Stephen Fisher - Designer and Developer Stephen Fisher - Designer and Developer

Micro-transactions – Freedom of Wallet OR Money Hook #NO2PAY2PLAY

‘A fool and his money are easily parted’ or rather content should equal value

There was a time unbelievably whereby when people paid for a game they got a game… crazy I know. The temptation to sell ‘unfinished’ games or to strap-on extra content to wring out extra money is one that fills me as a gaming student with dread. However out there are dragons, beasts with small fangs acting all innocent and free sucking money out of people’s wallets and restricting game playtime. These dragons call themselves micro transactional games.

Angry Birds GO! FYS
Angry Birds GO! Silly Money

So far these foul demons plague mainly the mobile casual game market locking down actions unless you pay out, okay these are often tiny amounts for things that can be earnt like gems over extended play time but more often than not it always boils down to a point where in order to continue money is needed to progress. This week thanks to Sean Oxspring I was made aware of Angry Birds Go! The latest Rovio title which themselves are no strangers to the idea of micro payments however there is a vehicle in Go! That costs as much as a full priced release game at £35. £35 for a vehicle in a mobile game is to be frank stupidly priced, and yes these practices exist in other games including some triple A titles in the form of DLC but for a mobile casual game to charge this AND get away with it is staggering. Locking players out of games means they are not playing unless paying and annoyingly people are which encourages more and more to follow suite distributing the games for free but charging increasing amounts for ‘add-ons’ and unlocks which to be frank DO NOT always add to game play rather simply allow you to progress whereby naturally skill is required.

Edit: Apparently there is an option to spend £70 on Gems and more cars in Go! for similar prices.

It is arguable however, that on the other side micro transactions IF handled correctly can be a positive for the gaming industry as it gives players the freedom of wallet i.e. they can purchase what they want in order to progress. Which as long as initial content is substantial enough is not really an issue the only current barrier is how much to charge and is it really worth the money to bypass waiting. You cannot treat customers as cash cows for development and prolonging game play however also ultimately it is down to the individual as to what they do with their money as such I only suggest following my advice on titles you believe are not offering value for money.

My personal advice is these practices need to stop before even more stupid charges can amount, paying encourages others to do the same with initial games getting smaller and smaller and more reliance on paying for a game that often costs more than it would if they just released it for a charge only. Think of it this way a typical game on Goggle Play is about £2.99, a free to play game such as Castle Clash is free. HOWEVER in order to get as much content and game play time out of it as a regular £2.99 game you often need to either invest 1 week of real world waiting time OR spend upwards of £3.99 which gets you about 3 heroes, which in order to level often means buying more gems and to be honest this is a fairly low cost example. Basically only pay IF you can honestly say it’s worthwhile but to stop more companies doing this and thinking it is alright to do so we need to act with our wallets NOW else it WILL spread to consoles and more games, #NO2PAY2PLAY.

I could go on further and if you have, any good examples please post below and I will conduct more research and revisit this topic in greater depth with the goal to get some industry feedback into why this practice is good or bad as a whole.