The Menace Of Microtransactions

– by Brendan Reid, Editor –

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Credit cards can be dangerous things, especially when couple with poorly communicated microtransaction policies.

There are few things as upsetting as an overpriced credit card bill. This was the very thing that Lance Perkins of Pembroke Ontario received two days before Christmas day in 2015. The bill had a massive figure of $7625.88, all attributed to in-game purchases his son had made in one of the FIFA series of soccer games. His son was just as surprised as he was, and stated that he thought he had made a one time purchase within the game, but it turned out to be anything but. The Perkins family attempted to overturn the bill with the credit card company and Microsoft, but all their efforts were refuted.

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Microtransactions utilize the reward system that is prevalent in all games, but force you to pay money to experience it

This unsettling event is the result of a trend emerging in gaming that can only be described as a menace. And that trend is microtransactions.

Microtransactions originally began as a staple of the mobile gaming market. Many games advertised as free were anything but, and could only be fully enjoyed if you purchased in-game currency or power ups for your character, all costing a dollar or two of real world money. It doesn’t sound like much, but those transactions can add up in a hurry.

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Kids are often unaware that they are spending on a mobile game, and it is up to parents to inform them

There are many dangers lurking within the microtransaction model. Children are often duped into buying extras for a game they are playing on a parents phone, and can rack up massive bills. Including the Perkins conumndrum, there are countless stories of kids who spend thousands of dollars in minutes simply through in-game purchases. Games such as Farmville and Plants Vs. Zombies are extremely addictive, and force you to spend money in order to fully enjoy the game. Games must become better at communicating their poilicies and utilizing parental controls on features that involve credit cards. At the same time parents must be extra mindful of what their children are doing on their phones. The microtransaction system is one that takes advantage of players, and the expenses can become frightening if you are not careful.

As one might expect, huge amounts of revenue are being generated by microtransactions for mobile companies, and it didn’t take long for game developers to notice. Downloadable content (DLC) quickly became a staple in the gaming industry. Originally, it was implemented logically. Games were in one piece when you originally bought them, and you would pay $15-$20 for a sizable expansion, one that would add a meaningful experience to the one you had already played.

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Many game companies are taking advantage of the microtransaction system, and we as consumers have the power to stop it

Now DLC has taken on a different form. Extra weapons and costumes that would originally be available in full games now must be purchased separately. Often times, the game you spend $70 on comes to you incomplete, and the final chapter must be purchased as DLC, or entire multiplayer modes must be bought with your credit card. EA is a company that is well known for its microtransactions, and games such as Dead Space 3, Stars Wars Battlefront, and FIFA are all guilty of crimes against our wallets.

Games are getting more expensive. This much is a fact, and can be seen every time you visit your local Gamestop. New games that used to be $59.99 have jumped to $69.99, and in some cases even $79.99. Average that out with taxes and you’re looking at an $80-$90 deficit every time you want to buy a new game.

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Purchasing a standalone game, you know the cost up front – even if that cost is hefty

While this seems preposterous, it is not the first time it has happened. Games on the Super Nintendo system were in the $70 to $80 dollar range when they first hit the shelves, as were some Nintendo 64 games. Today, games require more resources then ever to develop, so it is understandable that their price has been raised. But we as consumers deserve to know exactly what we are getting when we purchase as a game, and should not have to pay extra to get the full experience of a game.

The microtransaction is a blight, but one that can be stopped. The best way to combat it is to ignore it. Companies continue to utilize microtransactions because they are profitable, and the moment they stop bringing in money, they will disappear. We are already paying a lot of money for games, and we must demand that they come to us in a finished form, one that is worth our hard earned cash. Showing support for game companies such as CD Projekt Red and From Software can go a long way, for it shows what we truly want: games that do not take advantage of us, and are a complete experience on day one.