So, microtransactions in full priced games. Now there’s a giant red button of a topic if I ever saw one.
It’s been brought back into the limelight again as Respawn Entertainment co-founder Vince Zampella, speaking to GamesRadar, confirms that Titanfall 2 will feature microtransactions in order to fund the free maps and game modes DLC they plan to release post launch.
“We’re giving away all the maps and modes [because ] we don’t want to split the community,” Zampella said. “We still want to provide post launch content because people want it, but it’s not free to do. If we’re going to support the game that costs money.”
Zampella wouldn’t clarify exactly what would be sold through microtransactions, but given his sentiment of not wanting to split the community it would most likely be non-gameplay affecting things, like cosmetic upgrades. Producer Drew McCoy chimed in that their approach to this model is reliant on trust from both themselves and the players.
“We need to trust the player and they need to trust us,” McCoy said. “Trust that if we do the right thing – not sell maps and modes – we’ll get more people investing with us, investing in the game as a whole. They’re going to trust us not screw them over and they can be happy with their $US60 versions.”
There are many different sides to the microtransactions debate. There are those who don’t really care as long as they don’t give you an advantage, that there’s no “pay-to-win” option. Others are all for that, and of course there are those who are against microtransaction appearing in full priced games full stop. Independent critic Jim Sterling is probably one of the more vocal members of the latter camp.
I find myself sitting somewhere between the “it’s never OK” and “as long as there’s no pay-to-win” viewpoints. It’s not that every microtransaction system ruins a game, I’m more against them on principle. As I’ve said before, my biggest issue is how developers intentionally cripple a game’s mechanics to further incentivise players to spend more money. In a free-to-play game it’s a little more palatable, because you haven’t paid anything upfront so this is essentially the price you pay. But in a game we’ve already paid some $AU80 for, that kind of behaviour is pretty hard to swallow.
Let’s take Overwatch again as an example, which is also offering free future DLC funded by a microtransaction system. As Charlie notes in his review, the items obtained through microtransactions/random loot drops are inconsequential to your ability to play the game as they’re comprised of cosmetics, spray tags and catch phrases. But the microtransactions don’t let you outright buy the items you want, only more opportunities to randomly get them. Repeated items dropped yield an in-game currency that can be used to buy things, but in such small amounts it hardly counts for anything.
As far as microtransactions in full priced games systems go, Overwatch‘s is one of the more tolerable if you’re like me and couldn’t give two shits about what my character is wearing. I find the quality of the game itself is not significantly diminished by them being there. But anyone who does want a particular look or spray tag has to contend with a system that is designed to frustrate them into spending more money just to increase the odds of getting the things they want. It’s trying to psychologically manipulate you into throwing money at what is essentially a pokies machine. Again, I love Overwatch, but these kinds of tactics still aren’t cool.
Until we hear more specifics about Titanfall 2’s, it’s hard to judge. The game, like Overwatch, could be great despite the microtransactions. We’ll just have to wait and see.
But can’t we just keep free-to-play monetisation schemes in free-to-play games? Is that too much to ask?