One of the main controversies within the world of online gaming is microtransactions. In reality, this is probably the best monetization model for online games, provided it is done right. The issues within the gaming community usually arise if the transactions feel unjustified.
Sure there are games that will always make more sense as a signal purchase or a subscription model, and it is usually those games that receive a lot of criticism when they introduce microtransactions on top of the existing monetization model. Here we will go over some of the pros and cons of microtransactions in gaming and make distinctions between good and bad monetization in the realm of microtransactions.
Why Is This a Good Model
Free-to-play games are way more accessible, which leads to a higher player base and, as a result, more engaging gameplay overall. It also allows the developers to create a game that caters to both casual and big spenders without making players feel like they are forced to pay in order to enjoy the gameplay. However, this is only effective if the player doesn’t feel forced to pay in order to enjoy, which largely depends on the in-game store goods.
It also solves a lot of problems that arise from game piracy, as the only reason someone pirates the game is so they don’t have to pay. Perhaps the most important aspect of microtransaction is fairness, as players get to experience the game before they decide whether they wish to invest any money.
Is This a Good Model for Developers?
The reality is that for a lot of games this can be a risky model. AAA titles usually have the capacity to keep the game alive and advertise it enough so that a solid player base is formed. Even with only a portion of that player base is spending real money on the game, the company can see the profit and continue to support the game. The longer the game exists, the better the chance someone else will eventually become a paying player if they enjoy it.
The problem can occur with smaller companies who don’t have the luxury of keeping the game alive at a high expense without a certain ROI that they will break even. So they might create certain barricades that, in a way, force players to pay and continue. They might also create a game that is more fun to play without paying money because it presents a more engaging challenge.
On top of these challenges, any developer is rightly concerned with maintenance costs. Since having online free-to-play games means paying for bandwidth for players who aren’t giving anything in return. But, at the same time, those players are part of the in-game content. It’s unlikely that paying players will spend money on the multiplayer online game if it feels like a ghost town.
In-game payments start to become problematic for the game when developers start to sell power and when in-game items that are obtained through purchased loot boxes can be traded between players. Even if you are selling cosmetics that are obtained through random loot box drops, you are starting to tread in iGaming territory or gambling for real money. Even if you argue that buying a loot box is nothing like online casino payment, upon closer inspection, that argument can fall apart. Truth be told, it’s not like direct casino online payouts, but if there are ways to capitalize on in-game goods after the RNG drop. This is why it can be viewed as casino payments online, even if the game provider is not directly paying the user.
Why Is It Okay When Casinos Do It but Not for Other Games?
The core issue is quite simple – if you can pay money, get lucky, and get more money in return, it can be treated as gambling. Considering how any of the best payout online casino in Canada as for Loopx are highly regulated and have age restrictions, it would be unfair to allow video games to do the same and give them a pass. Buying a random loot box might not look the same as a casino deposit, but if another player transfers the money to your wallet to buyout loot from you, it can be viewed as gambling.
PUBG, CS: GO, and Fifa all went through loot box debacle, and it was decided that these games violate gambling regulations, so those features had to be removed. Bear in mind though, you can have mini-games within games similar to online pokies for real money, and it won’t be considered gambling if no real monetary reward can be obtained. Games like Red Dead Redemption, GTA, and even pokemon have in-game casinos and gambling and do not violate these regulations because no monetary gains are involved.
How Are Trading Cards of the Hook Then?
As you already know, opening digital booster packs also gives you a randomized chance of pulling more valuable cards. Since digital cards cannot be traded among players, real-money purchases are not considered gambling. But what about real-life TCG? The situation resembles that one of loot boxes, yet it’s not exactly the same.
Digital goods like loot boxes have an unlimited supply, and RNG decides if you get a more valuable item. Cards have a limited number of printings, and every pack is calculated by the manufacturer before they are released to the consumers. Moreover, you always get something you can use. In your deck, you don’t get items that need to be combined in order to be usable.
To sum up, the only time microtransactions are not justified is when they are breaking certain laws, like in the case of tradable goods. From the developer’s perspective, any microtransaction is justified since they are in it for profit. If something ends up being too expensive and players still pay for it, you are in a way justifying the practice, and they will try to sell more of the similar goods.
Depending on how this monetization plan is executed, that game can either be a success or a failure. So, often the creators are taking a risk because the player base might have a negative reaction and boycott the game if they feel it’s unfair.
This means they will lose a lot of potential revenue. In other words, it’s almost always justified. It’s up to the community to decide if it is fair and if they want to support the developer’s decision.