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Thursday, July 28, 2016

I'm going to write about video games (Micro-transactions Part 2)

Give me three bucks and you can see the rest of this post..

..
Just Kidding..
Never pay for my writing, I'm a hack.

Back on 10 /26/2013 I wrote about Microtransactions ruining my love of video games. To this day that's still my 4th most viewed post on this blog. It's even more viewed than my post about  Trials of passage in Orc society, which for the record, no one read.
This is brief post is in effect a revisit of the subject, a part duex. The duce.

In rereading my old post I realized that on one hand it was completely disorganized and  scatterbrained. On the other hand  it was also quite naive. Three years have gone by since that post and no I have not given up online gaming. Microtransactions have not gone anywhere, and it hasn't  seemed to have made any great difference to my habits. Or for that matter how much I spend on electronic games.

Then two games come along that seem  to be tied at the hip. Two games, while very different still  share enough similarities that they are often compared to each other.  The games I'm talking about are Overwatch and Battleborn.  These two games were released relatively close to each other. They are both team based shooters. They were both put out by extremely well regarded studios.
This post will not be about the pro's and cons of each of those games. Suffice to say they are very different, I play them both, and I enjoy them.

What I will talk about are their approaches ton in game microtransactions.
Overwatch has a system of  Loot boxes which contains a variety of things. Logo's which your characters can spray around the environment, Skins which change how your character looks, voice acting, and various poses. The player can unlock a loot box via game play once per level, or by purchasing in game currency to buy them in bulk. I'm ok with this.
What you will notice is that I never said "guns" or  "skills" or "equipment" are in those random loot boxes.

Cosmetic microtransactions, meaning  pay to make your character look different, but not perform differently are absolutely fine by me.

Let me state that again a slightly different way. If an addition to the game does not give the player an advantage and they choose to pay real money for it. That's on the player.

If a player can't live without that skin which makes Mercy look like a Valkyrie? (which is awesome BTW) Fine, buy loot boxes and get it.

That's where things break down however. On Overwatch Players don't buy items, they buy Loot Boxes, which contain random items. There is a chance the player may not  ever get that Skin they want and may have to  buy  a high number of loot boxes before they have enough in game currency (randomly found in the boxes) to buy the in game object they want. Like everything else this is by design. So a high priced item will be very very rare to see in a loot box. Causing the player who wants a rare item to buy loot boxes until they have enough currency to buy the  item.
Again this would all be voluntary a player would have to choose to obsess

Battleborn has a similar system, in that they have skins which a player can unlock through ingame progression and then separate elite tier skins and taunts which  a player must purchase using an in game currency called Platinum. Platinum is naturally only purchasable with  real life money.
When the  platinum system was introduces some players went a bit bat shit.
They shouted,
 "Eh Ghads, How dare they charge me for a taunt or a skin? I already paid for the game! Incomprehensible! Unforgivable! HURUMPH!"


What they are failing to see is that the items which  make your character better, can only be bought with  ingame points earned through play. The loot boxes in Battleborn which contain  equipment upgrades are not purchasable with platinum. (...for now...) If that changes I will be right there with the  complainers, being able to  unlock all teh characters or buy loot boxes for battle born with platinum would truly ruin the  proverbial soup.



The other skins and taunts are given to the  player as rewards for leveling up a character. The platinum system is reserved for non game changing  cosmetic additions which are designated above and beyond the normal rewards. Skinns that glow and have some added textures... WEEEEEEE! The only thing locked behind a paywall are cosmetic bits which will not help the player win a game.   It's like some people put  Vinyl decals on their  sports cars. The  decals don't make the car go faster, they just look cool. Nothing at all in battle born makes a player have to buy Platinum. 


Infact for my buck the  Battleborn system is more acceptable in that there is no random factor. A player likes a skin they buy the skin, done. No stupid loot boxes to open, no chance that they will have to buy 100 such boxes before they get what they want or enough in game currency to finally make the purchase they originally intended to. 

Yet the  community consensus still seems to be that introducing even these voluntary  microtransactions to a game (Battleborn) which has floundered in the  PC gaming market is a huge mistake by  Gearbox the studio who put the game out. I agree that from a marketing standpoint  it does seem ill conceived. Perhaps a bit of overreach by the  game company, but again no one has to buy those skins. 



These cosmetic micro transactions are transactions done right. I have total control over not choosing to buy them and at the end of the day it will not effect my experience in the game. Hopefuly more games adopt this model over the  pay for  advantage or pay to win model I complained about in my first post. Anyone still complaining about microtransaction expenditures that they can freely avoid, is like someone complaining about the cigarette tax. We know the deal, game companies are trying to wring some extra money out of the playerbase any where any way they can. Cigarettes cause cancer. Don't give them hard earned cash.
Unless the player decides the ramifications don't mean anything. In that case "smoke em if ya got em."


"What's my conclusion"" you ask.
I'm so glad you did.
The video game industry has changed drastically in the  past 10 years. Microtransactions in games of all types are here to stay, and even a video  game grognard like myself has to see that. the  way I look at it is this, we have a few choices. 


  • Purchase only games that have zero premium for for cash content. This will exclude most "triple A" titles and most online multi player games. It will however save you money. The player must accept that there will be content produced that they will never have access to. Even so there are many games a player can enjoy for  hours and hours without ever spending another cent.
  • Be offended. Give up on electronic gaming. Keep all your money and live happily ever after. This is a totally viable, non-sarcastic solution. Come play D&D with me on roll20. (Which for the record, has it's own microtransactions.)
  • Embrace the beast. Realize this is the industry circa 2016. A person is free to make intelligent choices about what they buy and what they don't. The system is here to stay, players need to learn to navigate it. Getting salty on twitter about avoidable expenditures will not change anything. I mean does a player really need every character skin? Are they entitled to it? 
    It's up to the player.



Thank you for reading:
-Mark.



HERE is a negative view of Overwatches Microtransaction system:
And


HERE is a less negative view of Overwatch's Transactions.



Some Video's
Here About Battleborn Microtransactions (2:35)
A different take:


Here on the same subject, among other subjects (8:12) (Microtransaction talk starts at 4:20)
And  a long  talk about  Microtransactions in Overwatch 

Here (Like 40 minutes..)
*For the  record I'm not connected to,  nor do I subscribe to any of the above youtube channels.*



Some More stuff:
If you want to watch me suck at Battleborn: Here
You can watch me be even worse at Overwatch: Here