Microtransactions Can’t Be Trusted
I’ve always been slightly worried about microtransactions in MMORPGs and it seems like as more and more developers undertake them, the more my fears are coming to fruition. Over the last few years there’s been an increasing trend for games companies to charge for “extras” and whilst some seem perfectly reasonable, some come across as utterly ridiculous. As Muckbeast highlighted (thanks to Tobold for the link), Cryptic have decided to charge for character respecs in Champions Online via their online store and apparently this highly necessary functionality comes with a hefty price tag of $12.99.
It seems to many that Cryptic have crossed the line with this latest move and have begun to exploit the principles behind microtransactions. I guess in their purest form, microtransactions are about freeing the player from subscription fees whilst still enabling the developer to earn a fair reward. They should be additional extras, non-essential, that are a bit of fluff, flexibility or enjoyment to the game without effecting the balance of those who choose not to indulge in them. However, I think they are fundamentally flawed and all that’s happened is that we’ve opened up a new gateway for games companies to exploit the player.
I don’t have anything against the idea of microtransactions but I do believe that they are a naive concept that can’t operate in our current, greedy world. The main issue is that there’s no control or restriction over what can constitute a pay-for-item or feature. Character transfers? Name change? Race change? New items? New abilities? It’s a slippery slope and, as Crytpic have demonstrated, one that MMORPG companies are wiling to go down.
I know that we can’t judge the entire concept by one poor, miscalculated implementation but I guess I’m just too cynical to believe that this is the last sort of thing we’ll see like this. I bet that before the next 12 months have passed, we’ll be seeing more and more basic and required features become purchasable only. Subscription models will still exist and yet the developers will be finding new and innovative ways to make us part with our cash. And it won’t be for useful content either, but for highly useful or necessary items and rewards.