This is the refrain I’ve heard most frequently from people that don’t understand why I have chosen to excise games with uncapped spending models from my gaming diet. The idea is not that I should ignore games that sell microtransactions. It’s that I should be able to ignore the microtransactions that inevitably crop up in the games I’m playing.
Except… microtransactions are not inevitable. I have a massive library of contemporary games in my back log that don’t sell them. The market continues to support my play style and preferences.
There are legacy brands that I loved growing up which no longer appeal to me, because they’ve chosen to sell consumable items. For years, I’d go through the dance of buying these games, playing through them, and feeling uncomfortable throughout the experience. Seeing options to “top off” my in-game currency – so I can speed up my progress – really put me off. These games put a price on my time, and the price was not flattering. I can grind a set of race tracks mindlessly for four hours to get the currency I need for an upgrade that is needed for progression – or I could just ‘top off’ my in-game wallet for $5.00 and buy off those four hours instantly.
I’m almost 50. I work in tech. Why do publishers think my time is worth only $1.25 an hour?
Of course, companies know that players will start moving through this logic, and their hope is that you come to the conclusion that OF COURSE your time is worth more than that, so it only makes sense to spend. But that’s not how I view it. The publisher has insulted me by saying my time is worth so little. It’s like a slap in the face. It leaves me feeling like I no longer want to play the game. Worse still, I know that the publisher is trying to drive me down a funnel that’s built to extract thousands of dollars from individual players, with no warning upfront. That’s icky.
So now, I avoid those games. I check to see what the game sells before buying it. If I spot consumables – microtransactions like premium currency bundles, which uncap spending potential – I won’t download the game. I won’t buy it, and I won’t play it for free. I don’t like the feeling that comes with consumables.
And overall, this method has worked well. There’s more than enough top-tier stuff for me to play, from God of War Ragnarok to Hollow Knight. I’m covered.
But what about when games introduce microtransactions after they have shipped? That to me is unfair. It can lure me into believing I’m buying a game free from consumables, only to be stuck with a product that I would have gone out of my way not to play. If a game is upfront, and I know in advance that it’s not made for me, given it’s monetization model, fine. But if I get sucked in due to glowing reviews that don’t make clear that the experience will be riddled with microtransactions, I’m going to feel disrespected. And the more this happens, the less happy I will be with the medium altogether.
I’ve already come to avoid getting hyped for games during big event windows like E3, because you don’t yet know what the business model of these products are going to be. But I need to know by the time I am at the counter, picking the game up. I’ll go out of my way to hunt this information down. I’ll look to see if anything is for sale. I’ll inform myself as a customer. But it’s deeply unfair for companies to slip this stuff in after the fact, beyond the review window.
I ordered my coleslaw without raisins; I was delighted the restaurant had that option. But now, the waiter has just gone and mixed raisins into the dish, without my permission. Yes, I could pick around the raisons. But I don’t want to do that. The dish is spoiled. And I can’t even get a refund.