two gaming controllers in front of a tv

Why are Microtransactions so Evil?

two gaming controllers in front of a tv

Why are Microtransactions so Evil?

Caleb Durland December 8, 2018

Technology grows at a fast rate every day. A lot of things benefit from this, but sometimes it can be negative. The video game industry has been on a raging climb as of late, becoming one of the world’s biggest industries. NewZoo, the global leader in games and eSports analytics who has worked with Google and several other big companies,  predicts that “2.3 billion gamers across the globe will spend $137.9 billion on games in 2018”. One of the tactics that video games are using to bring in revenue are microtransactions. Microtransactions have swept into the video game industry like a storm. It’s a new concept that many people aren’t familiar with yet, so what are microtransactions? According to Newtex “A microtransaction is a business model where users can purchase virtual items for small amounts of money”. These in-game purchases have appeared in several free to download games in the past, but are now being utilized in games that cost $60 up front. Microtransactions have been designed to make users feel like they need to buy them and children are a heavy part of the gaming industries’ users. This can become a problem.

Video games are huge. Some people do not understand this yet, but video games are becoming bigger than the movie industry. Video games’ projected 138 billion dollar industry ranks extremely well against its competition in the entertainment industry as the film industry brought in just 43 billion dollars in 2017. The gaming industry does not show any signs of slowing down as it has been on a rapid increase for several years because of the amount of people that are playing video games. For example, in 2017, over 2.2 billion people played video games. Kids also make up a decent sized portion of those people because 91 percent of kids today have played video games. That is an astonishing number and should really be taken into consideration when video games are being designed. I am going to school to design technology like website and apps. Many of my professors preach that when we are designing, we have to keep our users in mind while designing our products. Therefore, these video game designers know well that children will be playing their games because they make up a big portion of their audience.

Mobile games are quickly becoming a huge part of the gaming industry because of smartphones and the amount of time that people spend on their devices. NewZoo states that “In total, mobile revenues will grow +25.5% year on year to reach $70.3 billion. This means that for the first time, more than half of all game revenues will come from the mobile segment.” With this huge audience of mobile users, there are still a big part of them that are minors. Microtransactions take place in almost all of the game that I have played on my phone, so I assume that most of the games out there on mobile use the microtransaction tactic. “Microtransactions assist in integrating a real-world market into in-game economies”(Newstex). So, why are we allowing these companies to put children in a position to become a part of the real-world market. It is absurd to think that a 10 year old is contributing to the market because he or she can’t even drive yet. There is a reason that parents have such a tough job. It’s because young people do not make very good decisions! How do we expect these children know what they are doing when they make purchases over a video game. Should I also mention that these video game companies are making them buy fake currency to buy the in-game items so it seems like players are not actually spending real money? These purchases are set up to manipulate people and I have a personal experience of how microtransactions can manipulate young minds into making in-game purchases subconsciously. My best friend from high school and his brother were in middle school and this mobile game called Clash of Clans was the “big thing” at the time. When they were at home, they usually played it on their Mom’s smartphone. One day, they had been offered a purchase on the game and they did it and since the card was linked to the phone, they did not even know that they were spending real money. They found that this was an easy way to progress in the game and ended up spending $2,500 on the game in one day. Their mom found out about the purchases and contacted the company. She received a full refund but others may not be as fortunate. What if this happens to a family going through a rough time and they don’t get refunded. Those credit card bills could be around for a lifetime. A company manipulating a young child could essentially ruin someone’s financial stability for their entire life. That is scary to think about, so why are we even letting this be a possibility?

I have been playing video games all of my life. I have had a Playstation 1, 2, 3, and 4 throughout the years, and I wasn’t introduced to microtransactions until I was around 13 years old. I remember playing Call of Duty Black Ops II and one day these new “crates” appeared in the game. I earned a few by playing the game and got a couple cool items out of them. After a while of playing for the crates, I realized that I would never get the “Legendary” items, that were incredibly rare to get, by simply just playing the game. I wanted to buy more crates every time I got on the game. One day I finally gave in and bought 20 dollars worth of these crates and I didn’t get a single item that I planned to get when I purchased the crates. I was a 13 year old who had very little money and spent some of my money on a randomized machine in hopes to make a good deal for my money. This story that I just explained can also be told about a poor man that drives by the casino every day. One day he goes in with the little money he has and loses it. This happens quite frequently in today’s society. People go into casinos and lose everything because of their addictive personalities. Kids are participating in slot machine type activities on their video games with real money. This is a huge concern at several different viewpoints. Why would we open a door for young people that steers them down a dark path in life that will result in a life full of anxiety, depression, and poverty?

Microtransactions are providing the tools for the next generation to become the generation of gambling addicts. These slot machine type activities are are being played by 91 percent of kids today and it’s setting a moral in their brains that gambling is accepted as something to do for fun. Some of these kids will develop addictive personalities that will draw them into a life full of gambling and could even become addicted to several other bad things along the way. Addictive personalities are dangerous because people that have them can try something once and always want it after just that one time. This means that if one of these kids, that developed this personality, tries something harmful one time like smoking or drugs, they would be at a higher risk of being addicted to it for life. That would never be a fun thing to have to live with. This is one of the main reasons why microtransactions need to be stopped.

On top of the dangerous personality traits that can be developed by microtransactions, they can also make games unenjoyable to play. Let me explain how this can be unfair to the players. Microtransactions made their debut in free to download games like World of Warcraft which means that the game costed the players nothing to own and play the game. After a while, microtransactions made its way to other games. These games were different though, because they cost 60 dollars up front to just own the game. Gamers had already spent money on the game before they had even gotten to put the disk in and play it. Then, if a game adds microtransactions after gamers purchase the game, it can be unfair to them, because microtransactions often change how the game is played. In some instances, microtransactions have completely ruined games by making them not fun to play anymore. One instance of this in Call of Duty Advanced Warfare. Call of Duty Advanced Warfare is widely known to be one of the worst games in the Call of Duty franchise by the gaming community and it was mainly because of its microtransactions. The crates that could be bought in Advanced Warfare contained new versions of weapons and different attachments for weapons that would give a player and advantage over his or her opponents. It was also nearly impossible to play the game long enough to earn the attachments that the players wanted, so if they wanted them, they had to pay to obtain them. Sometimes people would pay more than what the game actually costed and still would not receive what they had set out for.  Millions were made off of people buying the 60 dollar game and then turning around and paying for crates, but they paid for one of the worst games they had ever played, and it was one of the most profitable Call of Duty games ever. It was not because of the quality of the game, but it was because of manipulative microtransactions that made the game a pay to win type of game. Many of the players would not have bought the game if they knew what they were going to change about the game after they bought it. It’s just not fair to sell a product to someone, but once they receive it, it’s not the same product that they paid for. In Call of Duty Black Ops 4, the most recent Call of Duty, the game has a teir system that players can purchase. After they purchase this, players can rank up and earn different items that get better as they move up in tiers. The tier system is fun and all, but it is nearly impossible for the average player to complete all of the tiers. In an article by Erik Kain, a Forbes writer, he explained that “if Special Orders were just special cosmetic bundles, I’d be fine with them. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Special Order bundles include cosmetics and signature weapons but there’s absolutely no way to earn them just by playing. You can’t earn any type of in-game currency in Black Ops 4, meaning you have to spend real money on Special Orders.” That is not even the worst part about some of these microtransactions. Later in the article, Erik Kain also made aware that “once you purchase them, to unlock the full content of the pack you have to grind for hours in the game. You’re paying real money to not even unlock all the items you just purchased.” It makes no sense that people would pay for something that they had to play for hours to have it. I feel like these companies are pushing the limits just to see what they can get away with.  Video games are not giving everyone equal opportunities in their games and it is extremely frustrating. Getting killed in a game, and knowing that it is because of the items they paid real money for, is one of the most irritating thing that I have had to experience while playing a video game. I have had several games that I enjoyed a lot, but later would not play anymore because the items everyone bought made the game a torture to play.

After all the research I’ve conducted on this topic, I feel that microtransactions need to have regulations to make them less manipulative or need to be taken out completely. They are unfair to the users and also promote gambling to children. The video game industry should be more aware of the consequences that come with microtransactions because I am taught as a web designer that what I do with my skills have a positive or a negative effect on the world around me. I believe that video game designers should be held to the same standard as I am.

Works Cited

Investopedia Stock Analysis: How Microtransactions Impact the Economics of Gaming. Newstex, Chatham, 2018. ProQuest, https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.jccc.edu/docview/2118664261?accountid=2200. The first thing this article did was identify what a microtransaction is. This article explained it better than any other article that I’ve read. “A microtransaction is a business model where users can purchase virtual items for small amounts of money. Microtransactions often appear in free-to-play games, meaning there is no cost to download the game, just a cost to buy the online virtual products.” In this article, it talked about how microtransactions are becoming part of the economy. They raised $36 billion in revenue in 2017 alone. Microtransactions are becoming part of the economy very fast. They are connecting video games to the real world market and kids are becoming part of the economy. The article also points out that most microtransactions take play in free to play games but are making their way into games that cost money up front. Recently, they have shown up in several games that cost $60 up front.

Kain, Erik. “Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4’s Cosmetics And Microtransactions Are Bad — Here’s How To Fix Them.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 7 Dec. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2018/12/06/call-of-duty-black-ops-4s-special-orders-and-cosmetics-are-hot-garbage/#4193073b5e7d. In this Forbes article, Eric Kain explains the problems with Call of Duty Black Ops 4’s microtransactions. He starts off by stating that Call of Duty was going with a progression type of microtransaction instead of players just purchasing chances to get what they want. There are some problems with the way that they did it, however. They made the progression awards feature an in-game purchase and they also have an item shop called Special Orders. In this item shop, players buy the item but they do not actually get it. They have to grind for hours to actually unlock the item they paid for. as for the progression system, it is nearly impossible for the average player to complete it by just playing the game. The player will almost have to pay real money to complete the progression feature in the game. This game is absolutely ripping off all of its users with these microtransactions.

Seppala, Timothy J. “’Modern Warfare Remastered’ Adds Female Soldiers, Microtransactions.” Engadget, Oath Tech Network, 15 Dec. 2016, www.engadget.com/2016/12/15/modern-warfare-remastered-adds-lady-soldiers-microtransaction/. This article gives an example of a Call of Duty game that I have played implementing microtransactions. First, it gives some background information about the game. It tells how the game is a popular game and how it has some of the maps from older, successful games, making it even more sought after. The article also defines what microtransactions are. Microtransactions are in-game currency that can be purchased by real money. That in-game currency is used to buy items within the game that are tremendously hard to obtain by simply putting time into the game It makes a comparison to League of Legends, another widely popular game. The comparison was to explain that games like Call of Duty already cost 60 dollars up front whereas League of Legends is free to download. Users don’t have money already have money wrapped up into that game when they have to decide if they want to spend any on the in game things they can purchase. If microtransactions are added to the game after it goes on sale. It is unfair to anyone who bought the game before the update to the game because microtransactions change any game completely.

Stevens, Hampton. “Fantasy Sports: Enabling the Great American Gambling Boom.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 21 Sept. 2014, www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/09/how-daily-fantasy-sports-will-create-an-american-gambling-boom/380382/. This article talks a lot about the history of gambling in the United States. First, it gives notice to how the country has relaxed its morals in recent years. Gambling used to be an activity that people should not take part in and it was accepted by the majority of people. The United States has a history with legal betting dating back to 1934 though. Gambling was going on before that time but it wasn’t government funded. Today, the government funds lotteries in almost every state and there are also a large amount of casinos around compared to back then. Gambling has become a pastime in the United States in the recent years. The article states that people are not allowed to gamble online, which came as a shock to me. I always thought that gambling online was a perfectly normal thing to do because my dad used to play online poker for money when I was little. The article went into depth to describe fantasy sports and the difference between season long fantasy sports and one day fantasy sports. It also describes an event from 2011 called “Black Friday”. On April 15th, 2011, the Justice Department shut down three poker websites that were the three biggest gambling websites at the time.

Wijman, Tom. “Global Games Market Revenues 2018 | Per Region & Segment.” Newzoo, Newzoo, 30 Apr. 2018, newzoo.com/insights/articles/global-games-market-reaches-137-9-billion-in-2018-mobile-games-take-half/. In this article, Tom Wijman reports the data collected by the company Newzoo. Newzoo is the global leader in games and eSports analytics and has worked with Google and several other big companies. The article explained that video games have began a rapid increase in their revenue. The industry has has passed up some of its competing industries such as the music industry and the movie industry. It also shows how they predict that the industry will continue to grow at a faster rate over the next few years. Technology is multiplying by the second in today’s world and video games are benefiting from it enormously. Another point that this article talked about was the revenue that mobile games have brought in. In 2017, mobile games made over half of the industries’ revenue. These mobile games are critical to the industry. Overall, the article talked about how the video game industry is rising extremely fast and it is not stopping anytime soon.

2 thoughts on “Why are Microtransactions so Evil?

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