Microtransactions have been a hot button issue for gamers and critics in the past few years. Mostly confined to the realm of free to play gaming, they have been seen at worst as a way for players to buy power over others and circumvent the fun of the journey for instant gratification at a price. It seems that Microsoft has caught the microtransaction bug and included them in several of their launch title including Killer Instinct, Forza Motorsport 5, and Ryse: Son of Rome.
While taking a look at how these systems work after listening to popular Youtube personality TotalBiscuit rip apart Forza’s method of “buying past the grind”, I noticed something. All of these games use microtransactions differently, and I think this by design. What better time to test and see what consumers are going to go for than at the launch of a new system? So what works and what doesn’t? While it’s too early to get a verdict, there are some trends coming through in the discussions about how these systems work on popular gaming forums that might give us a clue to which way the crowed is swinging.
For one, Forza’s system of being able to buy cars instead of unlocking them after a lengthened progression system seems to be highly unpopular. Most people feel that they’ve already bought a full priced game, and spending nearly as much on a single car (the hardest car to unlock normally) is unjustified. Futhermore many people feel that the overall game design suffers for it because it’s designed to be “grindy”, in that the game is artificially made less fun for long periods of time to make you want to put down the cash. There is a general fear that this will spread out towards the rest of gaming as a whole and ruin the solid fun they were having with the journey up the progression ladder when everything that’s in the game was available to them at $60 with a little work.
Ryse: Son of Rome gets a little less flack, but buying power is a real concern. Ryse let’s you buy experience boosters to get ahead of the pack and level up faster, which on the face of it doesn’t seem to give you a huge advantage. In reality, however, it means that those willing to pay have an express elevator to the big leagues, and they’ll be the ones killing you over and over again as you have to work harder to get to their level.
But on the flip side, Killer Instinct seems to get a pass. Why? Well you get to essentially play the game for free and test out the characters in training, then if you are the type who only wants to focus on a single character then you don’t have to go all in and spend full price on the game. It’s something kind of like the old school arcade days, of which fighting games firmly have their roots in, and a good fighting game must be balanced as Street Fighter x Tekken found out very quickly. This means that the developers knew they couldn’t sell power for the onset or their game wouldn’t be a success, and in this case microtransactions work out in the player’s favor since it gives them the option to buy the whole game or just access to what they want.
Will sells match up with these early assessments? Maybe, but what’s for sure is that the big players in the market have a keen eye out for what’s going to squeeze the most amount of profit out of what they release, and whichever of these systems proves successful will likely find their way into most major releases in the near future.