Microstransactions have been a big part of free-to-play games for quite some time but they have crept their way into other games like the highly popular Mass Effect 3, to name one in particular. With EA stating that it would be including microtransactions in future games, we asked the VGU.TV staff what they thought. Here is what they had to say.
Editor in Chief
Microtransactions have a bit of a sordid history because while they help many free-to-play games to stay in business, they can have an adverse effect on the gameplay of that same game. While the real world money helps keep servers active and developers getting paid, many gamers can take advantage of a willingness to pay more money and basically pay to win the game.
With very few exceptions, gameplay is the most important part of a gaming experience (TellTale’s The Walking Dead could be an example where the story and choices are more important than the gameplay) and to ruin that experience with microtransactions is a major problem for me.
The micrsotransactions work in a game like Mass Effect 3 because while players can pay to get more characters and upgrades, the muliplayer was still cooperative. All players are working towards the same goal and with some time investment, a non-paying player can get the same upgrades. The random nature of which characters and upgrades you get also aided the system.
I’m fine with EA putting microstransactions in future titles as long as it doesn’t have a lasting impact on the gameplay. It could be difficult to translate microtransactions into competitive multiplayer games but there are ways to balance it and keep the game fun for everyone who is playing it.
Executive Editor- Xbox
While I’ll be less bothered by these microtransactions should they remain optional, it’s still something of a worrying precedent being set by EA. The logic seems completely bent regarding the whole affair, claiming that consumers “expect it,” having been indoctrinated into micro-payments by mobile games. That may well be true, but did anyone at EA notice that mobile titles employing microtransactions tend to have an initial price of a dollar or two, tops?
Also, EA’s handling of microtransactions in the past has been notoriously poor. There was some mild backlash to the inclusion of the concept in Dead Space 3, and fans have been less than thrilled to see them cropping up in other current titles, but the biggest microtransactional mess at EA’s hands thus far has to be Battlefield Heroes. This free-to-play, browser-based FPS is notoriously “pay to win” by way of its cash shop, practically requiring players to throw away money to make any real progress, with little to no decent loot to be found via regular play, regardless of how much you grind. It’s not a good sign, should a similar model be applied to EA’s future games.
To lend a bit of optimism, the original statement regarding the microtransaction plan did mention prior efforts to keep customers paying in EA games had been outsourced, whereas this new model would be kept in-house, so perhaps they have a killer formula that’s not overly intrusive, naggy, or game-crippling. If they really want the idea to take off, perhaps providing a core game experience at a lower price than whatever the anticipated normal is, then stacking microtransactions atop that would work. Alternatively, keeping micro-payment obtainable items and extras attainable in-game by non-payers willing to put in some more work, making additional payments more of a shortcut than a requirement, could work.
It’s kind of hard to call where EA’s going to go with this. EA is a sizable corporation, and as such, is probably more fond of money than of taking care of the fanbase. Here’s hoping the gleam of profit doesn’t blind EA to potential abuses of the system that may shoot those profits right now.
I support micro transactions in games so long as they do not force players to buy things in order to win or advance in the game, which happens in many free–to–play games.
If EA takes a cue from Valve and only has cosmetic items available for purchase that do not affect gameplay, this can only be seen as a good thing. Otherwise, many more EA haters will appear, myself included.
EA having microtransactions in future games makes me feel conflicted. On one side, I understand the financial strategy behind it. On the other,I think it’s just a scheme to get more money after choosing to buy a game new to get the online pass included. For games like Dead Space 3 it’s understandable. In a horror game that scares the hell out of you, you would want to even the odds or tip them in your favor in some way. Also, if you have the game but don’t have enough time to play it, you can spend some money and become the last action hero. Or, maintain one single weapon and make it your signature device of destruction. Even in games like Saints Row or Grand Theft Auto microtransactions would be perfect icing on the cake. But to be fair, these are just horror and open world games.
On the other hand it could be a bad thing. It takes the achievement out of the game. Not in terms of cheats but in terms of having better equipment than another player just because you have more money than they do. Take a game series like Madden or NHL. If you are playing a career or franchise mode you could buy in-game money and warp the balance of the in-game world. You could very easily max out the attributes of your career player the very same way as in MLB The Show’s Road to the Show mode. The same can be said for a first-person shooter with a multiplayer aspect such as Call of Duty or Battlefield. Like most, if not all, free-to-play MMOs out there, you can buy equipment with said microtransactions. This would not be fair to those purists who rank up on skill alone rather than some other people who would simply buy their way to the top.
I understand EA’s position. The cost of video game development has been going up at an alarming rate with the high demand for maximizing polygon counts and high resolution textures and making proper use of lighting effects. The thing is that whenever you’re making anything more detailed, that translates to spending more time in making those details and as everybody knows time is money! Now in any other industry greater cost in development translates to greater cost to the end user. That hasn’t been the case in the games industry. The price of games has barely gone up in years.
Microtransactions have, for many years now with games like League of Legends making money hand over fist, been proven to be highly viable. Now there are some games that do it right. They make spending money attractive but not feel necessary. This was the case in Team Fortress 2 after it went free-to-play, League of Legends to a much lesser degree, and bringing the differences to EA games while I feel a little hard done by the costs of extra items in The Sims 3 and its expansion packs, the model used in Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer seemed acceptable to me. Attractive but never an obligation.
That’s what our staff had to say but what do you think? Let us know on our forums and in the comments below.