The use of microtransactions in video games has exploded in recent years. Gone are the days when players purchased a game and that was the only financial commitment they were obliged to make. Now, with the development of online connectivity proving to be a game-changer, many video games require players to purchase in-game content via microtransactions to get weapons or facilitate the completion of challenges.
These microtransactions are an important revenue stream for free-to-play games, such as Fortnite, but major game franchises have also adopted them, such as the FIFA video game series. The attraction of earning regular revenue from microtransactions is obvious. Activision Blizzard, the company behind games such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Warzone, reported astonishing earnings of $1.2 billion in microtransactions covering just three months from July to September 2021. As a whole, the video game industry netted revenue of $152.1 billion in 2019, and microtransactions played an integral role in this.
Microtransactions have transformed the gaming market. The FIFA gaming franchise, for example, features a FIFA Ultimate Team mode. While players can earn points to buy their soccer heroes by playing the game, there is also a shortcut option by using real money to purchase FUT Packs. However, FUT Packs are randomized, so there is no guarantee you will get the players you want.
And in the wrestling game WWE 2K22, for example, players must purchase wrestlers such as The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin in order to unlock them.
Concerns about shelf-life
Another concern for gamers is that many titles have a short shelf-life, which adds additional costs. The Call of Duty game series, in the same way as the FIFA franchise, releases a new title every year. The latest being Call of Duty: Vanguard, which was released in 2021. Meanwhile, Grand Theft Auto Online provides much better value to players with regular free updates and the opportunity to earn points by completing challenges. Equally, players are not obliged to buy a new version of the title every year.
Another part of the entertainment industry has adopted the importance of offering value. Online casinos offer customers more value for money through the no deposit bonus casino, which enables players to test online casino games for free. The positive competition among providers has clearly benefitted the customer, as players are given incentives to use a particular casino. When services like this act as a platform, it’s possible for providers to add bonuses across various titles to bring new players in.
The history of microtransactions
Microtransactions date back to 1990 with the release of the video game Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone, but the prevalence of pay-to-win games has exploded over the past decade.
But for many players, buying success has taken the reward away from some games as they are no longer required to complete challenges to access unlockables. This has led to the phenomenon being described as pay-to-win. However, there are still games that do not always allow players to unlock rewards by paying for them. Grand Theft Auto 5, for example, rewards players who complete 100% of the story mode with access to a mission entitled The Last One, involving the hunt for a Sasquatch. The twist to the story was that Bigfoot turned out to be just a man in a suit.
The fear microtransactions could become the norm
Twitch streamer Asmongold has expressed fears about the prevalence of microtransactions: “I think pay to win games is the future. I think that they are, and I think more games will become pay to win. This is just what’s going to happen. I think that this is just what’s going to happen. Will there always be games like Elden Ring? Yes, but it’s like entropy, right? It will become fewer and farther between.”
Meanwhile, we are seeing a backlash against microtransactions with Avalanche Software, the developer of Hogwarts Legacy, reassuring fans that the Harry Potter-inspired game will not feature microtransactions.
It is difficult to avoid microtransactions in the gaming industry, and these in-game payments are here to stay. Pay-to-win is a lucrative earner for gaming companies, but players still have the opportunity to achieve unlockables in the traditional way in certain games as the backlash against microtransactions gathers pace.