Microtransactions

Terribly sorry for how late this is! I found little time to write yesterday and if I had forced a piece then it would have been terrible. Better late and decent than on time and horrible.

I thought that we’d talk about the new trend in gaming, microtransactions. I’ve started a bit of a walkabout on microtransaction-based games, as well as others (Which I will be documenting here, shameless plug), and I’ve seen the face of the monster that is MTs.

In theory, micro-transactions are a wonderful idea. A developer doesn’t want to give away new, minor content for free because it comes at a loss for them. After all, making small changes won’t draw new people into the game, and everything costs money to develop. So why not charge a tiny fee, a dollar or two at most, for the items? The players get new items consistently, the developers get paid, everyone wins!

In theory. The problem with the current model of micros is that the developers just got so excited over the “transaction” part and in the process forgot about the “micro” issue.

Prices have to be fairly low for this model to work, especially in a market where third-party games are going for fifteen bucks or less a pop. Unfortunately, there is a certain tendancy to overcharge for the perks. A recent example of this is TF2‘s new Mann Store. Before you start, yes, I know that you can get the items without buying them.

But that’s the trick, isn’t it? Most games that have a handful of the MT model allow you to grind out the items, otherwise people will simply call them OP and quit. However, it’s simply not practical to grind for ages just to get something that you could purchase for a little amount of money. This is a reasonable transaction. However, TF2’s recent update pack is going for 20$ for three items and a hat per character. If you want to outfit Pyro, Sniper, Spy, and Soldier then you are definitely going to be paying many times what you paid for the game itself. Call it what you will, I call it poor business models. Cut those prices in four and then we’ll talk, Valve. Maybe.

However, Valve isn’t the big pusher of the model. For that we must look to Turbine, and their F2P MMOs LotRO and DDO. These games both went free-to-play a bit ago, each accompanied by horrifically bad advertising. The former came as a surprise to me, as I thought that LotRO had a fairly strong subscriber base, but DDO must have done something right. But I digress.

LotRO, my most recent exploration into the F2P realms, has a few caps that can be removed by paying. You’re limited to three bags, you can only carry five gold pieces worth of money, and if you want a horse than you’re going to be paying a ton of in-game gold for it. These are reasonable caps. Plus, having a regular subscription nets you some pretty cool stuff, like monster play and an allowance of Turbine Points to buy stuff with.

This was all well and good until I saw the cost of the stuff. For example, removing your gold cap? Almost fifteen bucks. And that’s really the only permeation one, all of the temporary buffs and account upgrades are incredibly expensive too.

It’s a great idea, developers, but make sure that you keep the prices down. I’m more than willing to shell out a couple bucks for new material, but when you make an incredibly weak expansion pack and try to sell it off as a “microtransaction”, then we’re going to have problems.

Although, I must credit Turbine and its friends, it was a bold move to go to the new business plan. The idea of dumping sub-only and moving to something that might never pay off? That takes some balls.

Anyways, that’s my condensed thoughts. You’ll probably hear me talk about them more, here and there… mostly here.

Cheers!

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