Over the last couple months, I’ve seen a lot of talk in various places about microtransactions. With Destiny adding Silver for emotes, and Halo 5: Guardians having the option to buy some REQ packs with real money, they’ve been at the forefront with two of the biggest games of the season. So the debate continues to rage on – are microtransactions good for gaming? The easy answer is no – they give developers a way to charge for content that might normally be in the game. But that’s the cynical way of looking at it. In truth, the answer is a lot more complicated. If you’re looking for reasons why their bad, just go search around Reddit or game forums. I’m playing devil’s advocate today.
When they’re done properly – like I think they are in Halo and Destiny – they supplement the game that’s already in place. In Destiny‘s case, it’s a secondary revenue stream for Bungie to use. Activision came out in their latest revenue call and said not to assume that all future DLC for the game would be free just because Silver is in the game now. That irked some players – but to me, that makes perfect sense. Silver alone would never be enough of a revenue stream to support a game of that size. What Silver does is provide a little cushion, and gives Bungie a way to maybe put out smaller chunks of content for less money or for free. I don’t think that something like House of Wolves would ever have been free – but maybe with Silver something a little smaller in scope now can be. Maybe a Quest that has a couple missions in it and has a few new pieces of gear, or a new Crucible map – those are more what I think we’re looking for moving forward now. Bungie was also smart about what Silver is used for. Since it’s only good for buying Emotes that have no direct impact on gameplay, there’s no penalty for not getting Silver. It’s not a Pay-to-Win system that seems to be a pretty prevalent way of implementing microtransactions.
Which is what worried me most about the REQ system in Halo 5: Guardians. Since I wasn’t super interested in diving into the info pre-launch (I tend to do that a lot with games I like) I didn’t really know that REQs were only in Warzone. Now, Warzone isn’t a super competitive mode – it’s a good way to just zone out and play a few games with big teams. The REQ system actually works really well, removing weapon spawns on maps, and putting them in the players hands with these REQs. Now, if they were only tied behind real-money purchases, that would definitely be a real issue. But they aren’t – you gain in-game currency from playing and leveling up, which you can use to pick which tier REQ pack to buy. Sure the very top level is only real-money, but that’s not a necessary purchase in any sense.
Ultimately, I see microtransactions as a great tool that developers and publishers have access too. When they’re used right, they do nothing but enhance the game. Whether it’s with customization items, or status things, they make playing it a little more fun. It’s a tricky line to tread for sure – it’s real easy to use them as shortcuts to victory. Battlefield is guilty of that – after a few months from launch, they offer the shortcut packs for each class/vehicle to unlock all of the items and upgrades. It’s supposed to be a help for new players to get caught up, but it does make me feel a little punished as a day-one player. It kind of alienates the original fanbase. Now Battlefield has gotten away with it – mainly because I don’t think those items are really promoted or needed. What microtransactions really do is open up a different way for fans to support the game they love. DLC takes time to make, and while playing the game is always the best way, buying these little things helps in the meantime. Like them or not, they’re here to stay too – so it’s more important for us as players and fans to find the games that do them well and support them. The power with microtransations is in the players’ hands – if they don’t work, the publishers feel that and adjust moving forward. That’s how we progress as an industry.