Microtransactions: It's a word that makes most gamers cringe. It's one that puts a bad taste in the mouth, mainly because gaming is already an expensive hobby without gamers being nickeled and dimed after a game is already purchased. However, not all microtransactions are evil. There are some that exist to enhance an already great game for hardcore players. For microtransactions to be considered okay, though, the game they’re a part of must first fit into the following four categories:
The Game Must Be Complete In The First Place
Any microtransaction in a game that has a short campaign is a slap in the face to any gamer. When purchasing a game, players want to get their money's worth. No one wants to pay $60 for a short game with a $20-50 season pass and then find out that there are microtransactions on top of that. Games that focus on the multiplayer experience, and not the campaign or story content, can fall into this category. Sure, they can be fun to play, but when one looks at the actual content, the microtransactions are a bit insulting. Games like Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (actually, many of the Call of Duty titles) fall into this category. They are a blast to play, but the microtransactions feel like a bit too much for games that concentrate mostly on a handful of maps.
The Game Must Be Working Properly At Launch
Another issue with games that have been coming out recenly is the fact that some of them are broken at launch, but still have microtransactions. It's as if the developer put more thought into how to get extra money from gamers than into actually making the initial game stable in the first place. Assassin's Creed: Unity was like that, and it's infuriating. Get your game working first before trying to figure out ways to make extra money.
The Microtransactions Should Not Give Another Player An Unfair Advantage
Gaming should not be about which player has the most money to spend on microtransactions to help boost his or her stats, weapons, or other gameplay aspect. It can become frustrating for players who just want to play the game. Dead Space 3 was pretty bad because the microtransactions influenced the crafting system. Players could pay for extra resources in order to avoid grinding for materials. That's just for a single-player game, though. In Halo 5, players can purchase REQ packs that can give out weapon and armor upgrades that can be used in the Warzone mode. Sure, players can earn REQ packs the old-fashioned way, but it feels pretty cheap that people can get them just by paying.
There Is No Free-To-Play Bait And Switch
Although some free-to-play games sound great, in order to play many of them, gamers may have to sink in more money than if they were to buy it like a regular game. Games like Warframe are amazing, but unless a player shells out some cash, it will take forever to build a decent suit. It can be done, but a player must be prepared to spend a lot of time. Mobile-oriented games like Clash of Clans and Game of War are just as bad, if not worse. Yes, developers have to make money on their games, but at this point people are paying more for these supposedly free games than they would have if they simply had the option to buy the game for an upfront rate to begin with.
With all of these poor examples, are there actually examples of good microtranactions? Yes, there are. Any microtransaction that is cosmetic in nature, and does not violate the previous four pillars, is just fine. These are geared more towards fun enhancements than actual game play. They allow the die-hard fans of the games to really get into their favorite franchise without affecting the casual players or players who do not want to spend any more money.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited does a great job of this. Since there isn't a subscription to the game anymore and there is a ton of content, the Crown Store is a fun way to really immerse oneself in the game. Most of the items that can be purchased are cosmetic in nature only: different horses, vanity pets, and armor skins. There are a few items that can save time, like purchasing a mount upgrade that will make it faster, but this does not affect combat, and it especially does not affect PVP gameplay.
The Sims 3 was another game that did microtransactions right. The base game itself was full and had hundreds of hours of play time without any of the expansions (unlike Sims 4). The Sims 3 Store was a brilliant move because it allowed people who were really into the game to purchase more items, but it was also completely optional for players who wanted nothing to do with it since the items were cosmetic in nature. There were a few extra worlds in the mix, but Maxis actually gave away some freebies as well. The Sims 3 Store can technically be accessed in game, however, it can also be completely hidden so that players who want nothing to do with it don’t even have to think about its existence.
Unfortunately, there are only a handful of “good” microtransactions. A lot of them are quite obnoxious to gamers because they are unfair or are just a plain rip-off. However, if more developers put out a good game to begin with and used microtransactions as cosmetic enhancements only, maybe microtransactions would not be considered so evil after all.