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The Almighty Buck Games

The Hidden Evil of the Microtransaction 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the continue-reading-for-only-four-ninety-nine dept.
An anonymous reader tips an opinion piece at #AltDevBlogADay written by Claire Blackshaw, lead designer at Jagex Games Studio, about where companies go wrong with microtransactions. While microtransactions aren't inherently evil, she says, they're often misused by marketing folks to the detriment of everyone. She encourages game developers to fight back. Quoting: "The problem with all this is this it is an ambiguous, grey area. The real kicker is that grey areas are always green-lit by greed. In the interest of a 'little more,' so much wrong has been done. So many ideas ruined, communities broken, and teams overstretched by wanting that little bit more. The old sustainable farming arguments come into play here. The massive problem is that you as the Games Designer or other development members do not always have the final say, but you can still fight your corner. You can build your arguments and try to provide some strong research and data to help your money people see the long term view."
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The Hidden Evil of the Microtransaction

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 14, 2011 @04:02AM (#36759822)

    As I see the problem, it's the old fashioned wrongfull assumption that pretty much everyone makes at one time or another: Your actions affect price.

    It's like when someone writes "Since yesterday, Stock A's price went up 100 dollars, If only I'd bought a million of them and sold today". This is only true if the act of purchasing a million of them would not have no effect on the price, which is highly unlikely when you purchase large volumes.

    With microtransactions is the case of putting in products. They want to generate objects which have som intrinsic value, so people will buy them. But when ever they see that 10% of the people bought black sunglasses for 10 Dollars they go "hmm, lets get them out to the remaining 90%, lets drop the price to 1 dollar" Suddenly they are screwing over the original costumers by devaluating the objects they purchased and eventually they completely ruin the value of the object, becase who wan'ts a pair of sunglasses everyone has?

    At the root of the problem is the fact that microtransactions are god from the machines in these small virtual worlds. They have complete power to put in content at any price or volume they want, and they simply do not understand the caution which must be taken exactly because of that level of control. And ofcause you have no free market at all, because production price of the objects are virtually zero, they simply cannot allow competition as the prices would be undercut to the point of there being no profit.

  • by Fractal Dice (696349) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @04:55AM (#36760146) Journal
    I've noticed that microtransactions fundementally change the developer-player relationship. In a subscription-based game, a developer and a player are on the same side: the player wants to buy an entertaining game to stick with, the developer wants to make an entertaining game people stick with. In a microtransaction-based game, it's an adversarial relationship: the player wants to minimize their spending to find entertainment while the developer wants to maximize the emotional impulse to spend. This creates a qualitative difference in the entire atmophere of a game. So although I used to be ok with microtransactions, their presence is now an automatic "no sale" for me.
  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @05:11AM (#36760218)

    The core problem with these micro-transactions is that in such games there tend to be A LOT of transactions. Time and again you have to make a payment. Even if that payment is only 1 or 2 cents (notwithstanding the fact that there is still the issue of processing such payments), time and again the user is asked to make a payment decision. Do you pay or not? Is it worth it, or not?

    Or imagine the news paper requiring micro payments. And is asking every article you want to view "this article costs you $0.02, accept?" - that's irritating at best. Having a pre-paid credit that is then automatically debited when you view an article is already better, but you still know you have this payment to make, and you (unconsciously) still have to make the decision if it's worth the extra cost or not.

    And that's where it usually goes wrong. However with telephone calls (this is actually a working micro payment: small amounts for each call) people don't seem to have this issue; you pick up the phone and place the call, without thinking too much of the costs. But then a phone call is not as lightheartedly and easily made as clicking on a link to read an article, or to get a new level for a game.

    There is much more to micro-payments than the payment amount or the method of payment. It's the psychology that blocks it, and in the end makes it infeasible. And no-one yet has found a way to fix that, really.

What hath Bob wrought?