A problem is plaguing the video game industry “microtransactions.” For those readers not aware, the practice of microtransactions has been ongoing for some time now. To put it in layman’s terms, microtransactions are a way for video-game publishers and/or developers to continuously make money off of a game after it has been purchased. Microtransaction come in various forms. Such forms of microtransactions include the practice of Loot Boxes as well as creating video games around a pay-to-win scheme. Loot Boxes are like to games of chance, such as dice or a slot machine. In fact, Loot Boxes work by the player paying real currency for in-game currency to buy loot boxes whose contents are completely randomized. Therefore the player could end up with either great rewards or something miniscule. Pay-to-win schemes on the other hand, involve players paying for special abilities or items that give them a significant, and many times unfair, advantage over other players.
The gaming community as a whole has been in almost perpetual displeasure, angry at having to pay additional costs on top of the initial purchase because of these microtransactions. Last year though, a cataclysmic moment occurred when “Star Wars: Battlefront II” launched in which contained an alarming pay-to-win scheme that was woven into the gameplay. The backlash was almost immediate, with players demanding answers from Electronic Arts in their forums and on sites like Twitter, Reddit and even media groups such as Metacritic thrashed the game in their reviews because of the alarming amount of microtransactions. Electronic Arts tried to run damage control through various public relations stunts, all of which would backfired in some way. The most particularly notorious example was on Reddit where the Electronic Arts Community Team tried to respond to a complaint by saying that the point of the paying so much money just to unlock new characters was to give players “a sense of pride and accomplishment.” It is worth noting that comment became the single most downvoted comment in Reddit history.
With the games such as “Star-Wars: Battlefront II” and others like “NBA 2K18,” “Call of Duty WWII,” “Middle Earth: Shadow of War,” “Overwatch,” “Madden 19,” “Uncharted 4, “Grand Theft Auto V,” “Destiny I and II,” “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided,” “FIFA 18” and “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” are all examples of how microtransactions have become so rampant where it has even made worldwide news and caused laws proposed by world governments. Yes, even nations such as Belgium and the Netherlands have declared microtransactions illegal. Despite this perfect storm of legal and social backlash against anti-consumer practises and glorified gambling, video game companies have had the gaul to try to refute these new laws by refusing to comply and even encouraging players to speak out in their defense to the Belgian government by saying that the microtransactions the companies are implementing are simply “not gambling.” Because of this, companies such as Electronic Arts Inc. are now under criminal investigation by the Belgian Government, according to Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, and other companies are scrambling to plactate lawmakers and the video game community by extension.
It also seems the problem of microtransactions are not going away any time soon, as companies such as Take-Two Interactive are planning on fully incorporating microtransactions in all of their future games because of the success of such games like “Grand Theft Auto V,” which continues to be the highest grossing video game ever made because of Microtransactions. I do not think it would be presumptuous of me to say that, I for, one am dreading the future of a game industry that seemingly values profit over offering a memorable interactive experience.
Kelly Baker is an English major with minors in journalism and film criticism. KB819687@wcupa.edu