Thoughts on Microtransactions

Microtransactions sometimes shortened to MTX are an interesting subject. As the name implies, they are minor purchases made by the player that supplement their game. They are not evil by default and the simple truth is games need to make money to sustain their development. To that end, game companies may adopt dubious practices to ensure players engage in MTX.

And this is what I find rather odd about many implementations of MTX. A developer is willing to design and publish a product in an inferior state to ensure MTX may occur. Often times, developers impede their products with intentional barriers to elicit these purchases. When this happens to a much-loved game series that gamers trust, it's particularly sad!

To do MTX right, you need to establish trust first! Most implementations of MTX are not transparent. With many MTX-based games, there is no limit on how many transactions you can make in a game. Often times, a dubious developer's goal is to rope in people who can spend as much as possible in a game. Such companies are predatory and ready to use all sorts of psychological tricks to earn a quick buck! How can you trust anyone who is ready and willing to take all your money away from you?

It's also never clear how many purchases you will need to enjoy the product. Games heavy with MTX often tease a "Starter Pack" that gives you great benefits at a great price. These often don't sustain the player for a long time. After some gaming, it becomes clear that if you want to keep enjoying the game, you need to keep forking out cash. When one watches a movie, one pays a fixed price for a movie ticket. Games fueled by MTX don't have this upfront cost. It is a responsibility (often spun as a positive choice) that falls on the gamer.

Also, games with MTX are being built with the intent to last long. They need gamers to keep playing and keep paying! But, one can never predict what an application update could do to one's game progression. Gamers invest both time and money into live products that could change in undesired ways.

It comes down to trust. The customer needs to trust that the developer's goal is not to take as much as money as possible away from them. The customer needs to trust that the developer can deliver a clear purchasing plan that is fair. The customer needs to trust that the developer will not degrade the game and void their investment.