3 Possible Effects Of Microtransactions In Console Games


Among the many impacts that mobile devices have had on modern video game design, their frequent use of in-game microtransactions is one of the most contentious. For a small fee (usually a dollar or less), players can purchase their way out of a particularly rough level, snag a few extra lives, upgrade their characters and/or equipment, and much more.

While this has been a common practice of mobile games since their inception, the recent launch of Microsoft’s Xbox One console marks the first time that microtransactions have been heavily implemented in AAA, home-based titles—games that already come with a $60 price tag to begin with—and their use may ultimately have a negative impact on the overall console market.

Frequent Use Of Microtransactions May Hamper Game Design

Many free-to-download mobile games are designed around their microtransactions, with game mechanics that encourage the player to occasionally make a purchase. While some games only offer the occasional bit of aid, others intentionally limit one’s ability to play, forcing the player to slog through hours of monotonous gameplay unless they purchase the equipment necessary to play the “correct” way.

While these kinds of microtransactions are widely accepted in titles that are free of charge, there is concern that $60 console games will adopt these practices too forcefully, structuring their already expensive experience around the need for players to continuously spend money to make progress in the game, evening go so far as to make the mechanics unplayable until the appropriate upgrades are purchased.

Microtransactions May Unbalance Multiplayer Games

Titles with some of the greatest longevity are games that feature online multiplayer, with ecosystems that can see hundreds of thousands of users over the course of several years. One of the reasons for their popularity is a system that rewards competition and success, with gamers constantly striving against each other. However, if microtransactions allow gamers to purchase the upgrades or experience points necessary to compete—rather than earning them through hours of trial and error—the game world may become wildly unbalanced, with those with heavier wallets driving out gamers who can’t afford the frequent upgrades, leading to an overall decline in the popularity of a title.

Microtransactions May Negatively Impact The Reputation of Console Games In General, Leading To An Industry-Wide Decline

The Internet is flush with business and tech analysts speculating about the end of game consoles—tablets and smartphones have dominated the market they say, with simpler and always-accessible games edging out their more expensive, home-based counterparts. While there is a great deal of disagreement on this issue—with a million freshly-sold PS4s and Xbox Ones suggesting that console gaming still has a considerable fan base—the fact remains that the presence of microtransactions in expensive console titles may commit the double sin of alienating core gamers while also scaring off casuals looking to graduate to more complex games. Casual gamers are unlikely to move beyond their mobile games if consoles only provide a more expensive version of what they already get on their smartphones, while the hardcore crowd may be driven away from console gaming altogether due to watered-down mechanics and design, leading to a sharp overall decline in the industry.

Only time will tell if microtransactions become a more common occurrence in console games, but it seems at the moment that Microsoft is betting heavily on this mobile mechanic successfully making the transition to the more expensive and dedicated world of home gaming. If that’s the case, the overall design of console games could be drastically different a few years from now, with a potentially alienated fan base and a more uncertain future.

Author bio:

John is a blogger who rarely plays games on his smartphone, as he’s usually grateful for the few hours each day where he isn’t staring at a screen. He writes for Protect Your Bubble, who can provide the extended warranty necessary to protect your new console for years to come.


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