Opinion: Gamers, we really are our own worst enemy

This morning Activision announced that they made a huge amount of money thanks to microtransactions. In total, they walked away with a pleasing $4 billion last year. Convert that to Rand and you get to… never mind, that thought just depresses me. We’re looking at loot boxes in Overwatch and Call of Duty, as well as map packs and other forms of DLC and other mobile ventures. We’ve now got to the point that these money-making business plans are here to stay forever and though I’d love to point my fingers at the publishers there’s one major problem – us gamers.

I don’t think the direction gaming has taken is something we could have avoided. As soon as games were plugged into the online network with a currency attached to it there was always a tycoon ready to jump in and scoop our cash. It just irks me that we have fallen into the trap of paying for shit that should be free. A skin? Seriously? We pay for a fucking skin? A little piece of art that you’ll perhaps get some satisfaction with for 10 minutes, but in the real world means little. Back in the day, I would finish a game on a harder difficulty to unlock the Spud of War outfit for Kratos in God of War. More recently, much to my surprise, you can buy several outfits for Bayek in Assassin’s Creed Origins using in-game currency (go Ubisoft!). You see, it can still work. You don’t have to pay real world money for crap that should be free.

The matter of the fact is this – when paying R1000 for a game, and it’s missing half the story it’s already a slap in the face. Unfortunately, we’ve all already made peace with the fact that DLC is here to stay and will forever cost us more. If you plan to play the entire story you’re going to shell out a minimum of around R1,500 for a game. I think back to Resident Evil 4 and the Separate Ways add-on content. That content was added to the PS2 version, which launched several months after initially being GameCube exclusive. It was free and along with it, you received a bunch of outfits for Leon and Ashley to wear in the main campaign in Capcom’s own way to reward PS2 gamers who had to wait for the delay. All gratis. That’s 13 years ago, which is a long time ago, but considering we’re accepting DLC as extra paid for content it’s something we have to deal with now. However, Daniel Ahmed said something on Twitter that made the hair on my back stand up. Microtransactions are becoming something that’s accepted and DESIRED. Desired?! W.T.F?!

Now, I’m proud to say that I’ve not bought a single thing using microtransactions to date because, quite frankly, I think it’s a massive scam and downright greed. I did, however, spend a ludicrous amount on DLC. Those extra goodies were once free, but because they can charge for it they do. There was even a time, before microtransactions, that these extras were either unlocked by playing well or you could download it for free. Thanks to it being popular they added a cost to it and BAM! – they’re making a killing off gamers who can unfortunately not control their spending habits.

Publishers, not just Activision, are making huge bucks. You just need to look at Take-Two (GTA V and the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2) to see that it’s a winning recipe for publishers. Think Red Dead Redemption 2 will cost you R999? LOL! Think again. The more we’re willing to spend the more they are willing to take. It’s as simple as that. Unfortunately, dear gamer, we have all fallen into the trap and dug a hole we can’t get out of.

Have you spent money in 2017 on any microtransactions? Did you buy any DLC? You did? Well, then it’s probably best you accept your fate.

We are our own worst enemy.

Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.
  • Small Charlie
  • AchtungBaby_

    I have never ever paid for a microtransaction. The last DLC I bought was The Witcher 3 Blood and Wine. I’m a good gamer. Be more like me 😉

    Seriously though, this is why I have not been enjoying multiplayer games lately. I don’t buy map packs and I get kicked from lobbies for not owning dlc. So yeah. It destroys my gaming experience and I’m just steering clear of games like that because it’s severely disappointing.

  • Sageville

    Frankly, I’d rather see cosmetic micro-transactions than a R1500 price point.

    • Valshen

      I think most people would do anything other than see that sacred $60 price change, and devs/pubs know this.

      • Weanerdog

        $60 you can make that working at McD on a Saturday morning. Not sure how long getting R1000 takes you. Point is that gaming is lake expensive in our country and I don’t mind others buying shiny loot boxes to keep the price down. As long as it’s cosmetic stuff.

          • Weanerdog

            I agree with Jim’s arguement. But at the moment others are funding my games and I am okay with that. Yes it will probably come and bite me in the arse down the road because it’s not always going to be cosmetic.

  • MonsterCheddar

    If I was stupid enough to buy the vanilla version of a game, then I will buy the expansions if I think its worth it. I won’t however spend money on cosmetic crap or to get ahead in the game.

    Now i’m going to play devil’s advocate…

    What we need to understand is that these are businesses with investors etc. They will always look for a way to make an extra buck, just like any other company. We can say they exploit us, but then we have to point the finger at all corporations. Their aim is to make money, pure and simple.

    I’m not sure about the costs involved i making video games, but if they don’t make money, the industry would crumble or the quality of games will drop (some companies do that anyway). And yes I know there are awesome “Free to Play” games like Warframe (I’m also a fan) that don’t rely on massive sales. They have MT’s and for an awesome Free to Play I would say that’s fair.

    And it will continue to go on this way because a lot of people out there don’t mind paying for shit they don’t really need.

    We need to look at both sides of the coin.

    Like with anything in life, you will only be ripped off if you allow yourself to be ripped off.

    Thats my five cents. You may tell me to fuck off now. 😀

  • DemonGamer

    True , but I feel that if you love something you’re willing to spend money on it . Unfortunately we live in a world where people are willing to take advantage of this . I read a tweet a few days ago from a game director, to summarize , the main goal of any ip is to produce a profit. That’s just the way of the world.

    And to be honest if you do spend money on skins and such , I dont hate you , I’ll call you stupid , but I wont hate you , because you bought something that means something to you . So yeah we may be our own enemy , but we’re also our own savior. Ok now I need to decide if I should buy that Madness Return outfit set to make trophy hunting easy ?

  • Valshen

    As someone who regularly buys small packs for cosmetics, I like shiny and I like supporting devs/artists whose stuff I enjoy. Also those pets in WoW where the money goes to charity? Count me in.

  • Why did you neglect to mention that half of that $4 billion profit came from Candy Crush and other King games?

    Furthermore, the other half of the $4 billion includes ActiBlizz’s own mobile games, including Hearthstone.

    The remainder of that would come from ActiBlizz’s games, but honestly nobody who actually plays Overwatch, World of Warcraft, and other Blizz titles minds the microtransaction-based content because it’s mostly fair (or fair enough, given live servers and regular free content). So what does that leave? Call of Duty and Destiny?

    So really you’re saying that Call of Duty and Destiny players are their own worst enemy?

    • “…and other mobile ventures” points to that part of the business. Yes, I know there are people who live for the Overwatch microtransaction-based content (I know Garth loves it), but I do believe it is what started off the BS with EA’s SW:BF2 lootbox screwup and more. As soon as Overwatch did well it progressed to something else (within and outside of Activision) and now look what other games are doing? Hopefully Blizzard never falls to those levels.

      Players are going to support this nonsense because, as Daniel Ahmed points out, it’s now accepted and desired. I did not mention it, but let’s look at Warner Bros? Shadow of War/Injustice 2 – it’s getting out of hand.

      Lastly, I made it very clear that this is not an Activision ‘thing’, it’s a global fuckup generally speaking. Gamers supporting all this crap are their own worst enemies. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t see someone bitching about it, yet they support it.

      • “out of hand” is a hyperbolic statement to make, I think. From what I’ve heard of Shadow of War and Injustice 2’s post-paid models, they are mostly out of the way and the developers have at least made an effort to not make it exploitative.

        SW:BF2 is unfortunately the grandest strawman because it was, after all, the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of the whole shady practice of loot lotteries. EA has been guilty of this for a while, and with Call of Duty following suit it is very much embedded in the culture.

        But is it out of hand? And for that matter, do you have proof that the people bitching about it and the people supporting it are in a 1:1 venn diagram of possible groups? I’d counter-offer that maybe there IS a loud opposition to the practice, but it is drowned out by the, let’s say, casual community of gamers that doesn’t read online stuff and just mostly wants to play games (which is why they’re so much more exploitative and commonplace in the BIG titles, the Call of Dutys, Assassin’s Creeds, and so on).

        I think it’s just A Thing We Need To Make Peace With because it’s certainly not going anywhere in AAA games, and all we can do now is call out the more heinous practices, ie. The Battlefront 2s of the world.

        Either way, I am very much on your side on this, I just felt that the general tone of the article seemed to ignore that over 50% of the entire reported $4 billion profit was from mobile, and to me that in itself just tells me mobile games are still more profitable than what we might call ‘regular’ games. To me that’s the real story here.

        • Look, I probably should have included a bigger focus on mobile (and how it’a affecting the rest of this industry). I get your point. Unfortunately we’ll never quite know what Joe Soap’s thoughts are, as you mentioned, they’re not online to voice their opinions. I do however see so many people complaining about it and if you had access to our Facebook page you’d see the most bizarre and downright amazing things you’ve ever seen in your life (believe me).

          As for the ‘out of hand’ scenario. Gosh, we only need to go back to 2017 with the loot boxes (which are microtransactions with a gamble mechanic) Where it all went very wrong, and that I feel is completely out of hand, hence the backlash. Yet (I know it’s easy to pick on), SW:BF 2 still sold pretty damn well. Didn’t make the money ea was hoping for, but it still made enough to have other publishers a little jelly.

          Anyway, it was good to see your face here again. We had some good debates back in the day 🙂

          • 😉

            I’ve been following the whole microtransactions thing closely recently because I’m trying to figure out if there *can be* some sort of middle-ground between greedy publishers and honest developers who just want to make a good game, and of course us the fans who very likely stand with the developers in thinking we’d rather not have that stuff in our games if we can avoid it.

            I am least glad that the outrage over SWBF2 did seem to affect its sales at least somewhat. So it shows that at least some of us *are* voting with our wallets. For the tiny bit of good it does.

  • Small Charlie

    I agree that we’re our own worst enemies. We will also have to live with the fact that things like loot crates and microtransactions are here to stay. The important thing is however, that we need tot start being a lot smarter on what we spend our money on.

    If there is a nice shiny that they make available at a reasonable price, then sure go for it, but you have to ask yourself if that is really worth the couple of bucks that you’re forking over.

    • Small Charlie

      That said, it really does piss me off when devs and publisher give stuff for free, but the really good looking stuff is locked behind fucking lootboxes and microtransactions.

      Looking at you Bungie…

  • eVolVee

    Next thing you know you can perform MTX with Bitcoins and then the whole world goes to sh!t.

    • Small Charlie

      The way Bitcoin is going, we’ll score out of that deal…

  • Tom

    in some ways, these alternative ways for publishers to make money and the move to digital have resulted in cheaper prices for games. for instance, i picked up assassin’s creed: origins on ps4 for $16 the other day (went halvies on the digital version with a friend and used a 20% off coupon i got in my email). now, back in the ps1/ps2 days you would wait about a year for the platinum version of a popular playstation game to be released and it was still R200 to R300. granted, you could sell it after you were done with it and get most of your money back, but i would argue that the base versions of great games are cheaper to pick up these days if you’re prepared to wait a few months for sales. add inflation/the exchange rate into the mix along with how much more money is being poured into high-profile singleplayer focused games these days (translating into a more in-depth, richer experience in many cases) and you’ll see that we aren’t getting a bad deal.

    • ReverendFunk

      I wouldn’t chalk that up to loot boxes. The game stops selling because the next “AAA” big thing came along and people just stopped buying. Supply and demand,

  • I buy lootboxes. I have no issues with lootboxes if implemented how I feel it should be. Take Overwatch.

    Without
    bringing the “it is just cosmetic” war into account, Overwatch lootboxes basically ensures that we never get map pack DLC or
    character DLC that could split the community. Hell it is the reason most
    of my friends stop playing Battlefield cause we can’t play together
    anymore.

    Fortnite is another example. There is no paywall for progression and you get a rather large flow of free Llamas from normal and event quests.People argued that there was a definite paywall at one point because you could not get a certain leveling resource till they realized that that resource does not appear in bought Llamas at all (pure drops of rain) and only in mini Llamas you get as rewards.

    Then there is Battlefront 2. Yeah … no. Also Shadow of War. Single player games should never ever ever have lootboxes and/or paid for content (looking at you Dead Space 3).

    At least this is how I feel and I can bet you someone will strongly disagree @ottokie:disqus 😛

    • I have 10 min before I can go home for the weekend. That’s not nearly enough time to call you out on your hypocritical ways xD

      • No need to write a thesis. Just call me a hypocrite. 😛

    • ReverendFunk

      Like I always say, if you want to put lootboxes in a game, make it free to play. Then you can nickel and dime to your heart’s content.

  • I’m actually all for microtransactions. It means people stay hired on even post launch, thanks to revenue stream. It might not be the whole team, but it definitely allows for jobs to remain within the studio. A knock on effect is that some of these jobs might be able to be filled with junior newcomers, a great place to start your career as opposed to jumping in and working on the main title. Same model used by Disney with its straight to DVD follow-ups. It is the same argument that applies to the whole software as a service model.

    • That said, random loot boxes should be banned. That’s just gambling disguised as business.

      • MonsterCheddar

        This ^^^^^^^^

    • ReverendFunk

      Now if only a tiny fraction of that money went to those people.

      They get paid peanuts and get screwed out of healthcare etc…

  • Dave

    On one hand I see why the publishers do it. It’s the same reason that chocolate bars decrease in size gradually and then come out later in a ‘new bigger size’ that’s literally the same size they used to be.
    The costs of making a big game have increased dramatically, and so rather than pass the cost onto the user directly, they’ll sneak it in with DLC and loot boxes and those who really like the game (and hopefully have money to spare) will pay more for the game.
    However, the fact that it works doesn’t excuse the insidious practises of some developers. With random loot boxes being the most exploitative. At least with DLC you know what you are paying for and you can decide if you want it. You can also often get it on sale, or in a GOTY bundle down the line. But this nonsense of blind loot boxes that contain nothing but cosmetic items must get out of main line games for good. (I get that in some free to play games it mirrors the “magic the gathering” idea, and that is very much part of the game, in which case the easiest thing to do is avoid those games. )
    But putting cosmetic drops into a game you paid a lot of money for in the first place? That can die in a fire. Seriously! Why can they not just let you buy the skins you want and have done with it. Or spend a bit of time making a real expansion pack that actually adds value to the game experience.

  • thank you for saying all of this.

    and this – in large part – is why i have abandoned the aaa industry. if the aaa industry wants to get me into an abusive relationship, then i want nothing to do with it.

    there are still people out there who are creating games, because they’re great entertainment – those people are now the indies [for the most part, anyway] and i’ll give those folks my money any day of the week.

    that and if i /do/ want an aaa game? i’m just going to wait it out patiently until they bundle everything together in a game-of-the-year bundle. [and if they insist on lootboxes on top of that, i’ll just ignore those.]

    inviting the shareholders to the party was possibly the worst thing we ever did. [because shareholders want ALL of the money, not just some of it.]

    • [currently, the only pair of aaa games i’m remotely interested in are biomutant – and i have mixed feelings about the mechanics of that, which almost certainly makes it a wait-and-see purchase for me – and vampyr, which i feel might be TOO dark for me. also. vampyr’s probably aa, at best. so, that probably tells you where my head is at with regards to aaa. i’m FAR more interested in what’s coming down the pike from indie developers.]

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