From Service To Monetary Gain: Are Microtransactions Changing The Way We Game?

PC gamer playing in front of desktop computer
Photo by Fredrick Tendong on Unsplash

The obvious objective of video games is to entertain people by surprising them with new experiences.     

Shigeru Miyamoto

To put simply, yes. microtransactions are changing the way we game. Even more so, microtransactions are changing the video gaming industry – for the worst. 

For some, gaming is a way to unwind after a long day. What’s a better way to relieve stress? To win and to win big. New AAA titles make winning easy – and expensive. 

Microtransactions are small purchases, typical in free-to-play games. These purchases can buy character cosmetic upgrades, in-game currency and other upgrades. In online free-to-play and monthly subscription games, these microtransactions start to get expensive. Most microtransactions are bundles under $10, giving you more for your dollar, but better upgrades usually cost more – way more. 

Let’s take, for example, Fallout 76’s Atom Shop (I know, bear with me). Before you can buy in-game items from the shop, you need to buy the in-game currency, Atoms. 

The dollars (USD) to the Atoms exchange rate is as follows: 

  • $5 = 500 Atoms 
  • $10 = 1,100 Atoms 
  • $20 = 2,400 Atoms 
  • $40 = 50,000 Atoms 

Simple cosmetic changes, like clothing, for example, can cost anywhere from 200 to 1,100 Atoms. More highly coveted items like the Vault-Tec Power Armor Paint Set go for 1,800 Atoms. Power Armor not included. 

“Hey, that doesn’t sound so bad! So, what’s the problem?” 

The problem is that microtransactions are a pure money grab. Atom Shop – the in-game currency name is IN the shop’s name, albeit not all in-game stores are this obvious. 

Not only that, some bundles permanently upgrade character stats, making characters impossible to win against in player-versus-player (PVP). Some games even erect paywalls, capping a gamer’s progress at a critical point, a practice typical in mobile games. These paywalls either make a gamer wait a few hours until its removed or pay a sum to continue.

Video games today already costs $70 at release. The prices can change depending on public opinion (does it suck or not), but the change is usually slow.

Once upon a time, video games were a service, meaning publishers created great games, and that was that. There was no sizeable monetary gain in gaming back then. If there was, only specific genres reaped those rewards such as sports and the Super Mario Kart series.  

Today, the video gaming industry is worth $43.4 billion. The industry’s value rises with technological innovations and more AAA titles. 

Gaming is a business after all, but I do believe in not biting the hand that feeds you. 

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