Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Microtransactions: where to draw the line?

So I've been doing some research on Bravely Default, considering I want to get it at some point in the future, and one feature in particular, Sleep Points, got me thinking. Basically, for those who don't know jack all about the game, this is a feature that allows one of your characters to get a free turn in, and is also the only way (at least that I'm aware of) to break the damage limit. You can have at most three Sleep Points at a time, and you obtain them by leaving your game in sleep mode for eight hours apiece (fortunately the leftover time is saved, so if you left your game in sleep mode for 12 hours you'll only need four more to get another point). And considering that there are other benefits to keeping the game in sleep mode, this is something you'll be doing a lot, so those Sleep Points will naturally be coming in.

However, you can also buy SP Drinks for a real-life dollar, which instantly replenish your Sleep Points to full (that's 33 cents apiece). Having not played the game, I don't really have much of a grasp on the finer points of the Brave/Default system, so the value of a free turn, especially with a break-damage-limit trait, may be drastically different, but in any other JRPG, would you really pay real money to get an extra turn on one of your characters? The answer is simple: hell no. Especially not in a game that features free ways to cheat through the content if you want to go down that road (I sure don't), such as the Abilink feature which, to my understanding, lets you use any ability a friend has. In fact, personally, I refuse to pay any kind of extra for content that can be normally accessed through other means. I grew up in the NES era, I think I know how to be patient. If I need to grind, fine, I'll grind, I won't pay a dollar, or even a nickel, to get over a difficulty spike.

With that said, the uproar over SP Drinks got me thinking: is there any way developers can win with microtransactions? Make them too trivial, and you'll come across as a money-grubber. Design your game with them in mind (as in, make progression a painful process unless you're willing to pay, and/or try to make them as visible as possible), and you'll also come across as a money-grubber. While I see the logic in both scenarios, I still hate the former less, because at the end of the day, your wallet is much more likely to come out intact.

It's clear to me, however, that the savage abuse of the microtransaction concept by companies such as EA made gamers far too emotional over the notion itself. There are scenarios where they aren't the almighty evil they're made out to be, but after being exposed to the worst of the worst, and being blatantly told to our faces by certain companies that we're just glorified wallets for them, I feel like the others aren't even being given a fighting chance.

So, where do you stand on this issue? I'm not sure where I stand myself. On one hand, as I said, I refuse to pay more than the cost of the game, and I'm not sure whether it's out of principle, because I'm stingy (you've seen how much I am even with in-game currency for crying out loud), or something else entirely. However, I can understand the appeal in certain, more logical scenarios for them to exist for people that aren't me. Ethics are such fun stuff, huh?

Edit: In the time it took me to write this, a rumor appeared according to which one could level a WoW character to 90 automatically for the low, low price of $60 (according to test server data). WHAT THE FUCK. It's already a game with abusive microtransactions to start with, such as $30 for a faction change, $25 for a race change, or $10 for a name change. Holy shit.

29 comments:

  1. Two games have been damaged by their uses of micro-transactions in my eyes - Forza Motorsport 5 and Grand Theft Auto 5.
    Forza (arguably the best console racing sim) is ruined on the Xbox One where money is hard to come by simply so you can buy in-game "tokens" (already sounds like every facebook game ever) with real money to buy anything, and even then £10 worth of tokens buys you NOTHING.
    Then GTA5 - more specifically, the online portion of the game - has been plagued with glitches and bugs that can ruin the experience such as invincibility and many that make you lose the money that is so hard to come by. Of all the glitches Rockstar decides to fix, they fix nothing but the money glitches and xp glitches leaving the door wide open for those who decide to become invincible and ruin your day. Why? So they can sell you "cash cards", taking real life money and giving you in-game cash. The pricing of GTA's micro-transactions is arguably much better than that of Forza but the backlash Rockstars blatant money-whoring - they made millions on the first day alone, isn't that enough? - on the community has been so horrific it almost turned me off the game for good.
    These are you just two examples of game series' I like being damaged by micro-transactions

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    1. I'm no expert on that kind of game, but the question worth asking is, would have Rockstar patched those major issues had there been no microtransactions? If you think not, then microtransactions aren't the source of the problem, they just ended up amplifying it. If you think they would have, on the other hand... well, you just said it yourself.

      With that said, no, making millions on day one isn't enough. It's all about WHAT is being offered for sale and for how much, and how the company decides to market it (the latter brings right back to what you were saying about unpatched exploits).

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    2. Didnt Forza come from Project Gotham racing?

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  2. I'm perfectly fine with microtransactions in the context of free-to-play games. It seems like a great way to lower the barrier for entry for certain games and reward the devs of a good game. However, I don't know how companies are getting away with selling full-priced games with microtransactions on the side! If I ever get Bravely Default, I would much sooner not play it rather than buy some expendable power-ups or something. The demo didn't exactly blow me away. Then again, I don't play too many current video games, so I'm hardly a fair judge on microtransactions or Bravely Default.

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    1. You want to know how companies get away with it? Simple. People are stupid, and they know it. In the specific case of microtransactions commonly labeled as "pay-to-win" (which hardly seems the case for Bravely Default, honestly), I can't get over how people actually pay money to be done with the game as fast as possible. As if playing games are a chore. May I suggest another hobby?

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  3. I've been playing Bravely Default and (don't worry, it's no spoiler) the Sleep Drink is literally mentioned only once when they teach you about the Bravely Second feature and is never mentioned again. So yeah, it's as trivial as it gets. And while the bosses are much harder than regular monsters, they didn't get me to use Bravely Second even once so far, even though I did manage to accumulate 3 by keeping my system on sleep mode a lot. Though to be fair, I'm only playing on Normal difficulty and I do also grind a lot. Maybe on Hard things could get messy enough you'd absolutely need a free turn at some point, but I don't really know.

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    1. Also, heads up, I usually suck at JRPGs because I find the combat so uninteresting that I just spam whatever works best. But to be fair, Bravely Default's mechanics are done well enough to keep me playing without getting bored of the combat. I actually want to master those mechanics instead of just breezing through for the story.
      (Why did it suddenly become so hard to reply to your own comment here?)

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  4. Paying to make progress in a video game is like paying to see a movie then Paying more money to skip to the end, what happened to enjoying a video game. Micro transactions are for people who have too much money that want to Finnish a game in time to play the next one that will inevitably come out the next year.

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  5. EA seems to rise on top of the DLC/microtransaction gaming market. Case and point: the sims, specifically sims 3. Nevermind the million expansion packs for it but they have neighborhoods (just places to live) in the ea store that cost more than most expansion packs. I've even seen them have some kind of deal where it was like "ok this DLC costs 20 bucks in ea currency, but you cant just get it if you have $20 in ea currency, it has to be $20 in ea currency that was purchased all at one time." so if you just happened to have $20 leftover from buying other stuff, THAT STILL WASN'T ENOUGH. i mean jeez cmon.

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  6. I've played Bravely Default for 20 hours now on Normal, and I can assure you that SP is neither necessary nor invasive. I loathe the idea of microtransactions in full retail games (Fee-to-Pay, I call it), but at least Bravely Default doesn't shove this system in your face all the time. It still has that old-school challenge feel of FFIV-VI, but the game offers SO many customization options that hitting a wall usually just means trying something different. I would avoid the Abilink and Friend Summoning features if you want a true old-school experience, though, because those are essentially there so you can leech off the progress of other people and use abilities and attacks that are far beyond your level for that point.

    It's a game that has several social features that really bring it down, but these features are almost entirely non-invasive, optional, and don't interrupt the gameplay beyond the initial explanation. I would definitely recommend getting it soon, Slow (and posting about your journey, yeah?)! The whole experience has really dragged me back to the RPGs of my youth, and it's quickly become one of my favorite 3DS games. I haven't been this into a game in a long time.

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    1. Oh, I had no intention of using these from the start. Apparently they meant for it to be a game that anyone can beat, and that's why they're there, and nothing else. That's why it's so non-invasive, they figured dedicated gamers would want none of it.

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  7. In the end,it really depends on the game.There are places where microtransactions are perfectly fine and sensible,Team Fortress 2 being the best example I can think of.However in Bravely Default,where the alternative method to the transaction makes it redundant,there's really no point.At least 1/3 of my playtime in BD is from Sleep Mode,and I imagine other people have a similar statistic.

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    1. Wait, I heard time spent in sleep mode didn't count towards your time? Not that it matters anyway... my own ratio will probably be far higher, between sleep and work.

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    2. It doesn't. I've had the game on since I got it a week ago (probably not the healthiest thing for my 3DS, haha) because of the Norende sidequest, and I'm still only at 20 hours.

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    3. BD Ingame Time-33:09
      3ds Activity Log Time-35:33
      Two hours and some change,WAY off from 1/3.My math sucks.But that's still something.Man,people oughta look at that log more.
      Pokemon Black Ingame Time-999:99
      3ds Activity Log Time-1355:43

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    4. Or maybe you did a lot of reloading? I don't know.

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    5. In-game time: 23:57
      Activity log - 25:50

      I don't know where the extra time came from, but I'm sure it wasn't from sleep mode. Believe me, I've already had this game in sleep mode for probably close to 200 hours.

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  8. I think it is perfectly fine when done properly. Planetside 2 is a perfect example of this. It's free to play, and everything can eventually be unlocked by playing enough. The only stuff that you can never buy with XP is cosmetic items. Aside from that, money can save you time unlocking guns if you are willing to throw down a buck or two.

    Also: Kind of a dumb request Slow, but is there anyway you can make the captcha' s needed to post easier? Or turn them off? My eyesight sucks shit, and it takes a couple tries to post here. Weird considering I don't think I've ever failed one on any other website

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    1. I probably can't, considering I had no idea you guys needed to go through a captcha until now. It's safe to assume that it's Google that decides what kind of captchas it uses.

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    2. That's unfortunate. Every website should switch to those math problems instead, much easier for everyone.

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    3. My captchas aren't too bad anymore. Last couple of weeks I only have to input two sets of numbers and one is pretty easy to read (the other an image). Not sure how it determines what kind you get though.

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    4. I believe that the letter or number CAPTCHAs are random(for the visually unchallenged). For the visually impaired: they get audio CAPTCHAs, but those are probably random as well.

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  9. I dont buy DLC but when it's to the level of EA games (see Dead Space) I either return it or try to avoid microtransaction games on any level, but I heard BD's microtransactions were non intrusive

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    1. I think Forza Motorsport 5 takes the cherry for bad DLC - FM4 on the Xbox 360 came with over 450 cars to choose from. FM5 on the Xbox One? Barely over 200. Then they release the first DLC pack and 7 of the 10 cars included are from FM4 and should have been in FM5 in the first place. Next DLC pack? same thing. Microsoft (because i doubt T10 would do this given the choice) are making fans pay for what should be in the game anyway

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    1. Parents have to buy their kids endless toys to finish a game! Isn't that great?

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    2. Actually, you don't have to buy many toys to beat the game. If you meant: "Parents have to buy their kids endless toys to fully experience the game", then yes, that would be correct.

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    3. But it's the spirit of capitalism that counts, right?

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