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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 c0mpliant (1516433) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @03:02AM (#36759818)
    With micro transations is that sometimes they don't seem micro at all. My idea of micro transations are less than €1. I came across a game there recently (Burnout Paradise for anyone who cares) where all the micro transations that were available combined cost more the original game did.
    • by Tukz (664339)

      There is a difference between "addons" and "micropayments".
      I assume you are talking about car packs and the like for Burnout Paradise (play it myself), and I don't concider those micropayments at all, but more DLC or addons.

      Unless they recently added micropayments I'm not aware of, of course.

      • by guruevi (827432)

        It used to be that you unlocked extra levels and cars by playing the game. Micro transactions historically always bombed. When micro transactions were first introduced in DRM platforms like Steam, Xbox Network or PlayStation Network and the only way to get them was through the DRM all of a sudden these extras started costing a dollar and now they're up to 10 or more. I don't buy such games anymore.

    • by Mad Merlin (837387) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @03:42AM (#36760084) Homepage

      I think the bigger problem with microtransactions is that games that utilize them have a strong tendency of virtually everything revolving around microtransactions to the point where it's completely impossible to play without buying something every 5 seconds. I hate the concept of buying your way through a game, I mean, what's the point? Sure, I could actually try and enjoy this game, or I could dump $100 into it stretched over a few weeks so I can spend less time playing it. But aren't games supposed to be enjoyable? Spending less time playing them seems to defeat the purpose.

      Personally, I think if a game offers something something in exchange for real money (aside from possibly the game itself), it should not affect gameplay itself. Maybe someone really wants a slightly different looking avatar, and if they want to pay a few dollars for it, so be it, it doesn't hinder anyone else's enjoyment of the game. Regardless, that's why you won't find any microtransactions (or macrotransactions, for that matter) in Game! [wittyrpg.com], as it focuses on being fun to play, apparently a novel concept these days.

      • You pretty much summarized the article in a first person point of view and far more clearly than the /. summary did.

        If I had a mod point, it would be yours, but I don't so all you get is a reply.

      • by Zaatxe (939368)

        [...] I think if a game offers something something in exchange for real money (aside from possibly the game itself), it should not affect gameplay itself. Maybe someone really wants a slightly different looking avatar, and if they want to pay a few dollars for it, so be it, it doesn't hinder anyone else's enjoyment of the game. [...]

        You should check Turbine's Dungeons & Dragons Online. They made it pretty right.

        • by Applekid (993327)

          [...] I think if a game offers something something in exchange for real money (aside from possibly the game itself), it should not affect gameplay itself. Maybe someone really wants a slightly different looking avatar, and if they want to pay a few dollars for it, so be it, it doesn't hinder anyone else's enjoyment of the game. [...]

          You should check Turbine's Dungeons & Dragons Online. They made it pretty right.

          Maybe off topic, but while they handled micropayments right, the favoring MP versus spell slots is pretty unforgivable for a D&D implementation IMHO.

        • by adavies42 (746183)

          basically how WoW works--you can buy extra shiny pets and mounts direct from blizzard, or gamble for others (and other vanity stuff) with the CCG, but nothing you pay for affects the actual game at all. (well, except possibly that it makes the pet and mount collection achievements somewhat easier.)

      • I think the bigger problem with microtransactions is that games that utilize them have a strong tendency of virtually everything revolving around microtransactions to the point where it's completely impossible to play without buying something every 5 seconds. I hate the concept of buying your way through a game, I mean, what's the point? Sure, I could actually try and enjoy this game, or I could dump $100 into it stretched over a few weeks so I can spend less time playing it. But aren't games supposed to be enjoyable? Spending less time playing them seems to defeat the purpose.

        Personally, I think if a game offers something something in exchange for real money (aside from possibly the game itself), it should not affect gameplay itself. Maybe someone really wants a slightly different looking avatar, and if they want to pay a few dollars for it, so be it, it doesn't hinder anyone else's enjoyment of the game. Regardless, that's why you won't find any microtransactions (or macrotransactions, for that matter) in Game! [wittyrpg.com], as it focuses on being fun to play, apparently a novel concept these days.

        i think a good example of this was portal 2 hats. but people still got extra angry at them.

      • One game I play (Guild Wars) feels the same way. Yes there are some add-ons that people buy along with DLC (costumes) but they don't significantly change game play. Very nice and not a subscription based game so I can enjoy it until they shut the servers down.

    • by wvmarle (1070040) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @04:11AM (#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.

      • by dosius (230542)

        Here it's usually flatrate for phone service. And if it weren't either flatrate like my landline or a large number of upfront minutes like my hellphone, I prolly wouldn't bother with it.

        -uso.

      • Micropayments with Magazines and Newspapers would be nice. How many magazines are sold just because of the person on the cover, only for the buyer to find out that picture on the cover is the only thing about that person in the magazine? The same goes for the front page article that people buy a paper to see. It would be nice to only lose the 2 cents rather than the 300 cents or whatever. The problem with micropayments is they have to get you to make enough of them to make the profit huge. So with magazines
      • by sootman (158191)

        This was covered in detail over a decade ago. [openp2p.com]

        [M]icropayments create a double-standard. One cannot tell users that they need to place a monetary value on something while also suggesting that the fee charged is functionally zero... users will be persistently puzzled over the conflicting messages of "This is worth so much you have to decide whether to buy it or not" and "This is worth so little that it has virtually no cost to you."

        There are many reasons why micropayments haven't caught on in the decade+ that we've been hearing about them and they're all covered very nicely in that article. His talk about the mental effort involved in transactions may sound like psychobabble BS but this part sums it up nicely:

        Imagine you are moving and need to buy cardboard boxes. Now you could go and measure the height, width, and depth of every object in your house - every book, every fork, every shoe - and then create 3D models of how these objects could be most densely packed into cardboard boxes, and only then buy the actual boxes. This would allow you to use the minimum number of boxes.

        But you don't care about cardboard boxes, you care about moving, so spending time and effort to calculate the exact number of boxes conserves boxes but wastes time. Furthermore, you know that having one box too many is not nearly as bad as having one box too few, so you will be willing to guess how many boxes you will need, and then pad the number.

        For low-cost items, in other words, you are willing to overpay for cheap resources, in order to have a system that maximizes other, more important, preferences. Micropayment systems, by contrast, typically treat cheap resources (content, cycles, disk) as precious commodities, while treating the user's time as if were so abundant as to be free.

        I'm not saying that small payments can't exist anywhere, in any form, but it's pretty obvious that the more small payments you ask for, the worse a game gets.

      • Microcredit sound nice in theory, but I've yet to find one I like.

        The 'best' services tend to be those that let you access everything for a fixed price.

        One of the things I've found infinitely useful at work is safaribooks. Basically an online repository of books. We use it for mainly tech books. I'm assuming the company pays a yearly or monthly fees and we get access to any book we want. No microtransactions or anything.

        It's akin to cable tv. You pay a fixed price and you get some block of channels.

        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          Microcredit sound nice in theory, but I've yet to find one I like.

          The 'best' services tend to be those that let you access everything for a fixed price.

          This.

          You nailed it there, exactly my argument but approached from the opposite side. It will be a long long time before we have working and popular micropayments, if we ever will have it to begin with.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Well that sounds more like an expansion pack then a microtransaction. I personally have no problem with expansions as long as they don't screw the user like how certain games were released with "DLC" that was available on the disc at RTM which to me just smacks of crippling a game so you can nickle and dime the content that should have been in the game in the first place!

      But as long as they are relatively cheap and aren't game breakers (by game breakers I mean things like weapons that give those that pay a

    • by GrumblyStuff (870046) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @04:55AM (#36760418)

      You're looking at it the wrong way. It's a microtransaction in that you get very little for that $5, $10, or $20.

    • by SharpFang (651121)

      On Steam:

      Borderlands: €5

      4 DLC packs: 4x €2 each = €6

      Borderlands GOTY edition (game + 4 DLC) €12 ...wtf?

      • by jo_ham (604554)

        "4 x 2 = 6" might be your WTF problem. Unless you're saying that steam sells them as a pack of 4 for €6 but individually at €2 each. It's ambiguous from your comment, but 4 x 2 does not equal 6.

    • by daid303 (843777)

      How about $70 for an monocle, that does nothing but show up in your ingame avatar.
      http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/06/22/eve-online-now-sells-70-monocles/ [pcgamer.com]

      • by ZeRu (1486391)
        Monocles in EVE are the least problematic, since by wearing them you don't gain any sort of advantage over players who don't have them, nor they add actual content to the game. They, much like Rolex watches, exist only for the rich and the stupid. If CCP sticked to their original plan to sell ships (who are supposed to be player-manufactured in EVE) and other gameplay-relevant items, now that would be a problem.
        • by daid303 (843777)

          I suggest you get an update on the full story. Because they never had plans to sell "game breaking" equipment. They had in internal news letter that was made to start discussion about it, which leaked, and caused people to draw conclusions. And with those conclusions they where the noisy protesters, that gained followers. The end result was even more spam in local, a lot of lasers being fired on monuments, and me being even more happy to fly in nul-sec.

          Have you read the leaked document? Because I have, and

        • by makomk (752139)

          They're kinda... interesting. As I understand it, part of the reason CCP are charging so much for stuff like monocles is that there's far too much PLEX in circulation as a result of their officially sanctioned way of buying in-world ISK for real money. They allowed users to buy PLEX for real money, trade them with other players for in-world ISK, and then the players purchasing the PLEX could use them to extend their Eve subscription in lieu of spending the real money themselves. So it was effectively RMT th

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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

  • Wrong M-word. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jthill (303417) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @03:04AM (#36759840)

    they're often misused by marketing folks to the detriment of everyone

    Bill Hicks, God rest your soul.

  • by rebelwarlock (1319465) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @03:07AM (#36759858)
    I would argue that microtransactions are completely and utterly evil by their very definition. There is no "gone wrong" or "abuse" when it comes to microtransactions, because the sole purpose, the driving force behind them, is to deceitfully make large amounts of money. People are inherently bad at understanding how much money they're spending, particularly if it is done in small amounts. In fact, people will treat a five dollar bill differently than five one dollar bills. You buy an energy refill here and a potion there and all of a sudden you've spent $100 on that facebook game and have no idea what happened. That's exactly what they want.
    • by YutakaFrog (1074731) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @03:48AM (#36760112)
      I disagree with your black-and-white view of microtransactions, and cite my experience in League of Legends as an example. The game is free to play. There are no ads on their website, annoying or otherwise, or in the game. About the smallest useful "microtransaction" would be around $2, which you could use to unlock a very cheap champion or skin for a champion. Other skins cost what would be close to $10. However, the skins have no bearing on the gameplay whatsoever, and nothing that does impact gameplay cannot be purchased with the currency you earn for playing and (at a faster rate) winning games.

      I think $10 is a little much for a single champion skin, but that's me. I did buy one skin so far for ~$5. So far, I've probably enjoyed 200-300 hours worth of gameplay. That's a WAAAAY better ratio of dollars spent to hours of fun than almost any other game I've ever played. If they were to stop their system of microtransactions tomorrow, then ... Riot Games would cease earning any money at all, development would cease, servers would go down, and the game would be dead. In the interest of keeping them alive and well, I feel no compunction whatsoever about choosing to support Riot by buying the various boosts and vanity items they offer that appeal to me. It's an absolutely *fantastic* implementation of microtransactions.

      So yes, I believe there is a "non-evil" way to do microtransactions, and I'm grateful that at least one company has found it.

      Incidentally, if anyone wants to try it out, you can sign up for your own free account and help me out in the process by going to http://signup.leagueoflegends.com/?ref=4ceace9718e1b841855707 [leagueoflegends.com]
      • While there may be a small handful of companies that don't use it as a weapon against their own customers, I maintain that they are the exception. It would be like saying that worms aren't all that bad because of Nachi/Welchia [wikipedia.org]. Yes, one example can be found of an instance where the sole purpose is not to destroy everything in sight, but that doesn't make the concept okay. The fact remains that the true purpose of microtransactions, like worms, is malicious. It would take a complete industry overhaul to chan
        • The fact remains that the true purpose of microtransactions, like worms, is malicious.

          Sorry, he gave you an example of where the use of microtransactions in a game is not evil. You respond, that while some companies may not use microtransactions in an evil way, since the majority do, microtransactions are inherently evil. Sorry, if something is inherently evil, there is no way to use it in a non-evil way.

          • Unless he means inherently evil in the sense of 'power corrupts', which would imply that eventually Riot games will cave in to temptation and start using micro-transactions in an evil way.
            • This can easily be extended - with just as much basis in reality - that profit corrupts, regardless of the source. Or, to put it in a more classic phrasing, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." Microtransactions are just the latest variety of profit that can be turned to profiteering.
              • The front-man from VNV Nation described humans in an interesting way that relates to this - that we're like drivers who bomb it down the motorway at 120mph, knowing that eventually we'll get caught. Yet we do it anyway and even celebrate it.
      • Or you could play HoN :P

        Trolling aside, HoN has a similar system - I am assuming they lifted it off LoL. You have to pay $20 to play the game - you get access to all the heroes and maps. In the shop, you can only buy stuff which does not affect the gameplay - like character skins (not heroes themselves), courier skins, taunts, sound packs, flags etc. You can do so with in-game currency (silver coins) which you earn for playing the game, or for real-world currency (gold coins) at a discounted price. Sometime

    • by mcvos (645701) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @06:37AM (#36760910)

      I don't think microtransactions are inherently evil. They're often badly used, but in the end, it's just a tool. Like cash. Are cash transactions evil, because when you go out and spend the occasional $2 for a beer, at the end of the night it turns out you wasted $100 on stuff that just goes down the toilet?

      Yes, people are foolish with money. Does that mean that more granular control over your expenses is a bad thing? It opens new opportunities. Some bad, some good.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Similarly, people misuse credit cards because they don't see the value of the individual purposes. Some people end up in massive debt. Does this mean credit cards are absolute evil, or more than people need more education?

        For instance LotRO has a maximum that you can spend in a store in a single day. I think that's there precisely to avoid the sort of customer complaints of "my son spent $1000 overnight when he found my credit card!" that some other companies have seen. Similarly you have to buy points

      • Caveat: I'm an MMO developer and I like the microtransaction system. In short, if you're not the biggest game (if you're an indie developer, for example), you can't compete with a larger developer via subscriptions. They'll make more money with more subscribers, therefore the $15 someone pays for another game will feel "worth more" than the money paid for your smaller game. You can read a more in-depth analysis on my professional blog [psychochild.org].

        The example I give of why I like microtransactions as a player is that

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I disagree, though maybe it depends on your definitions of microtransactions. For instance some games have a free-to-play/subscription hybrid model (LotRO, DDO). You can subscribe normally for $10/month (bulk rate) and get everything in the game, or you can buy/earn points and spend them on just the stuff you need ala-carte (microtransaction). There was a lot of anti-microtransaction hysteria over these changes and it's still out there to some degree. While this does make the game maker a lot more money

  • I think microtransactions are incompatible with good and fun game rules.

    • by Tukz (664339)

      Depends on what you get with the micropayments.
      If it gets you a new hat or a new tie, no one cares.

      if it gets you the über sword of omgwtfbbq, then yeah.

    • by Irick (1842362)
      I'm sorry, i couldn't hear you through all these crazy hats and the Heavy quoting Sinistar at the top of his lungs.
    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >>I think microtransactions are incompatible with good and fun game rules.

      Only when they're entirely cosmetic.

      As soon as they offer $$ to bypass hours of in-game time (World of Tanks) or automatically winning a battle (Stronghold Kingdoms), or, hell, gaining bonus everything (Civ World) but limited only by the cash you spend per day, it's fucking evil.

      The really sad part is that without microtransactions, Stronghold Kingdoms and Civ World would be reasonably good games. Civ World costs $3/day to play

      • I was playing that game since closed beta and it's perfectly well playable without spending a dime.
        Sure, those who pay will be able to use slightly better premium ammo, but that's not a gamebreaker.
        Sure, they'll be able to support higher tier tanks without having to use tier 5 as a money maker all the time due to premium (FYI, that's the real value of a premium account - the double money makes tanks self-sustained up to tier 7,at least for a not too skilled but not a n00b like i was in the beta (back th
        • I haven't played since the beta, but is spotting still broken? Komarin was one of the worst maps for that, whoever got impatient and moved first lost.

          Also, are the Russian tanks still better than everything else? The KV for instance got either the solid 107mm or the hilarious 152mm, while the equal tiered Pz4 got the 75L/70 (which wasn't a bad gun, but it's no 107mm), and the T1 heavy was even worse, with that peashooter 76mm.

          And then things like the T29 being too competitive with the IS, so it got nerfed m

          • by VAElynx (2001046)
            Spotting got fixed just about when the game came out, yeah.
            As for russian tanks being better, i call BS
            Yes, i do play russian only most of the time, but it depends on playing style a lot. The guy who first got me into the game can't say a bad word about PzkpfwIV, and apparently eats KV's for lunch with it - the 75L/70 fires a LOT more often than a 107mm, and you are far more mobile.
            On the other hand, i ate PzIV's for lunch with the 122mm as well... once again, the real difference there is that germa
          • by VAElynx (2001046)
            Komarin wasn't so bad, and isn't even now... Malinovka, El Halluf and to some extent Murovanka (forest) are the most campy maps.
        • Also, "Premium Ammo" is by design absurdly expensive to the point that it's very rarely used except in clan battles. We're talking 10 cents per shot at the top tier. Also premium ammo only changes penetration, not damage. It CAN affect the outcome. Yeah I've had my Tiger 2 penetrated by a KV with gold ammo - ONCE in over 2,000 battles. I'm not butthurt over it.

          Premium tanks aren't actually better than their counter parts - the Hotchkiss is the only exception being a Tier 2 tank with Tier 3 armor. People wh

  • The problem that I have with microtransactions is that a game that's designed around them is usually (I haven't yet seen an exception) that the primary focus is to make profit off the player. Whereas traditionally, the primary purpose was to entertain the player and thereby make money off of them.

    The issue of entertaining the player gets completely lost and replaced by psychological tricks to make people spend more and more money without ever actually experiencing any entertainment.

    I actually think that "g
    • by Serpents (1831432)

      The problem that I have with microtransactions is that a game that's designed around them is usually (I haven't yet seen an exception) that the primary focus is to make profit off the player. Whereas traditionally, the primary purpose was to entertain the player and thereby make money off of them.

      Well, Team Fortress was a "normal" game, which is now free to play with a microtransaction system. The game is fun and the hats you can buy don't affect the game play that much ;)

    • by warGod3 (198094)
      So the primary focus of most any company putting out a product is not to make a profit?

      I'm thinking that you might need to re-think that...
    • by Quirkz (1206400)
      There's benefits to microtransactions you're overlooking. With a traditional game, you're out the money the moment you buy, before you've even tried the game. With microtransactions you get a chance to play first, and then make purchases if you like. If it's truly just designed to be addictive click spamming, you don't have to buy if you don't like the game. On the other hand, if you pick up a new computer game and realize it's awful, you're basically stuck. I can remember a couple of downright awful Atari
  • by Psychotria (953670)

    In my relatively short time in the industry [...] [claire-blackshaw.com]

    `nuff said, probably. While microtransactions may or not be "evil", I find it a bit strange that the person who wrote this says on her blog: "Games Designer & Programmer (yes I still code)" and very recently described herself as having spent a relatively short time in the industry. Something doesn't add up.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      So she's incapable of forming a valid opinion until she's had "years and years" in the industry?

      "Isn't that cute, she thinks she knows what she's talking about! Don't you worry your pretty, naive head about it love! Go play some more hello kitty island adventure!"

  • It's arguably a problem of mismatch between economically feasible granularity(ie. the lower bound on currency unit or quantity of goods you can trade without transaction costs devouring both parties) and the "natural" granularity that people expect from various classes of product.

    In some cases, increased granularity actually solves the mismatch, and thus makes everybody happier(Intel only sells CPUs by the 1,000 unit tray. Ordinary people think in a 'natural' granularity three factors of ten smaller. Tha
  • by lexsird (1208192) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @03:48AM (#36760116)

    Let not thine bean-counters have party to the "fun", for surely upon that day that thou let thine bean-counters soil the "fun", the Lord, thine customers shall smite thee in thine wallet and it shall sting, And there shall be weeping and gashing of teeth in the outer darkness of the unemployment lines by the wicked unfaithful devs, so saith the Gods of Gaming. Amen.

  • by Fractal Dice (696349) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @03:55AM (#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 ZosoZ (1603973)

      I really don't think it's that simple; regardless of payment model the majority of developers want to produce a good, fun, entertaining game, and regardless of payment model the publishers/accountants/whoever can put the screws on for cash.

      Buy the box for a one-off cost: who cares about the long-term as long as you make the sale? Cut the content down as much as possible, charge more for DLC or sequels (DLC might seem light a modern phenomena in its ubiquity, but we've always had data disks, expansions, "de

      • Like the OP, I will not buy or play any game featuring MTX. I feel that once you take that first step towards "the more money you give us, the more stuff we give you in-game", it fundamentally changes the feel of the game even if it's something as relatively innocent as a purely cosmetic hat. There is also the fact that every single time a game starts using MTX, within a relatively short amount of time all the oft-mocked slippery slope predictions turn out to be completely accurate.

        Buy the box for a one-off cost: who cares about the long-term as long as you make the sale?

        Bad reviews will cost you

        • Can you list the basis of those "facts" and what predictions turned out to be "completely accurate"?
    • by ledow (319597)

      Sorry, but I don't really see the distinction between the two. The developer in a subscription model is there to make you continue to spend (because why would you continue to subscribe to a non-evolving world once everyone hit a certain level?), and the only difference is that the player is committed to spend only X amount per month for as long as it is worthwhile.

      But then, I'm just a long-term gamer that has never played subscription games, never purchased anything in a microtransaction, and either buys g

      • - I don't rent movies (nor do I subscribe to movie channels, which is the same thing)

        Please tell me you don't watch movies, or you see your movies at the cinema or buy them on DVD. Anything, except that selfish and destructive habit known as piracy. In the age of the TSA and the patriot act, the last thing we need is any more legitimacy lent to the **AA in their march over our liberties and privacy. Plus it has other effects, such as making it more difficult for new artists to survive, making it more diffic

        • by ledow (319597)

          I skip the cinema part and wait for the DVD. If you don't know by the time the DVD comes out whether it's a steaming pile of crap, you never will know. And at least then you can have it in a DRM-free (pretty much) standardised format that you *can* backup and play just about anywhere.

          I work in IT within a school, that means I spend a lot of my time doing licensing compliance. I also program for a living and a hobby, and am an open-source advocate (pushing LibreOffice into schools). Nobody who works with

          • Wow, muchos kudos for your ethical treatment of media.

            Out of curiosity, do you really buy every DVD you want to watch? Given your attitude towards cinemas, renting, and piracy, I'm not sure how else you would obtain them.

            • by ledow (319597)

              I've pretty much bought them all or had them as gifts. In a lot of cases, twice (split up with my wife, so had to rebuy the stuff she wanted to keep).

              I don't buy *new* very often, and Amazon if your friend too, but yeah - even comedies from the 70's that I've seen a million times etc.

      • by Quirkz (1206400)
        I'm with you on this. I won't do monthly fees for games. The idea just makes me feel like I have to play all the time to get my money's worth, or I'm losing money if I'm not playing. I'm also streaky (play a lot this week, leave it alone for 6 months and repeat) and I don't want to lost my character or pay maintenance to keep it in the meantime. It's a perpetual, indefinite money sink, and I don't want to commit to it.

        On the other hand a one-time small transaction isn't a big hit to my wallet, I can choos

        • That is also my #1 reason to not subscribe to games. There may be times where I would only log in for a sum of 1 hour per month and it seems like an incredible waste to pay $15/month just to keep the ability to log in. Instead, I keep a monthly budget for online entertainment and let it accumulate when it is unused.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      That's a bit short sighted. The "developer" (by which you really mean the producer/executives, not the coders) always wants to get the profit. With monthly subscription they still will find ways to suck you in and keep you subscribing long past the natural time that you'd quit and start looking elsewhere. There are people who use your exact argument to explain why single player game devs are good and online game devs are evil.

  • Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quietwalker (969769) <pdughi@gmail.com> on Thursday July 14, 2011 @03:57AM (#36760158)

    I like to think of myself as someone literate, but I couldn't parse everything in the linked article.

    All I know is that it had nothing to do with microtransactions, appeared to contain PHB-style solutions to problems that are no help at all (note, heavy rephrasing to make it sensible):
              Problem: Someone wants the game to make money and it may impact core gameplay.
              Solution: innovate, engage mindshare, customer focus.

              Problem: Someone wants the the non-core gameplay elements to make money
              Solution: Long tail opportunity, self-leadership, consensus-building ... and so on.

    (Buzzwords were chosen because their nebulous nature seems to exactly nail the writing style, as though the article may have been put together by an auto-generator.)

    Those aren't answers. Those are just concepts, and not well defined or even directly relevant ones at that. It's like having a business plan that just says "succeed". How do you fix the evil of a game that's meant to make money? Have a CEO that will stand up for you. Oh, gee, that helps. I'll get right on that.

    This article appears to be entirely without value.

    If you as a developer want to influence anything in your product, you'll want to start by working on your communication skills, especially when targeting other developers. This wouldn't even pass muster with PHBs.

    • by MadKeithV (102058)
      For the low, low price of $0.02 per buzzword, you can buy access to the buzzword explanation!
    • You are missing something important. It also said: Greed is NOT good. That's what it said.

      If it said so, then it must be true, because the word "not" was capitalized like so: "NOT".

    • This. SO MUCH THIS. I'd +1 you if I had mod points. That article provided absolutely nothing even close to a coherent thought.

    • by meustrus (1588597)
      You, sir, appear to be the only person to have read TFA. I'd congratulate you, but I don't think that'll help you recover your lost brain cells from having tried to understand the nonsense. There's some marginally interesting discussion here on Slashdot about microtransactions, but it lacks focus (because there's no well-written article to focus on) and is mainly interesting from a sociological perspective (as in: what do ordinary people think about the situation?). Not having engaged with microtransactions
  • Two things:
    - On one side, the largest game publishers (hi EA) replaced free content updates released as part of game updates with paid-for DLC (and microtransactions).
    Together with that came overbroad DRM with call-home-activation that doesn't work on the first week of a release and tightly controlled multiplayer that stops working as soon as the next game of the series is released.

    - On the other side you have microtransactions being used as the "death by a 1000 cuts" - you can't really convince players to

  • While microtransactions aren't inherently evil...

    [citation needed]

  • This article fails to present any argument at all.
  • Has anyone ever enjoyed a game that included microtransactions? I tried NFS World but it was horrible. I kept thinking there was fun right around the corner, but it never happened. It was extremely...drab. And "drab" is not good for games.

    If so, please tell me the name of the game. It is my theory that there is something about the microtransaction that causes the entire game to suck. Or maybe it's that any game that is actually fun wouldn't have to rely on microtransactions to get paid.

    Microtransactio

    • Has anyone ever enjoyed a game that included microtransactions?
      ...
      Microtransactions are scummy. They're like pay toilets. They're like having a girlfriend that requires you to swipe a credit card on the promise of future nooky, but said nooky never materializes.

      It's funny to me that you should make the natural association between microtransaction games and dating. Dating IS a microtransaction game. I have money, and I've used my dating life as an experiment.

      Among women I've taken on financially impressive dates I've noticed a 500% decrease in the DUL (Duration Until Lovemaking); Whereas women I've taken on very inexpensive yet romantic dates such as picnics, sunset at the park and/or beach, starlit dinner & meteor shower (Lionid and Perseids), etc there i

    • by ifrag (984323)

      I like League of Legends, as do many other people. I'm probably somewhere around the ~1000 hour mark in-game time now. In fact that might be the first game I ever actually had a microtransaction. The "micro" part seems a bit out of place sometimes, even the skins are somewhat expensive unless on sale. I think I priced out a legendary skin to be something like $15.00 Of course that's probably the reason for using an intermediate currency like "Riot Points" instead of just putting a dollar value down.

      And

    • ...a girlfriend that requires you to swipe a credit card on the promise of future nooky...

      Uhhhh, I think you need to find a different "type" of "girlfriend"...either that, or maybe start paying afterward.

    • Why yes i played and enjoyed a tower defense game on FaceBook . It was a great game that was very challenging early onand then it turned ugly because it became unplayable without resorting to overpriced (not so)micro transactions. $200 USD to buy a superior tower,tower upgrade gems ($2.50 USD)that have a 75% failure rate(i believe they are breaking interstate gambling laws here)and workers who only last so long. it got so bogged down it took all the fun out and i never went back, A little research turned up
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        It was a great game that was very challenging early onand then it turned ugly because it became unplayable without resorting to overpriced (not so)micro transactions.

        I'm still looking for the microtransaction game that was overall a fun experience, start to finish.

  • by KreAture (105311) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @07:30AM (#36761286)
    Classic examples of microstransactions gone wrong.
    The games are free, and you can buy clothing/apparal with "credits" you earn as a soldier. However, they need to make money too, so the ithems you buy are always time limited to only a day or 3. For longer periods or permanent purchases you need to spend real money which you have exchanged for battlefunds.
    This is all fine, except that the more powerfull weapons are ONLY purchasable via battlefunds, making them inaccessible to those without a creditcard or not wanting to spend more any or money. The kids running around with dads creditcard now starts ruening the gameplay by buying the most insane weapons and prancing around like invincable nitwits. Using healing-items like they were tictacs and blasting everyone away on first shot with some insane cannon costing around $20 or more.
    With such microtransactions in play there is always the temptation to alter gameplay, prices and items to try and make more money. This is almost always viewed by the players as unfair as the items they invest in suddently become low-ranking tinkertoys to the new silly stuff they add. Oh, and you may not sell em back/trade so you can't get any money back. (Heroes is actually the worst as the purchasable weapons are a lot more powerfull than free ones.)
  • She encourages game developers to fight back

    HAHAHA! If game developers don't fight back against lousy working conditions, domineering managers, horribly long hours on measly salary, unrealistic performance expectations, and changing requirements and deadlines, they sure as hell aren't going to fight back against such a low priority as how microtransactions get abused in gameplay.

    "Dammit, they've worked me like a dog! 80 hours a week for months! Whips on my back! Low contrast monitors destroying my e

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @07:50AM (#36761458)
    "While microtransactions aren't inherently evil..."

    That's where you're wrong, right there. They ARE inherently evil. Their very premise is evil. They are nothing more than an attempt to trick users into spending more on your game than they intended to. You are trying to obfuscate the true cost of playing your game. In many games it's nothing more that a subtly veiled form of gambling that you're allowing 11year olds to participate in. It drives people, not only away from your game, but the gaming industry as a whole. Have no doubt, micro transactions will eventually be taken to an extreme we haven't even imagined yet and this subject will end up in front of congress who will hand down the first federal regulation of video games in American history... which will be to all our detriment and thanks entirely to the greed behind micro transactions.
  • If a game's financial mechanics breaks the game, then nobody will want to play it, and the money will dry up. I don't think this is very hard to explain to the money people. They understand the mechanics of investment. True, someone has to put it terms they understand: "If you put a microtransaction around that game element, we estimate it will suppress game involvement by 5%, which can reduce fees by $x per quarter."

    • by Swarley (1795754)

      That was indeed the point of the sustainable farming comparison (the article was poorly written and not at all any kind of in depth analysis or discussion so I'm not surprised people are missing things). The point of sustainable farming is that you produce less than you could in order to maintain the sustainability of your farm in the long term. You could over plant, over fertilize, clear cut forests, aggressively catch every fish you can possibly get and you'll make more money this month or this year and

    • If a game's financial mechanics breaks the game, then nobody will want to play it, and the money will dry up. I don't think this is very hard to explain to the money people. They understand the mechanics of investment.

      Exec A: We just released GrindQuest 3: The Grindening and put in all the stuff required by marketing - microtransactions, always-connected DRM, paid DLC released at the same moment as the game, everything - but nobody's paying for it! What do we tell the shareholders?
      Exec B: We could take responsibility and admit that we've made gaming into too much of a dull, expensive hassle.
      Exec A: Haha, that line always kills me Bob.
      Exec B: Yeah, it does. Just blame it on piracy like we always do.
      Exec A: Damn you,

  • smurfberries anyone?

    I think that is pretty much the main example of in-game-transactions gone bad:
    WAGON OF SMURFBERRIES$99.99
    To make it worse, they are consumable as well, so you can end up paying for them many times.

    Ugh...
    I am a developer too, and I do use in-app-purchase in a free game.
    But there is only 1 in-app-purchase and it is non-consumable: you buy it once, and it unlocks all premium levels.

  • Done right they can be used to subsidize the cost of a game. Though what i have been seeing is the bad way of using micro transactions. Now i am not a mmorpg fan but for such a game allowing a micro-transaction to give a person the resources and skills to obtain and use a(item, weapon, armor, ship) that a non-paying player has to work for for months. is like putting feces in the eyes of your normal customer base. Or in the case of a zelda like game on android making it unplayable, the game in question had i

  • Microtransactions and social gaming are independent. There are MMORPGs without microtransactions, and paid upgrades for single-player games. Putting them together allows social pressures to induce people into spending. This works only on a fraction of the population, but that fraction is big enough to be profitable.

    The same mindset can be seen in the slots department of low-end casinos. It's striking to watch a whole room of people in zombie mode, putting money into machines and pushing the buttons. Es

  • When APB came back and went free to play, I was looking forward to it, but one of the things that bothered me was that they did away with the previous (very solid) microtransaction method. Now, you can purchase temporary weapons using in game or real cash, but the kicker is that they have limited-time-offer weapons for sale, alternatives to weapons in game, no better, no worse, which are permanent. And these weapons will set you back SIXTY BUCKS of real world cash.

    Yes, it's almost enough to make you want
  • a true microtransaction would be a cent or penny and you wouldn't even worry about it... as far as I'm concerned, a dollar or a pound or a Euro is NOT a microtransaction...

    in Restaurant City, 1 CC is currently 10 pence (1 pound GB gets you ten CC)... The currrent in game prices of items which are only available for CC make you wince... when you have to do a mental conversion to find out that 1 hard to find ingredient (of which you probably need twenty or more) is 80 pence and twenty of them would be Â

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