Microtransactions

A growing trend whether gamers want it to be or not!

It doesn’t matter what industry you work in or generally follow, you’re always bound to come across controversial decisions that have an impact on those involved be they consumer or business related. The entertainment industry is one such that often has its divisive ideas exposed to the public more than any.

So what is it the gaming world is all focused on at the moment then? The topic of loot boxes and microtransactions may be something you’re all familiar with by now, every new week bringing with it a fresh batch of news stories bannering how “the days of single player games are over” or key influencers showing off their latest pulls from a pack of cards in FIFA 18. It’s a topic that has divided the gaming world in some truly interesting and concerning ways ripe with content deep enough to fill a dissertation let alone a short blog piece.
Where does the negativity come from though? Let’s take a look at just one avenue – value. While many are happy for free games to make their money from  loot boxes or other microtransactions (you try a game, it costs you nothing and if players like it they are happy to throw the developer a little cash for extra content), it’s a totally different story when talking a full priced title. Seeing single player experiences in particular lock away content via crates or chests has always been met with backlash from gamers. Even online multiplayer titles can’t avoid this heat especially when dealing with series’ that never had these sorts of features in the past. To some it can give the impression you are not getting the full experience unless you pay for these extras.
Or you have the addiction angle. The nature of loot boxes can pander to a person’s sense of excitement in a way some see as similar to gambling. It’s not too dissimilar to opening packs of trading cards as a kid in the hope of a rare shiny. Only now you can keep buying more at the easy click of a button. Pay a little bit of extra cash and you may stand a chance of getting that rare outfit, souped-up gun or quality footballer you’ve had your eye on. It’s this promise of better items that keep gamers paying.
Whether you like to believe loot boxes have a negative impact or not, you can’t ignore the numbers. EA earlier in the year posted sales of $800 million for its Ultimate Team business alone, a figure up 20% year-on-year. Ubisoft meanwhile have announced the revenue generated from microtransactions has gone on to surpass that of digital game sales. Publisher Take Two have also revealed impressive figures, a massive 42% of their total bookings being thanks to what they like to call “recurrent consumer spending” or microtransactions to me and you. For all the bad press and supposed public disapproval microtransactions and extra content seem to get, the sales figures appear to tell a very different story. Looking at a list of products with the highest share of PR for 2017 reveals a line-up featuring numerous games where microtransactions are included. Whether the press is good or bad, their strong presence cannot be ignored making headlines all year round. Videos litter the internet of gamers recording their latest loot box openings – everything from FIFA Ultimate Team to Overwatch. Whatsmore these videos are among some of the most popular with views in the millions. While PR may open your eyes to a world of haters, social media appears to offer the other side, Tweeters and posters having no problem with paying for more content for a game they love.
This isn’t the first time a practice within the industry has caused such a stir though. Remember on-disc DLC? How about the increase in season passes with many announced before the game even launches? Or how about when publishers started introducing online passes as a means to combat the pre-owned market? Bottom line is this isn’t the first controversial practice in gaming and it won’t be the last. Whatever you’re opinion of microtransactions, fact of the matter is they’re here to stay. With such huge revenue being generated from this sort of content it’s hard to see why a company would believe gamers don’t want it. Well implemented or not, the demand is clearly there and until that disappears we’ll keep seeing loot boxes, chests and all forms of microtransactions for years to come.