The report details some scary facts specifically regarding just how profitable micro transactions are. In 2012, microtransactions in free to play PC games generated $11b, a figure that had raised to $17b by 2014. 2017 is projected at an all time high of $22b with this figure expected to increase by 13% all the way to $25b come 2022.
Over the ten year gap microtransaction based revenue is expected to increase by 146%, compared to the 120% of actual product sales. Perhaps more worryingly, in game purchases are expected to earn $14b more than actual game sales on both PC and console by 2022.
EA in particular seem to be a fan of this trend as they've gone as far as to suggest scrapping formal game releases all together for both FIFA and Madden. In an interview with Bloomberg, EA's CEO Andrew Wilson described these annually released titles as a "365-day, live service." This movement should come as no surprise with FIFA alone generating around $800 million a year with just its Ultimate Team mode. It's worth noting that Ultimate Team is widely regarded as EA's pioneering days into microtransactions with its pack based system being all to similar to the loot crates that dominate their titles today.
It's not just EA though. Rockstar North's hugely successful GTA V was already a commercial victory from game sales alone but its popular GTA Online mode took it to another level. Whilst it's hard to find exact revenue figures, financial analyst Daniel Ahmad estimated it was likely making around $700 million every year.
All of this reiterates the same problem which for us, as consumers, just can't be avoided. As long as there's such a ridiculous amount of money to make from using games as a service, publishers will continue to do so. Recent events including the Belgian government discussing the possibly of outlawing loot boxes will have slowed the process down but stopped it? Not at all.
It's one thing getting loot boxes out of gaming but the ability to buy in game credit is another beast all together. If gambling is defined as taking a chance in order to get something in return, buying in game currency when you know the exact output can not be classified as gambling. Systems such as NBA2K's Virtual Currency and GTA's Shark Cards may very well be the direction publishers go if loot box systems are banned. Is that a better alternative for gamers? It's hard to say but from my experience of playing both I'd have to summarise by saying you are simply left to pick from one of two evils. All we can really hope for is indie developers to make a point by maintaining pro-consumer practices and not being tempted by the profit margins that AAA games rake in.