. I don't think this is very hard to explain to the money people. They understand the mechanics of investment.

Exec A: We just released GrindQuest 3: The Grindening and put in all the stuff required by marketing - microtransactions, always-connected DRM, paid DLC released at the same moment as the game, everything - but nobody's paying for it! What do we tell the shareholders?
Exec B: We could take responsibility and admit that we've made gaming into too much of a dull, expensive hassle.
Exec A: Haha, that line always kills me Bob.
Exec B: Yeah, it does. Just blame it on piracy like we always do.
Exec A: Damn you, filthy pirates! Pass the coke, Bob.

Blizzard has it right(crazy).. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36761740)

I know, complimenting blizzard is a bit nuts, but they have the integrated monetary transaction system down pat.

Any game where you need to make extra purchases beyond your initial fixed costs to compete or progress is inherently flawed.

If a company wants to make money off these extras without ruining the game, the Blizzard model is, IMO, the best way to go.
You simply pay for convenience. In WoW, if you want to move to another server/faction/species without making another character(which is the normal method),
you can pay for the *convenience* of having your character transferred. If you want to change your appearance: you can do that, too -- for a fee.
These things are services people willingly pay non-trivial sums of money for without negatively affecting gameplay for other subscribers.

An example of a terrible implementation would be Call of Duty, where people were forced to purchase "new" maps to continue playing the game online
with their friends without restriction.

My $0.02
-cmor

Re:Blizzard has it right(crazy).. (1)

Swarley (1795754) | more than 3 years ago | (#36763170)

Where the WoW model falls down is for infrequent players. I don't want to pay $13 a month every month when I might not play the game at all in a given month. Or I might play a little bit, or a lot. All you can eat buffets are nice because we all know about how much we want to eat in a single meal. Paying 20 times more at the buffet restaurant for all you can eat in a month is a much less helpful proposition for most people.

what?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36762004)

The grammar and syntax of this post is so bad that I can't even tell what the author is trying to say.
I'm not a grammar nazi by any means but it should at least be understandable.
I know what micro-transactions are, if it weren't for past knowledge I'd be completely in the dark on the subject because the article does nothing to describe them nor to show how they are evil.

If it wasn't for the comments no reader would have a clue. Might as well just write "Micro-transactions, evil, no?" and end it at that.

smurfberries (1)

Bram Stolk (24781) | more than 3 years ago | (#36763628)

smurfberries anyone?

I think that is pretty much the main example of in-game-transactions gone bad:
WAGON OF SMURFBERRIES$99.99
To make it worse, they are consumable as well, so you can end up paying for them many times.

Ugh...
I am a developer too, and I do use in-app-purchase in a free game.
But there is only 1 in-app-purchase and it is non-consumable: you buy it once, and it unlocks all premium levels.

good vs bad (1)

Truekaiser (724672) | more than 3 years ago | (#36763708)

Done right they can be used to subsidize the cost of a game. Though what i have been seeing is the bad way of using micro transactions. Now i am not a mmorpg fan but for such a game allowing a micro-transaction to give a person the resources and skills to obtain and use a(item, weapon, armor, ship) that a non-paying player has to work for for months. is like putting feces in the eyes of your normal customer base. Or in the case of a zelda like game on android making it unplayable, the game in question had it so any non normal ie magical item could not be obtained except trough micro-transaction. Money was also near unobtainable except for paying for it with real money. A good way to use it is to have it so people can use micro-transactions to customize their appearance especially in mmorpg's

Keeping up with the Joneses (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#36763728)

Microtransactions and social gaming are independent. There are MMORPGs without microtransactions, and paid upgrades for single-player games. Putting them together allows social pressures to induce people into spending. This works only on a fraction of the population, but that fraction is big enough to be profitable.

The same mindset can be seen in the slots department of low-end casinos. It's striking to watch a whole room of people in zombie mode, putting money into machines and pushing the buttons. Especially since the net expectation is negative and almost all of them lose.

There is a zombie mode involved. I've watched bus groups come into a Vegas hotel. the people get off the bus and head directly for the slot machines. You'd think they'd check into their rooms, maybe take a shower, find out what shows are in town. No. Straight to the slots.

That's Zynga's target market.

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