Microtransactions are an effective monetization tool in large part because they seem so innocuous. A dollar here, a dollar there—tiny amounts that nobody's going to miss, but they add up, sometimes alarmingly quickly. The free-to-play model is built almost entirely upon microtransactions and it's starting to turn up in major triple-A releases too, including Assassin's Creed Unity, which will allow players to "fast track" unlocks instead of earning them through gameplay.
As is it wasn't already obvious, hats are hugely profitable. Back in July 2013, we learned that workshop creators have collectively earned $10 million from their items. On day two of the Valve-hosted Steam Dev Days event, the company announced that content creators made $400,000 in just the first week of 2014.
When EA spoke of a future business strategy where "all of our games" include the dreaded m-word, reactions weren't exactly positive. CFO Blake Jorgensen shared that original statement during the Morgan Stanley Technology conference last week, but he's now used another conference—the Wedbush Transformational Technology conference—to redact that statement. As Gamasutra reports, Jorgensen says he meant microtransactions will figure into all mobile games instead of EA's entire lineup.
The ongoing debate over the ethicality of microtransactions is hot enough to make the sun look like an ice cube, but it's difficult to overlook the financial benefits of prolonging a game beyond its launch content—just ask EA, which recently stated it's seeking to add purchaseable items in all of its games. Consumer concern is natural, but former Epic designer Cliff Bleszinski thinks wallets are a stronger measure of approval than complaints. In a lengthy blog article, he specifically brings up the business practices of EA and Valve, stating he's "tired" of the former taking the brunt of ire surrounding the subject.
Here is a statement that an EA executive has made about microtransactions, presumably without winking, smirking or collapsing onto the floor in a fit of hysterics: "Consumers are enjoying and embracing that way of the business."
Before I ride off on a custom-built jetpack fuelled by the internet's indignation, here are the details. The executive in question was Blake Jorgensen, EA's CFO. He was speaking the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, transcribed by Seeking Alpha, and revealing EA's plan to build microtransactions into all of their games.
After the appearance of listings for in-game "Erudito Credits" yesterday, Ubisoft have confirmed that there will be microtransactions in Assassin's Creed 3.
"The Erudito Credits are a new way of unlocking content in Assassin's Creed 3's Multiplayer," Ubisoft told Eurogamer. "People who have little time can use Erudito Credits as a shortcut to unlock game items from level 1 to 50 (excluding Prestige levels and relics rewards). This is not mandatory, all items sold in Erudito Credits are also available in Abstergo Credits and can be unlocked through normal progression like previous years."
Future Ubisoft games could offer in-game purchases after taking an initial $60 chomp of your wallet. GamesBeat says during an investor call, Ubisoft CFO Alain Martinez and Worldwide Online Director Stéphanie Perotti acknowledged the "flexibility" of free-to-play business models and the "opportunity" for full-priced games offering microtransactional items.
PlanetSide 2 creative director Matthew Higby wrote a lengthy forum post on Monday detailing Sony Online Entertainment's planned benefits package for paying members. He also addressed concerns over purchasable items and weapons granting unfairly lopsided advantages to players spending actual cash "to instantly blow up someone's tank."
The War Z sticks players in an open-world test of survival against nature, carpets of zombies, and fellow survivors, but here's another punch in the gut from realism: you can permanently lose cash shop items purchased with real money through the in-game store. Good heavens, is it griefing o' clock already?
EA's chief operating officer Peter Moore has said that he believes that microtransactions - and free to play - are an inevitable part of gaming's future. In an interview with Kotaku, he explained that the publisher is still figuring out its place in a changing gaming landscape.
"I think, ultimately, those microtransactions will be in every game, but the game itself or the access to the game will be free" Moore said.
EVE Online creative director on microtransactions: "I personally think we shouldn't be doing it in the near future"
Torfi Frans Olafsson, Creative Director of EVE Online doesn't hate microtransactons, but he's not sure they're the best fit for his massively multiplayer space opera, EVE Online. Last year, CCP introduced cosmetic items that can be purchased for real money, including a $70 monocle that made a lot of people extremely annoyed. And more are incoming, despite the creative director describing his game as a "vulnerable little flower in a vulnerable little ecosystem."
"Yes - we're looking at microtransactions for our future business models" said the CCP dev. "However, we are very reluctant to do that in EVE because it's so established. It's like changing the DNA of a living organism after it's born. That didn't work in Blade Runner."
The huge 1.5GB Battlefield 3 PC patch has arrived, bringing tons of balance changes, bug fixes and new, paid-for "shortcut boxes." These will let players pay to get hold of unlocks like weapons, attachments and vehicle add-ons without having to level up.
According to the Battlefield blog, the bundles are supposed to be available on Origin now, though they don't seem to on there yet here in the UK. When the collection does go live, it'll include a Kit Shortcut bundle that "immediately unlocks all items unique to the four playable classes," a Vehicle Shortcut Bundle that unlocks all items for all vehicles, and the "Ultimate Bundle" which unlocks "all items from all other available shortcut packs," which is basically everything.
Each class kit can be unlocked separately, as well. The Battlefield site has a rundown of the prices for each kit. A class kit costs £5.49 / $6.99, the Ultimate bundle costs £31.99 / $39.99, eight pounds less than the full game.
Are you one of the 100,000 daily users who enjoy creating recipes, baking goods, hiring your friends, and serving customers each day?
Probably not, but that's not the point. PopCap are closing down Baking Life at the end of January, and any "Zip Cash" bought with real-life money will be erased from existence.
I've never baked a virtual cake via the Baking Life app, but that PopCap aren't offering any exchange or refund option sets an ugly precedent for the value of microtransactions and gamer's rights. As pointed out in the screenshot below, PopCap seem keen to redirect players to alternative Facebook titles, but don't seem so keen on converting player's funds.
Eve Online's Incarna update launched yesterday. In addition to the ability to walk around outside your ship, you can also buy micro-transacted items to spruce up your avatar. The problem? The cost of these items is far, far beyond most DLC prices, and it's affecting the delicate Eve economy.
At today's GDC talk, Senior Producer of Battlefield Heroes Ben Cousins revealed that 17% of the game's players want to buy items that would provide them an edge.
In attempts to make Battlefield Heroes more profitable, Cousins and his team conducted a survey of the players to find out just what kind of offers would convince them to pay for items. The response was a demand for items that gave players an advantage in-game. "What really surprised us was how far up this one was: ”If I could by items that give me an advantage" Stuff like health boost, speed boost, etc. This wasn't even on our list of things to do, but 17% of responders wanted it," explained Cousins.
Would you be willing to pay money for an in-game stat boost? Let us know in the comments.
Lead Game Designer Eric Flannum, while discussing the upcoming dungeon system in a recent interview with PC Gamer, revealed that Guild Wars 2 may be supported, in part, by microtransaction sales.
Updated with clarification from ArenaNet
TF2 now sells items. We’ve already interviewed Valve and offered our big-picture response to the update as a whole, but I wanted to give à la carte reviews of the new arms. As these equipments are still mostly unknown quantities, that’s put the community in a position to make blind purchases--I'm here to tell you not to impulsively purchase a writhing, $5 digital fish to assault other players with, no matter how tempting that premise is in your mind.
I’ve punched $70.36 worth of money from my wallet so I can evaluate it all. Read further for my yays and nays, conveniently ranked by which items are the most dollar-worthy.
The team behind the fantastic action-RPG Torchlight are making an MMO, an MMO that will be free-to-play, but supported by microtransactions. Although little's known about the MMO, the Torchlight team talk about their plans in the new issue of PC Gamer, on-sale in the UK on Thursday. In the mag, they reveal that they're aiming for an MMO that feels like a single player game, and it'll retain the same fast action. Their president Travis Baldree also shows he has a traditional PC gamer attitude towards microtransactions.