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Microtransactions - enough with the doom and gloom


foogledricks
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I really think that the fears surrounding microtransactions are alarmist and ignore the fundamentals of business that these companies are well-aware of.

 

Microtranactions are just a new business option that will be slowly rolled out and tested for viability. If it is done in an unfair way that lowers the perceived value of their products (i.e. negatively affects their sales, revenue, and their brand) they will revise their strategy.

 

I'd really like people around here and in the industry to speculate positively for a change. Maybe be creative and come up with cases where microtransactions could be beneficial to games rather than imagine all the ways it will cause the end of the world.

 

So there is the challenge folks. Tell how microtranscations could be good, and then debate the merits of those ideas for a change.

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Tell how microtranscations could be good, and then debate the merits of those ideas for a change.

Just about the ONLY way microtransactions could really be positive (IMHO) is if they keep them reserved for BONUS content as they've (mostly) done so far...GRAW probably being a glaring exception and a point of warning.

 

The moment where they make it to where this extra content is basically MANDITORY for a) finishing/fully experiencing the single player game or B) being able to join an online game, it has crossed the line. It's false advertising at that point, you did not get what was promised when you forked over $60.

 

I don't have a problem with the Oblivion stuff, I just chose not to buy it. Didn't stop me from having a great single person game. Same for PGR3, some people want the extra cars, I'm happy to use the default set and keep my money in my pocket.

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Just about the ONLY way microtransactions could really be positive (IMHO) is if they keep them reserved for BONUS content...

 

The question I have is how do you determine what is bonus content and what is something they just left out of the game so that they could sell it to you in a microtransaction? Is it an additional costume? New cars? New maps? New gameplay scenarios? New weapons? Why not include all this stuff to begin with?

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I think some content lends itself to the microtransaction approach. Take this exchange from the Fusion Frenzy 2 discussion:

Those were my same thoughts after I played the FF2 demo. Would make a perfect XBLA game but no way in hell I'd ever pay $50-60 for it.
While each game within FF2 is relatively simple in design/content' date=' it is the shear number of these mini games (I beleive it's 40+ mini games) that demand the price...[/quote']In this case, perhaps the publisher, in a micro-transaction world, could offer the minigames separately or in packs. As long as the pricing of the individual packs or games doesn't lose proportion to the price of the "full" game (ie. $49 - $59 or thereabouts), I wouldn't have a problem with it.

 

One advantage to the micro-transaction system is that you don't have to pay for content that you don't want. I think this often gets overlooked in the arguments against it.

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The question I have is how do you determine what is bonus content and what is something they just left out of the game so that they could sell it to you in a microtransaction? Is it an additional costume? New cars? New maps? New gameplay scenarios? New weapons? Why not include all this stuff to begin with?

IMO, bonus content is all of the above that you mentioned that doesn't come with the original package and also is not required to again a) have a good single player experience or B) play online with others who may or may not have the bonus content.

 

As to what should be included? That's going to be on a case by case basis, and it's always going to be a grey area on how to "categorize" it, and it's a personal decision. If the original package is compelling on its own, why worry about what's not in the box? And if you feel the additional content is worth it and would add to the experience, buy it, if not, then pass.

 

I'll go on the record again as saying I haven't bought any bonus content for the Xbox and Xbox 360 games I own, not expansion packs, not gamercard pics, not desktop themes, nothing. I think it's a total waste of money so far (but would consider expansion packs if I saw a real value, not 30-45 mins of gameplay). But I don't care if this stuff exists as long as it doesn't stop me from getting what is advertised on the package and having a good gaming experience. I will say that the latest situation with GRAW has kept me from purchasing that title.

 

One advantage to the micro-transaction system is that you don't have to pay for content that you don't want. I think this often gets overlooked in the arguments against it.

I thought about this as well. The problem is, it's an ideal situation that the publishers aren't setting out to achieve. They are aiming to increase revenues, not provide greater value or a-la-carte gaming. Same reason those bastard cable companies won't just let you buy the few channels you want to watch which is also why I'm no longer a cable TV subscriber. I don't have time for it anyway.

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The question I have is how do you determine what is bonus content and what is something they just left out of the game so that they could sell it to you in a microtransaction?

 

Good question. The way I see it, I don't like having to unlock free 'bonus' content that's already on the disc and has been paid for. That's been discussed on this forum before, I know Brian has had a lot to say and I've agreed with him.

 

I would hope, Jeff, that developers aren't holding back features/content only to think that they should release it 30-60 days later for a few extra dollars.

 

I have a lot of concerns about how certain microstransactions could unbalance multiplayer games. If we start getting into purchasing more powerful weapons in a FPS what fun would it be to jump online and find yourself grossly underpowered? And then to think to have a chance to enjoy the game another 'x' of money needs to be spent in order to remain competitive? Success multiplayer should be dependent on skill in the game, not on dollars spent on a game.

 

Sorry to get sidetracked in doom & gloom Keith - so to get back in line with the thread topic - how can microtransactions work.

 

I see a lot of possibilities in single-player RPGs. They are the most open-ended and would allow for additional quest/missions to be downloaded that do not affect the overall story. And sports games.

 

Scenario A (I think would not work): A game like Dead Rising - Overtime is complete, and suddenly another mode (Let's call it "Double-Overtime") is released. For $15 you get another few missions with Frank. Now, I don't think companies would do this because there will be a sequel to a succesful game like Dead Rising, and each extra mission added would be one less mission for the sequel, possibly leading to people wondering if one is necessary. This COULD work, I guess - but would be very interesting to try to market.

 

Scenario B (I think would work): A game like Oblivion or Saint's Row. I love me some sidequests in Oblivion, so much that I still only have completed the first few main quests. Eventually I'll be out of quests for the Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood. I'd pay $10-$15 for another batch of extra quests. They do not affect the main quest - people who want to finish the game can still do so, but for those who enjoy guild quests are given the chance to play more.

 

Sports Games: If somebody determined that they don't need the latest Madden game, only the rosters - charge a minimal amount for updated rosters. IE Madden 2006 user doesn't upgrade to Madden 2007 - pays $5 for updated rosters to use with 2006. Madden 2007 user can get updated rosters for free until Madden 2008 is released.

 

I haven't played sports games in a while, so I don't know how roster updates are currently handled. Maybe they already offer roster updates on older games for free - if so fantastic, but it renders this point moot.

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Now, I don't think companies would do this because there will be a sequel to a succesful game like Dead Rising, and each extra mission added would be one less mission for the sequel

Or it's treated much like Half Life 2 and it's episodic content which is really nothing more than the sequel to Half Life 2 broken up into smaller MACRO-transactions. A business model that has worked out wonderfully for Valve and for gamers that want to continue the Half Life story without having to deal with years of development time in between game releases.

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Consoles have always been based on micro-transactions IMHO, pong being the exception. You make a macro transaction to buy the console, then every cartridge/disc you buy is a micro-transaction to tailor that experience to what you like. Whether they charge me for the disc all at once, or later via smaller online fees (discless) I don't care. The ratio of perceived value for cost will still be the same for an informed consumer.

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I've bought gamerpics, themes, and Oblivion content. I think these types of microtransactions that can change the look of a game, but not affect multiplayer competiveness are harmless additions to games, and they add a certain level of customization that gamers like me would be willing to pay small amounts of money to have. I really thought if was cool when the DOA3 for the original Xbox had a bonus disk in the Xbox magazine that let you add different costumes for the characters. It didn't change the gameplay at all, but was a fun variation on the game.

 

Another positive microtransaction for single player RPG games is a new downloadable NPC that could join your party and interact with existing characters. If this new NPC was available a few months after the game was released, it would add some replayability to the game that some would gladly pay to have. Microtransactions for single player games feel like expansion packs to me, and I think Oblivion is doing a good job with them. It feels like Forge of Virtue or Silver Seed (from Ultima VII) types of additions to the games.

 

Multiplayer games are harder to come up with ideas for, since somethings may give unfair advantages. But I don't think theres anything wrong with paying a little bit extra to change the color of a car in a racing game, the costume of a fighter, or even new characters in any type of game, as long as they have similar stats to an existing character. This would be something like a customizable skin or faceplate.

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Global warming could be good, too. I pay way more to heat my house than to cool it, plus I hate shoveling snow here in the Northeast. Not to mention all those snobs here on the "Gold Coast" of Connecticut wouldn't look so haughty with their beachfront houses under 20 feet of seawater.

 

The natural end result of the extinction of every living thing on the planet besides maybe Ryan Seacrest and a few viruses would be a pretty big downside to that, though, just as the natural result of paying $80+ for a "complete" game once you get done picking up all the shit that should have been packaged with the original is a pretty big downside to microtransactions.

 

A thread that discusses only silver linings of Very Bad Things kind of misses the point IMO.

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A thread that discusses only silver linings of Very Bad Things kind of misses the point IMO.
Forget about Microtransactions. This is about how we approach topics in general.

 

Look back at the MP3 revolution and you will find tons of resistance, resentment, and "I will never play my music on a computer" sentiment. The prospect of change is always met with resistance and people pounce on all the negative things that "might" happen because its easier to approach the topic this way. It's the path to the darkside.

 

The point of this thread is not to cast a positive light on microtransactions. Rather, its my attempt at changing the perspective of the debate.

 

Criticize the possibilities on their merits. But if you enter such topics riding the cynical slippery slope from the start, your criticisms are less constructive. Less meaningful. And you might slide right by some interesting discussion.

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Back on topic. Casting aside the very good point that game companies have no incentive to provide a la carte features and content (it's a good point, but I'll ignore it for now), I'd at least like to present this idea.

 

Many people say "I hate playing Halo online, I buy Halo for the single player" or vice versa. Although we're used to get a plastic disc with everything on it, there are some real practical benefits of modularizing game content.

 

If Halo 4 multiplayer cost only $30, I'd be more apt to buy $30 worth of additional content (maps and such). If Halo 4 single player only costs $30 I'd be more apt to buy $30 worth of episodic story content.

 

Those are choices I wouldn't mind having. The problem today is we're caught between worlds where we're starting from $60 and no choice, and then the publisher wants to sell us more content on top of that. I think that should change. And if it does, I think it could be a really good thing.

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The problem today is we're caught between worlds where we're starting from $60 and no choice, and then the publisher wants to sell us more content on top of that. I think that should change. And if it does, I think it could be a really good thing.

I totally agree, there are certain games I would love to only purchase the single player portion of at a discount, that would be great. Unfortunately, it will never happen.

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If Halo 4 multiplayer cost only $30, I'd be more apt to buy $30 worth of additional content (maps and such). If Halo 4 single player only costs $30 I'd be more apt to buy $30 worth of episodic story content.

 

So because you've spent $30 for the single player, and $30 for the multiplayer, you'll spend $60 on extras? Why is that better value than spending $60 for the game, then $60 for extras? Why would you be "more apt"?

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Look back at the MP3 revolution and you will find tons of resistance, resentment, and "I will never play my music on a computer" sentiment.

 

Begin off-topic post -

 

Of course there was resistance...I resisted for a long time. A heavily-compressed MP3 (when MP3 players couldn't store a lot of songs unless they were heavily compressed - there weren't always 60/80 gig iPods around) will sound like 10 tons of shite on a decent stereo compared to uncompressed audio. That's a fact. I didn't want to jump on the MP3 bandwagon right away - I wanted to wait for the convenience factor to make enough sense to me that I could live with the drop in quality.

 

I finally caved after realizing that:

 

A. It wouldn't look good for me to lug a turntable and records into work. *Thinks out loud* Maybe in a few months when I'm in a different office...I could sneak one in. Maybe.

 

B. Bringing a bunch of CDs into work to listen to got old real fast.

 

C. I could store ~7500 songs at 128kbps and they sound ok from computer speakers at work. Now I can bring a good chunk of my collection with me to listen to.

 

At that point, an iPod made sense to me - and I love it. But that does not mean that when I'm at home I've stopped listening to vinyl - it's still my preferred way to listen to music. Plus, way back when MP3s were on the cusp of becoming incredibly popular, I was concerned that it would turn music into even MORE of a singles-based culture, which they have. I don't like treating music only as a digital commodity.

 

I feel incredibly old and codgery now, and I'm only 27. My point being that MP3s/games/movies - all of these home entertainment mediums have changed DRAMATICALLY in the past decade - and there are positives and negatives to all of the changes. It's makes for interesting discussion, that's for sure.

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Back on topic. Casting aside the very good point that game companies have no incentive to provide a la carte features and content (it's a good point, but I'll ignore it for now), I'd at least like to present this idea.

 

Many people say "I hate playing Halo online, I buy Halo for the single player" or vice versa. Although we're used to get a plastic disc with everything on it, there are some real practical benefits of modularizing game content.

 

If Halo 4 multiplayer cost only $30, I'd be more apt to buy $30 worth of additional content (maps and such). If Halo 4 single player only costs $30 I'd be more apt to buy $30 worth of episodic story content.

 

Those are choices I wouldn't mind having. The problem today is we're caught between worlds where we're starting from $60 and no choice, and then the publisher wants to sell us more content on top of that. I think that should change. And if it does, I think it could be a really good thing.

 

 

Going back to the very good point you are ignoring, let's think about it. If everyone is willing to pay $60 to play either the MP Halo, the SP Halo, or both then MS makes $60 a pop guaranteed. If they split this into $30 SP and $30 MP, then they wil more than likely lose a good deal of money there.

 

Even if MS provides scenario packs or MP content for $+ later, really they are still losing out. The SP fanatics will still buy the SP scenarios, the MP nuts wouldn't be caught dead without the map packs, and the uber-gamers would buy a silicone replica of MC's cyborgified manhood if MS cared to sell it.

 

Spliting up the game nets them very little if they have already designed both parts of the product, it seems like it couls only hurt sales. Now developing just an SP or MP Halo product and selling it for less isn't a bad idea, but I don't get the feeling that is what you are talking about.

 

Bottom line is these companies are in business to make money, not make our lives easier. If those two things coincide, great! If not, well then f'k the consumer, enjoy using Steam.

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So because you've spent $30 for the single player, and $30 for the multiplayer, you'll spend $60 on extras? Why is that better value than spending $60 for the game, then $60 for extras? Why would you be "more apt"?
I miscommunicate and you misunderstand. I was expressing those as two separate cases, not one big $120 case. My point is that if I only like single player, and it only costs me $30 out of the box, then I'd warm up to downloadable content more, because I'd feel I'm still getting a good value. Right now, at a $60 starting point, people psychologically come to the gate thinking that paying any more money is a bad value. They're getting ripped off.

 

So I'm simply expressing a scenerio where the consumer will think they're getting good value and extra choice, facilitating their purchase of extended content, which is good for the publisher.

 

Good for both parties. Problem solved. Now if only I were running the games industry we'd all be better off. Back to flipping burgers.

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... your criticisms are less constructive. Less meaningful. And you might slide right by some interesting discussion.

 

Keith, can you put this in your signature so you don't forget your own words! :D

 

Back on/off topic,...

 

I don't think microtransactions are small enough. If we're lucky Sony will introduce nanotransactions, and yes, if we are truely blessed,...

Wiitransactions from Nintendo.

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I'm worried about microtransactions becoming, in effect, fake microtransactions as publishers strip some stuff from games for later nickel-and-diming. How easy would it be to pull a few levels, a few features, etc from a game before shipping it, in prep for selling them instead as microtransactions.

 

Personally I dislike the microtransactions idea. I'm a little more willing if the microtransactions stay tied to an account where you can re-download them in the event of a data problem - HDD crash, corruption, console failure, etc.

 

I already suspect EA of this, given the amount of stuff that lurks in the ini files of BFME1/BFME2 that isn't implemented. On BFME1 people found it took only a tiny bit of effort to unlock Sauron, Shelob, etc for mods, for example. He was coded and planned but apparently chopped at some point.

 

You can write a certain amount of this off to features cut due to time, but sometimes you get the feeling they're just waiting to unlock it in an "expansion pack". :)

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They're getting ripped off.

 

I really only have one thing to say about all of this, and that quote kind of illustrates it.

 

I will pay whatever a game is worth based on the quality of games. I look at them like movies: some I choose to pay for, some I don't. The prices keep going up, but I still love a great fucking movie. I tend to go to fewer of them because there are so many pieces of crap also-rans, but, occasionally, there's that gem for which I would pay virtually any ticket price.

 

Anyway, my point is this: If they want to charge more, if they want to send them to my HDD, hell, if they want to air mail them to me from Kazakhstan, cool. I'll pay if it isn't crap. Deliver it as you will. I could care less for the packaging. I've played way too many amazing games with incredibly stupid packaging to even care about that at this point.

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Personally I dislike the microtransactions idea. I'm a little more willing if the microtransactions stay tied to an account where you can re-download them in the event of a data problem - HDD crash, corruption, console failure, etc.

This is already being done on the Live Marketplace. You can redownload anything you want for no extra charge. Everything is tied into your Live account.

 

-Dean-

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