Nov 09th 2017

Microtransactions; the unstoppable wave of virtual money making

It seems like for many people 2017 has been the year of the microtransaction. They seem to be in more and more games, and with the bad connotation they seem to get it's no wonder a lot of companies opt to use other words when talking about them in their games. Though even with the fairly vocal backlash from the public, they seem to be very profitable, and it looks like at least some developers see that they're not the same as others.
In an interview with Nathan Grayson at Kotaku, Jeff Kaplan, the Overwatch game director, was asked about the loot boxes in Overwatch. Overall Kaplan's message seemed to surmise to three points, "...on the big spectrum of loot boxes between 'really good' and 'really evil,' I'd like to think we're more on that 'really good' side..." He also believed that since the loot boxes are cosmetic, and the outfits inside can be obtained outside of loot boxes (albeit some can only be obtained in limited time events), that it had a leg up in morality on other similar systems that offer rewards that directly influence gameplay somehow. Lastly he was sure to state that they try to listen to their fans, and have drastically changed systems before. He believes loot boxes will stay in Overwatch forever, but "would never take anything off the table."

Take-Two Interactive recently had a conference call with their investors to assure them on the future of the company. The CEO and chairman Strauss Zelnick, has seen video games change from "...a big chunky opportunity to engage for tens of hours, or perhaps a hundred hours. That has turned into ongoing engagement. Day after day, week after week." So they are working their money making strategy around that with their word for microtransactions, "recurrent consumer spending opportunities." In the call they explained that they will always have some form of this in all of their games from here on, even if it isn't always an online or virtual currency.

Ubisoft also released its quarterly earnings, and a little over half of their digital revenue from games was from "player recurring investment." They've been making hundreds of millions more year after year, and microtransactions, or "player recurring investment" has become a large part of their digital market. Although, they do include DLCs/season passes, subscriptions and advertising in this so it isn't all just in game items and loot boxes.

 Love them or hate them, it looks like microtransactions are here to stay. They make a lot of money for companies, and whether you want to argue if all of that money is made ethically or not, the outcome is what a lot of these companies are looking out. Looking just at Ubisoft, making an 83% increase in sales year over year with microtransactions making up a decent chunk of that is a lot of money.

It's a personal subject for a lot of people, and there are definitely a lot of companies that abuse it, but do you think microtransactions can be done right, or is it too late for them now? Should they be completely done away with, or just better moderated by a governing body? Maybe you're somewhere in the middle? I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. You can reach me on Twitter @spencerhavens.