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Etrurian emperor

Should we be worried about about micro transactions and loot boxes?

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I have always been of the belief that things like excessive DLC and micro transactions are damaging factors to their games but I never felt the urge to post about it in a alarmist fashion. I generally have the discipline to ignore those features and if they break their games I just ignore those games and let them suck far away from me. 

But now there are definitely some worrying trends going on that could push the game industry in an entirely wrong direction. The year 2017 is probably going into history as a year with amazing game after amazing game getting released but also as the start of the era of the micro transaction. 

- Micro transactions have gone from controversial to a favored pet project of publishers. This year it became hard to point at a game made by the big AAA publishers and spot a game that doesn't have microtransactions. 

- Microtransactions have gone from being customization options to affecting gameplay. In Overwatch its just silly costumes but these days they affect the core game in ways that are ''play to win''. Think about Shadow of war tying its Orcs, probably its main feature into microtransactions or the entirety of Star wars battlefront. In Battlefront you may feel yourself pressured to pay more because if you don't you will be facing players that did pay for having advantages. Its already suspicious that a single player game like Shadow of war went with Micro transactions but if you don't pay into those loot boxes your end game will be an uncomfortably long grinding sessions. 

-Lootboxes being randomized. Publishers are going full in on lootboxes and these things are incredibly inconvenient. You can't use microtransactions to pay for something you want. You now use them to pay for the extremely low chance of possibly getting something you want while the chance of you getting crap is far more likely. 

These additions have all proven themselves to be lucrative despite gamer whining so they will be here to stay. The end result may be games actively made into worse experiences so we can pay for benefits that get turned increasingly randomized to make us pay for more and more. 

Any interesting thought on this?

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I don't think that's a universal factor as much of one that applies more to certain videogame genres and publishers. I wouldn't worry about it as a general game thing - plus it's cleraly working and making these companies money. There are still plenty of games where these factors you speak of don't come into play.

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Most of Shadow of War's microtransactions don't give any significant advantages compared to a player who actually went through the game and did sidequests, rewards and pick up loots.  I know this as I have the game myself and the grind doesn't even take long. Most of the grind comes if you're rushing through the story but if you do the sidequests then it doesn't take long at all to beat the game to get the true ending you want.  If you just play main game normally and do a couple of sidequests you gain a significant amount of rewards to the point that you don't even need to grind at all.  Most of the people who are complaining about the microtransaction in this game are complaining over nothing or just terrible at the game which are the reviewers.  I've been enjoying the entire game as a whole without ever having to touch the microtransactions or lootbox system even once.

Edited by kingddd

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The thing is, I don't mind DLC, microtransactions, or even lootboxes.  I think there are examples of all of them that are done fairly well.

- There are a lot of examples of post-production DLC expansions that are really good.  While The Elder Scrolls has a sometimes checkered past with this (Horse Armor, anyone?), you can't deny they've also made some rich and expansive DLC, such as the Shivering Isles, Dragonborn, or Dawnguard.

- GTA Online did a really good job of finding a way to insert microtransactions without impeding the balance of the game; make leveling/experience separate from money, and only have your microtransactions boost the latter instead of the former.  Because you can't unlock higher leveled gear with just money, this ensures that folks won't get too far ahead no matter how much money they acquire.  And as a result of the money they earn from Shark Cards, they're able to release DLC for free for everyone to enjoy.

- Overwatch kept lootboxes simple; it's only to acquire cosmetic items.  They don't impact gameplay at all, so you'll never get ahead by getting lucky with your gambling.

 

But right now, there's trouble brewing under the surface, and it most certainly is not good.  Gameplay affecting lootboxes are bad enough, but I'm really concerned about that one patent for a matchmaking system that would pair P2W players with F2P players.  That is just straight up unbalancing the game intentionally to force people into buying DLC/microtransactions and that is probably the best way to guarantee customer distrust.  I hope Ubisoft (or whoever it was; I forget) is the only company that'll use it, and I hope that it crashes and burns.  Same with the gameplay affecting lootboxes.  Though for the latter, since they're attached to otherwise genuinely good games, I have my doubts that it will fail.

8 minutes ago, Umbran Darros 3 said:

I don't think that's a universal factor as much of one that applies more to certain videogame genres and publishers. I wouldn't worry about it as a general game thing - plus it's cleraly working and making these companies money. There are still plenty of games where these factors you speak of don't come into play.

I hope it stays that way, and that the majority of VG companies/publishers opt to go for consumer trust over maximum profit.  I think the former is much better in the long run than the latter, even from a business standpoint.

But if these experiments with extra paid content prove to be successful, it could encourage more publishers to adopt these practices themselves.  It isn't a matter of what the situation is right now, but how it could turn out.  And also how it's handled.

And regardless, it might be exclusive to a few genres and publishers, but you think about how many people subscribe to these games that have these elements...  It still affects a lot of people.  That could be bad later down the line for the industry in general.  Potentially even an industry killer in the worst of circumstances, though it'd take a lot to actually kill the gaming industry, so this is unlikely.

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Sometimes microtransactions aren't bad when it doesn't affect gameplay.

So going off battlefront, yes BF1 did do that. However, EA is changing how they're doing lootcrates in BF2. So you can buy the lootcrates and say unlock a legendary item. However you cannot use that item until you are the right level. So they make you earn the right to use it, and every other player can earn it too. You get lootcrates for free as well by completing challenges, and leveling up. Additionally people who have gotten all the tiers of abilities in previous alpha's/beta's say the difference isn't exactly there between tiers. Faster cooldown is one, maybe an extra grenade or timer extension on abilities. Which may give you an advantage over 1-2 players but not the entire enemy team for the entire game. Also you can level up abilities up to legendary tier, so people who play free can still get those items by working towards them. EA has confirmed this due to a lot of hate during the open beta.

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I'm surprised that lootboxes of all things prove to be so lucrative. I can't imagine paying money for the mere chance that I get something that I want. I suppose most of the profits must come from relatively few people who dump thousands of dollars into these slot machines.

Either way, this is an utterly awful trend. The profits that come from microtransactions mean that games will be specifically designed to milk what the industries calls"whales" as much as possible. And with so many people willing to play devil's advocate for these business practices, they have little reason to slow down with this.

And if nothing else, it really shouldn't be a controversial opinion to say that if you pay like 60 bucks for a game then the game shouldn't constantly ask for even more cash.

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I'm completely fine with DLC, despite often not purchasing that much myself. It's an excellent way to let players pay for what they really want out of a game. It also acts like a sliding scale for total expenditure. There are all sorts of non-gaming parallels: when I go to a restaurant I can choose whether to buy a drink, appetiser, and/or desert. If I buy a computer, I can choose if I want to buy a high-end video card or extra RAM/disc space. I view DLC as a similarly sensible way to customize one's purchase.

The one exception is that I'm not happy with DLC/in-game purchases dictating success in a multiplayer game; it pretty much completely cheapens it as a fair game in that case.


That said, I think it's tacky to essentially advertise or push purchases in the middle of a game, and micotransactions often veer into that territory. Lootboxes and gacha mechanics are a particluarly egregious case because they're basically a form of gambling, and allow game devs to exploit addictive gambling personalities. I'm not really sure what the best solution to them is though.

25 minutes ago, BrightBow said:

And with so many people willing to play devil's advocate for these business practices, they have little reason to slow down with this.

It has little to nothing to do with people playing devil's advocate, and everything to do with the gamers who oppose these practices not putting their money where their mouth is. If you whine about a practice being bad and then go buy the game (or worse, participate in the microtransaction processes you decry) anyway, you accomplish the exact opposite of your stated goal. Talk is cheap, all the moreso when protected by the anonymity of the internet.

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I like the free system Blizzard has in terms of lootboxes. Get a loot box which can randomly give you something neat, but most likely has crap. I like it much more than having to actually spend money for skins and shit. Although the option to buy the skins and neglect the random chance would be really nice.

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28 minutes ago, Dark Holy Elf said:

It has little to nothing to do with people playing devil's advocate, and everything to do with the gamers who oppose these practices not putting their money where their mouth is. If you whine about a practice being bad and then go buy the game (or worse, participate in the microtransaction processes you decry) anyway, you accomplish the exact opposite of your stated goal. Talk is cheap, all the moreso when protected by the anonymity of the internet.

This whole "vote with your wallet" rhetoric is even more displaced here then it usually is.The vast majority of the profits from these companies comes from a minuscule subset of players who spend thousands of dollars on a single game. They make their games with the specific purpose of milking these people. Which means that these companies do not care about the money of small fish like myself who only pay 60 bucks once.

Edited by BrightBow

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The biggest problem for me is that from the develoer standpoint, the new approach to DLC is so superior to what expansions used to represent that we rarely get to see them in the way they used to exist.

I think specifically of Roller Coaster Tycoon, Age of Empires 2, Starcraft and Mechwarrior. 4

In the case of RCT, the two expansions do not function/install  alone, but are nevertheless more meaty than the base game: vanilla=21 scenarios, Corkscrew Follies=30 scenarios, Loopy Landcapes=25 scenarios. Not only that, the majorty of the new scenarios easily topped the original in both creativity and difficulty.

Similiarly with Age of Empires compared to Age of Empires Rome, or Mechwarrior to Mechwarrior 4 Mercenaries, Starcraft to Brood War. Their campaigns were longer, used better mechanics, and rewarded players for fully immersing yourself in the original game in preparation for them. I don't really want to cherry pick, but modern DLC (either indiviual or combining multiple small DLC packets) when sold at the same price as the main game, is often only has 3ish map/scenario packs of 3 maps each, and maybe as many new mechanics/charathers.which are less important anyway. In the very best scenarios, a modern  expansion module might be a 50% increase over the original content, but it is a far cry from getting a 80% to over 100% boost in content PER expansion that you could see in early 2000s video games. It is also completely absurd that said "modern expansion" might be in concurrent d3velop as the main game. I would prefer something developed by people after they've learned from their base game... not that was developed while they were at the same (presumably) lower level of pracitce/inexperience as when they developed the initial game. I also believe that having to develop the entire new module at once helps ensure the quality is high as opposed to a gradual release. of thing after thing. 

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I'm not really a fan of lootboxes, especially for games that aren't already free - it just feels like gambling, and is even worse and more alarming when the games are marketed towards children.

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Loot boxes worry me even if the ESRB makes an apt point: Loot boxes are like card packs in a TCG. But I don't want online multiplayer games to be competitive in the same way TCGs are. Who would?

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DLC: Sometimes (esp. with Nintendo and indies) it's additional content, an expansion for those who really love the game. But just as often (esp. with AAA publishers), it's content that was cut intentionally for more dough. I have a fairly strict "No DLC" policy, which is great because most of it isn't worthwhile anyway.

Microtransactions: Studies have shown that, given many small purchases, consumers will spend more money than a single purchase of the exact same content. In other words, and please don't be offended, but if you buy microtransactions, you're a dumbass! :D:

Loot boxes: Studies have shown that, when purchasing a loot box, the exact same brain areas light up as when you pull the lever on a slot machine. Loot boxes are gambling, even if the law doesn't state it yet. Any game with loot box or "gacha" mechanics has my open contempt.

(BTW, the things I said about microtransactions and loot boxes heavily apply to CCG "booster packs" as well.)

The video "HyperNormalisation and Gaming" by Paul William Fassett examines the evolution of monetization practices through the 2016 documentary HyperNormalisation. I recommend watching the whole video, but if not you can skip to 10:38 for the part about games.

Edited by Zera

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It's better to go about this situation on a case-by-case basis. Microtransactions have been quite the plague on the games industry given how companies like EA, Warner Bros, and Activision adore them and have been utilizing them for their games for quite some time now. Star Wars Battlefront, (The bad ones) Shadow of War, and Call of Duty are all games that have been more of less suffering thanks to these particular practices. (Seriously, you can't throw Supply Drops in Call of Duty 4, make World War 2's matchmaking base itself off of microtransactions, and NOT piss people off, let alone loot box Shadow of War or Star Wars Battlefront up.) The only times I could ever really pardon microtransactions and loot boxes are in free-to-play games. However, on that same vein, there could exist games like Club Penguin Island that, while being free, you might as well call pay to play because you pretty much can't do jack unless you pay up. There are also rather...questionable microtransactions, like the premium ammo in World of Tanks. Microtransactions that only affect cosmetics tend to be the place where it gets rather defensive. With the exact same dialogues ready for you every time you wanna bash microtransactions in a premium game.

"Oh, it's just cosmetic, you don't have to buy it."

Oh, it's optional, you don't have to buy it."

Mark these words.

Give publishers an inch, and they'll take a ten mile hike, to your wallets. So they can they steal your money. Like they always do.

Yes, you can just easily decide not to buy the microtransactions and all that jazz, however publishers can also just as easily choose to, you know, not put microtransactions in their premium games. That's a thing that can happen. It just doesn't happen because they, you know, adore the stuff. I tend to see the "AAA" publishers as Two-Bit Nergals. Their journey started out with good intentions, but in the end, they were seduced by not power, but the chance of making all the money, making some money instead of all it is a failure to them, just ask all the poor unfortunate souls who now have to find work elsewhere thanks to EA's killing off of Visceral, a studio that was once famed for creating Dead Space. Either them, or really anyone who worked at a game company EA killed. (Seriously, EA is kind of a serial killer at this point.)

So closing statements. Keep a close eye on what's going on with them microtransactions, and don't sign a contract with EA, that one may be less relevant to the topic, despite EA's contribution to microtransactions, but still. Just don't.

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The new NBA 2K game should be startling sure its just EA and a sports game but I wouldn't doubt other companies taking the same approach lets hope not.

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