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Nier: Automata – The Ethics of Paying for PS4 Trophies

Platinum Game's new PlayStation 4 exclusive, Nier: Automata, allows players to buy Trophies they haven't earned with in-game currency. What are the ethics behind this, and what kind of nasty and unfortunate consequences will this decision have? In this article, we dive deep into that.

Nier: Automata - The Ethics of Paying for PS4 Trophies

Opinion Piece

The Story

There has been some alarming and personally disturbing news going around lately. Nier: Automata, Platinum Game's newest PlayStation 4 Exclusive, will allow players to purchase trophies they haven't unlocked with in-game currency. It appears that Bronze Trophies will be available to buy for 50,000 in game currency, Silver Trophies will be available to buy for 80,000 in game currency and Gold Trophies will be available to buy for 100,000 in game currency.

There is a total of 48 Trophies in Nier: Automata and they break down as such, 33 Bronze Trophies, 13 Silver Trophies, and 2 Gold Trophies. So, with some simple arithmetic one will find that a total of, 2,890,000 in-game currency, to earn the Platinum Trophy. Granted, that is not taking into account all of the trophies that players will earn inevitably by simply playing the game. Also, I must point out, that for a player to earn the ability to buy Trophies they must beat the game twice, and then on their third playthrough they can then purchase trophies.

Lastly, I have only played the demo for Nier: Automata and cannot talk about how fast someone can earn in-game currency, so I am not fully aware of how harmful this feature will be on the PlayStation Trophy ecosystem. 

The Ethics 

Now that everyone is caught up on the news on Nier: Automata and what is happening, I would like to talk about the ethics about allowing people to buy Trophies. Firstly, let me just say that for me, what Nier: Automata is doing walks the line between ethically wrong and right. It will take a considerable amount of effort and time on the players part to earn these trophies regardless whether they buy them or earn them out right. So, the fact that it'll take players more than two playthroughs and hours of currency grinding to buy these Trophies, and the fact that there is no option to pay real money in exchange for in-game currency, makes what Platinum Games is doing with Nier: Automata on the side of ethically right for me, if just so. 
In that last paragraph lies the key to what will make this situation ethically wrong, being able to buy in-game currency with real life money, and then use that in-game currency you purchased to buy Trophies. If other developers see an opportunity to implement this feature, you best believe that they will, especially since we are already seeing some shady activity when it comes to games offering cheap ways for players to earn Trophies. 
The prime example of this is My Name is Mayo, which is a game that can be bought for $0.99 on the PSN, and is cross-buy, which means when you buy it on PS4 you also get it on PlayStation Vita. In this game all the player has to do is tap a mayo jar, and once the player taps the jar enough they earn the Platinum Trophy. It is this lowbrow type of game development that is ruining the PSN and tanking the value of the Trophy system. 

Now that isn't something you have to imagine happening because it already is. What doesn't take too much effort, and is scary to imagine, is that greedy developers would, in a heartbeat, implement a system where a player can buy in-game currency with real world currency, and then use that in-game currency to buy Trophies. Then, suddenly, before we realize it, Platinum Trophies will be on sale for 1,000,000 in-game currency, which will cost you $19.99. This will then, in turn, ruin the ecosystem of PlayStation Trophies, and make earning any Trophies in the PlayStation ecosystem completely worthless.

Conclusion

While Nier: Automata allowing players to buy Trophies isn't quite unethical, it opens the door for many unethical situations to follow. So, the question is, should we allow this to even stand? My thoughts, as someone who is highly engaged in the PlayStation Trophy ecosystem, is that Sony should not let Nier: Automata give players the ability to buy Trophies. This is due to fact that it will eventually lead to unethical developers abusing their power, and selling Trophies to players. This will distort the value of all PlayStation Trophies, and ruin the ecosystem altogether. 

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