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Micro Management

Last week, it was revealed that Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate had microtransactions tucked away in its code, which means that I automatically have no interest in playing that game.

Syndicate had been doing so well up until that point. Interest was slowly growing as the setting looked genuinely interesting again. The removal of multiplayer suggested that the main single-player campaign was going to be more focused. The developers openly dismissed the notion of missions tied to a companion app. They actually found the resources to – SHOCK – add a female character!

I’d lost a lot of interest in Assassin’s Creed over the last few years, but these decisions, plus my interest in moody Victorian settings, perked up my interest again. And then microtransactions happened and it became apparent that not all lessons had been learned.

Microtransactions in full-priced games are a stain on the gaming industry, and proof that big publishers continue to be greedy and exploitative. It’s not acceptable, and there should be a much louder resistance to their presence. I’ve mentioned this on Twitter in the past, and in my Chatty Corner videos on YouTube, but I feel that a blog post is needed too.

I have no objections to microtransactions in free-to-play mobile games. Well, I have fewer objections to them, anyway. A developer has to make their money back somehow, and when the game is free on entry, little bits and pieces that you can buy and add to your experience help that.

However, even this has become exploitative, with games designed to test your patience to the point where you’ll happily buy a shortcut. Dungeon Keeper Mobile was a perfect example of this – preventing you from doing anything for days on end, essentially forcing you to pay to actually make progress. However, done well, they can provide a nice source of income for a developer whose game is otherwise not going to make them a lot of money through sales alone.

NOPE

Put that in a full-priced title, however, and we have a problem. The costs of the game should be made back through the initial sale, which generally isn’t cheap, and expecting more immediately afterwards is sleazy and disgusting.

There are arguments that the cost of development has increased and the price hasn’t, and while this is certainly true, I don’t believe microtransactions are the answer. They’re simply a way for publishers to reward their own recklessness – if game budgets were properly calculated and kept at a reasonable level, publishers wouldn’t struggle to make their money back from sales. Sort the money situation early on, and there’d be no need for them at all.

There are comments from many people who argue that microtransactions are merely optional extras and you don’t have to pay for them, but often their mere existence is woven into the mechanics of the game itself. As we’ve seen in many questionable free-to-play titles, the developers want to push you to open your wallet instead of grinding your way to the rewards. They do this by making the rewards so tedious to reach via simply playing the game that you’ll hit the store out of boredom. In essence, the presence of microtransactions makes the game itself a tiring grindfest.

Plus I’ve never anyone argue exactly what their benefit is to the player. Every defence has stated that you don’t need to touch them. If you don’t need to touch them, then why are they there at all? What do I, the player, get out of them being there? Do they enhance the gameplay or improve the experience? More often than not, the answer is no.

It’s a concern that gamers feel that this should be allowed in our hobby. I don’t play a game so I can buy a fake currency with real currency. I don’t want to act as the personal ATM for every game publisher with an irresponsible financial department. They can’t even market it as something good, and in fact tend to try and hide their presence, because they know it’s sleazy and exploitative but they do it anyway because they think they can get away with it.

I am getting sick and tired of microtransactions in full-priced games at this point. This year alone we’ve had Metal Gear Solid V and Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, and it’s just been revealed that Rise of the Tomb Raider will have them too (because Crystal Dynamics and Squeenix are determined to find every way possible to make me hate my favourite game series, it seems). It’s too much.

The Rise of the Tomb Raider news is particularly despicable, as that’s a game already tarnished by a questionable timed-exclusivity deal that has had PC and PlayStation fans of the series (ie. most of them) feeling frustrated. In addition, most of what’s unlockable through these microtransactions in that game are things that in the past used to be unlockable or hidden behind cheat codes. Now we have to pay extra money. It’s disgusting.

It shouldn’t be acceptable. It shouldn’t be forgiven. It should be scorned and boycotted into the ground. If we pay full price for a title, we shouldn’t be expected to pay more on top of that. Let’s push this out of the industry as fast as possible.

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