Forget Microtransactions, It's Time To Introduce The "Macro-transaction"
I think we are probably all armchair-developers to some degree. A game comes out and we wonder why the developer didn't do something a different way; it surely would've been a better product and gaming experience if they would've just tweaked the camera a little, or made the controls a tad tighter.
And I think some of us have feelings about micro-transactions. They ruined mobile gaming. They ruined console gaming. They ruined all of gaming. They're great and I love them.
Going further still, some of us probably combine these two ideas: this game would be better if people couldn't buy their way to a better load-out; the developer should NOT be charging us to add this.
Well, a long-dormant idea I've had -- born from the launch of the first iteration of Xbox Live in 2002 -- has recently sprung to mind, and I'm kind of surprised it still isn't a thing that has come into fruition. I didn't have a term for it at the time, but 13 years later, I guess I'll call it a "macro-transaction."
Recently, Apple released the fourth-generation of its popular steaming box, the Apple TV. In The Verge review, editor Nilay Patel writes:
But I am going to be 100 percent crazy honest with you: the single most interesting app in the Apple TV App Store right now is the QVC app.
The QVC app is the only app that really and truly blends television with interactivity: it shows you a live feed of QVC, and it overlays the familiar information box on the left side of the screen with a buy button. So you’re watching the regular QVC TV channel, and you can just click to buy, or swipe down to see more photos of the item and related items while the video keeps playing.
This reminded me somewhat of my original, sky-high idea of what a service like Xbox Live, in the hands of an equally idealistic (entrepreneurial?) developer, could have provided an individual.
As it stands, one might download or purchase a game, and it might be content-complete (meaning you have the ultimate version of what the game should be, minus any bug patches or software updates that might come down the line). But as has been the case more and more, one can pay to add more content. It could be story-based, or it could be extra in-game junk like weapons, costumes, skins, or playtime/turns (as is the case with most "free-to-play" titles). For some, these "micro-transactions" are a-okay. For others, it's just the developer trying to nickel-and-dime the user to make more money. Whichever side of that fence you sit on is fine, and sound arguments could be made for either, but that's besides my point.
Now, imagine you're playing a game like Tony Hawk Pro-Skater. Let's assume it's actually a good game and not a piece of garbage, you just unlocked a new character, and that character is using an awesome deck. What if you could hit a button-or-three, buy the same deck, and have it delivered to your door in just a few days?
Or maybe you're hitting the links in the latest version of Rory McElroy's PGA Tour, and you have the ability to buy new in-game gear at the Pro Shop and you're thinking, "That's something I'd actually really like to wear when I'm golfing for real!" Again, a few button taps and you've purchased it in-game, but by the time the weekend rolls around, you're wearing it to your charity golf meet.
These are just a few examples, of course, and clearly you wouldn't be like, "I just unlocked a sweet 50x scope in Rainbow Six: Siege that would be great to have on my semi-automatic...!" and proceed to order a new scope for a gun that's probably illegal to own, but there are other uses for this as well.
Maybe you, like me, are really into rhythm games and buy new tracks when they become available. I know I've spent more than I should have to play through more songs in Rock Band, but if downloading new songs to play in-game meant I'd get a digital copy to add to my real-world iTunes library, I likely would've spent even more.
As the technology behind these games and services has advanced, so too has the ease by which a developer could add the macro-transaction to their title, enabling them to make money off of it while still providing a fair price for the item. A game could have an Amazon link next to the thing in question, offering Amazon's usually great pricing/delivery to the end user, but Amazon's affiliate program would give a kickback to the developer. Win-Win, right?
Maybe this is the exact thing I'd love to see in a game that is the total opposite of what a more hardcore gamer would like. Given most gamers feelings toward micro-transactions, though, maybe it's finally high-time for the macro-transaction to see the light of day.