To anyone who is thinking about skipping the article and going straight to leave a comment, just hear me out. Most of the gaming community understandably hates microtransactions, but do developers that use them deserve the added controversy that comes with them? For anyone unfamiliar with them, microtransactions are small, one-off purchases, usually for in-game currency, which players can then use to buy skins or clothing. Developers use them in free mobile games, but they’ve since gained popularity in mainstream gaming. Lots of people dislike them, but I’m here to show you good examples of microtransactions to persuade you they shouldn’t receive as much hatred as they already do.
Whilst I’m here, I also want to distinguish between microtransactions and loot boxes. Developers only ever use the latter as glorified gambling. Loot boxes prey on people with gambling addictions that often use games as escapism. They are manipulative and serve no purpose other than to get a player addicted to an in-game reward system. Nothing in this article is advocating for loot boxes; I absolutely despise them. However, you’re not here to hear about loot boxes, so let’s get into how microtransactions are actually good for the games industry.
Some Games Rely On Microtransactions
Some of the biggest games out there rely on microtransactions to survive. Fortnite is a mammoth of a franchise and has made Epic its money only from microtransactions. There was a time when the game wasn’t free or a battle royale, but the switch to non-traditional monetisation meant that Epic could launch Fortnite Battle Royale as a standalone, free to play game. The game’s accessibility made it explode in popularity, and the rest is history. I don’t think the battle royale genre would be as successful as it has been without free to play models.
The same goes with Apex Legends, Warzone and the recently released Hyperscape. If Epic Games hadn’t set the precedent that battle royales are free with microtransactions, we wouldn’t be seeing the mass popularity we’re seeing today. The Epic Games Store wouldn’t even exist either without Fortnite’s success. Microtransactions have allowed a whole new genre of video games to flourish that more than likely wouldn’t have. Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds’s fall from grace is evidence enough.
However, it isn’t just big companies that benefit from microtransactions. The inspiration for this article came about whilst I was browsing YouTube and saw people criticising Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. In actuality, Fall Guys has one of the fairest monetisation methods out there. Skins aren’t massively overpriced and in-game currency is doled out liberally. It seems to me that as soon as people see microtransactions, they instinctively reel back in horror. Microtransactions are regularly tarred with the same brush, whether it be a small indie developer or a massive AAA publisher.
They Make Future Updates Free
Microtransactions are a good way for developers to keep development costs down. If a game is going to provide free updates as long as the servers are still running, why can’t the developers also keep making money? We can revisit Fall Guys as a perfect example. The game is still in its first season and the developers have promised free future updates. The team over at Mediatonic have even introduced a new level and given everyone a free skin and 5000 Kudos for dealing with server issues.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is only £15.99, and even then you have to consider a large majority of PS4 owners downloaded the game for free with PlayStation Plus. If you’re expecting Fall Guys to continue with free updates with no other monetisation method other than the base price, then you’re being daft. Microtransactions allow developers to continue providing free updates, making their games better. Fall Guys is a good example of microtransactions in a paid game. Not every game that includes them is out to manipulate you.
Bad Examples of Microtransactions
I’m not saying every case of microtransactions is completely justified. There are plenty of examples out there of needless microtransactions. They’ve developed a terrible reputation because of big publishers abusing the system to make obscene amounts of money. One of the more high-profile examples is Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Being a single-player game, microtransactions were almost pointless to begin with. However, Ubisoft broke new boundaries, offering players quicker ways to level up, in-game currency, boosters, and an enormous amount of skins.
I love Assassin’s Creed, but have to agree with the criticism aimed at the franchise. Each game has become more and more greedy, with Ubisoft finding a seemingly endless amount of content to monetise. Whilst I experienced no grinding myself, many fans felt Ubisoft made the game grindy to manipulate players into buying the experience boosters. There are a lot of games out there that will try to manipulate players into buying microtransactions, but it’s important to separate the good from the bad.
Another awful example was the Crash Team Racing remaster on PS4. Activision added microtransactions after release to avoid negative reviews and displaying “in-app purchases” on storefronts. Additionally, many fans noticed that skins became more expensive after the introduction of microtransactions. This lead to many people believing that Activision had inflated the market to test people’s patience. Fall Guys has very similar monetisation to Crash Team Racing, but is far less grindy, making it a better and more rewarding system.
Microtransactions Aren’t All That Bad
They might be controversial to some, but I believe there is a place for microtransactions in the games industry. Some of the best and biggest games out there wouldn’t exist without them. There are publishers out there, like Ubisoft, that need criticising when they inappropriately use them. Equating a team like Mediatonic to a money hungry beast like Activision because they use both use microtransactions is an unfair viewpoint.
High-profile cases like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey make people wince at the term but if developers implement microtransactions fairly and use the money to fund future updates, then I see no reason they should receive the same amount of criticism as publishers like Activision and Ubisoft. There are good examples of microtransactions, and we need to separate them from the bad ones.