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The rise of microtransactions in gaming

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 20:02

image microtransactions video games

Photo by Craig Towsley/ Prospectus News

Gamers have become torn between the pros and cons of microtransactions in video games.

Microtransactions in video games are payments for digital content that has to be unlocked or isn’t already available to the gamer. They are most common in games that are considered free-to-play, but they have shown up more recently in full priced games.

Microtransactions on console games were not common until the beginning of the current console generation. It might not be the first example of it, but the most infamous use of microtransactions happened early in the console generation with Bethesda Softworks charging 200 Microsoft points so players could access horse armor in “Elder Scrolls 4.”

These payments have been most common in games that are otherwise free. Some notable examples are online games like RuneScape which is a free-to-play, massively multiplayer, online, role-playing game. It is mostly free but players can pay real money to unlock additional content in.

When it comes to free-to-play games, microtransactions aren’t a big deal. The company has to make money and if it’s not on selling the disk, then they implement extra content that must be bought to use.

Games like Team Fortress 2, a game that used to be paid for, but went free-to-play a few years back, seemed to thrive on microtransactions. People even pay to unlock hats in the game which has become a joke within the industry.

Players also pay to unlock better weapons that are possible to acquire in game without paying, but are rare and hard to get.

There are different opinions on microtransaction. “It’s a good business model, but it’s not fair to people like me who can’t afford it,” said Anat Bartov, a general studies student. “I have stopped playing games because it’s too hard to continue without having the money to pay for the bonuses in games.”

Most, if not all, of the games available to play on Facebook have microtransactions built in one way or another.

For example, the Facebook port of You Don’t Know Jack has a limited amount of plays and power-ups given to the player per day. After that a player has to pay.

The most popular games on Facebook have microtransactions built into them, whether it’s Farmville, Words with Friends or You Don’t Know Jack. The option is always there and it’s always for additional content.

Opinions about microtransactions on Facebook games vary. General studies student Rachel Hodge said, “I’m more tolerant of Facebook games because they’ll allow offers and videos that’ll allow the players to earn points without paying for them.”

Media Arts and Production major Krys Pruitt doesn’t quite agree.

“I think that the Facebook apps/games that have this feature are ridiculous because Facebook is not designed to be a for-profit avenue for video game companies,” Pruitt explained. “Most of these apps are cheaply made and designed, so in my opinion, paying for content on these is more or less stupid.”

What’s become more prevalent in the industry now is charging for additional content on full priced games. The industry expects gamers to pull out money to buy the disk and then shovel out more for additional content.

Whether its $15 map packs in games such as Call of Duty or a yearly subscription to a shooter game to get early access and special guns, it’s becoming more common that $60 is no longer the last payment to play a game.

It’s not just for additional content that doesn’t come on the disk. Dead Space 3 has the option to pay for resources that are acquirable in the game or items that are built in the game. These aren’t additions to the game, but it gives the player an additional edge if they pay for it.

While it doesn’t look as if microtransactions are going away, especially with future of games becoming more digital, players can still vote with their wallet if they want these things to stop.

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