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The Good, The Bad and The Crazy: Micro-Transactions

Whether you like them or not, micro transactions are here to stay. Once limited to free-to-play and mobile games, it seems the unpopular trend has now made it’s way over to consoles as more and more full retail games include some form of microtransaction.

But are they they really such a bad thing? Or are they just being handled in the wrong way? Development costs continue to rise as we embrace new technology, shouldn’t developers be allowed to find new ways to recoup costs instead of potentially hiking up the standard purchase cost of the game ?

We at GamePointsNow thought we’d take a look at some of the best, worst and downright crazy examples so far:

The Good



Allowing players to purchase purely optional cosmetic items that don’t affect gameplay is probably the best possible example of developers using microtransactions in games. Several free to play titles have adopted this model to great success, such as DOTA 2 and Team Fortress 2. Gamers love to customise everything in games, so the chance to spend a few pennies on a sweet skin for your rifle in shooty shooty bang bang game 11 is fine by us.

Best Examples: Team Fortress 2 & DOTA 2

Time Savers


Not everyone has the time or the skill to unlock every available piece of content in a game. So the chance to pay a one off fee in order to access content that wouldn’t normally be available without a significant time investment can make sense. While some players dispute this model as unfair to players who have put time and effort into earning the items the hard (and fun!) way, the counter argument is that it’s unfair to those too time poor to to unlock everything.

The ability to level the playing field a little with things like Burnout Paradises time saver pack or being able to buy some in game currency allows those of us with precious little gaming time to experience later game content. These packs also prove the old adage that time really is money.

Best Example: Burnout Paradise’s Timesavers car pack

Haggling for DLC


It’s fair to say Nintendo haven’t always seemed to get the online aspect of gaming, but with upcoming 3DS title Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball they are trying something completely new with their microtransactions. The free-to-play mini game collection allows players to complete favours for shopkeeper Rusty, in order to earn discounts when purchasing additional mini games for real money. If that’s not enough, you can even haggle to try and get a further reduction.

Best Example: Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball

The Bad

Random card packs


Don’t get me wrong I love FIFA Ultimate Team. Its ability to recapture those days in the school playground buying and swapping football stickers with your mates no doubt goes a long way in explaining its phenomenal success. And being able to put together a team of your favourite players and challenge your mates online – so actually making use of your hard earned cards – is a fantastic feature. It’s just the way it’s handled that leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

FUT’s risk/reward structure for real money is a little too close to gambling for some, made even worse by the fact there is no age restriction on the game – leaving youngsters easily exposed. While you can buy the packs using the in game currency (should you be willing to put in the time), the fact you can pay real money for a second in game currency which you then exchange for random packs still stings

Worst Examples: Fifa Ultimate Team, Hearthstone

Pay to Win


Any multiplayer game lives and dies by it balancing; even the slightest tweak could could greatly unbalance everything. Time saver packs can be a good thing if the game is balanced in such a way as to incorporate them, but tip that balance too far and it could dramatically upset the whole game for everyone. Allowing players instant access to the fastest cars or most powerful weapons in games without any form of regulation can soon put up a massive barrier to anyone unwilling to pony up the cash.

Worst Example: World of Tanks special edition super tanks

In Your Face


Even the most well intentioned micro transaction can instantly become a bad thing if it’s repeatedly pushed in your face. You could have two games with an identical set of microtransactions but should one constantly prompt you for your hard earned pennies, it’s bound to eventually annoy. Sure, offer the player the opportunity to boost their XP or whatever once, but please don’t thrust it front and centre every chance you get.

Worst Example: Forza 5′s press Y to boost

The Crazy

Warframe – Prime Access Inferno


While the contents you get in this pack aren’t that outrageous in the grand scheme of things, it’s the price that sets this one apart. I’m not entirely sure what’s ‘micro’ about something that costs £110, but if you’ve got more money then sense then you can grab yourself some in game currency, mods and other exclusives for for Digital Extreme’s cyber ninja free-to-play shooter.

Curiosity – Diamond Pickaxe


As if creating a game that involves people all over the world frantically tapping the screen of their iPhone in some joint experiment to chip away at a virtual cube wasn’t enough, Peter Molyneux and his 22Cans studio also decided to charge £50,000 for a pickaxe that could remove virtual blocks 100,000 times faster than your chubby fingers. Sadly however its seems no-one took up the chance to part with such a sum for a virtual tool in a time limited game. Funny that.

Train Simulator


While most would argue these are just DLC (aren’t all micro-transactions?) Railwork’s Train Sim wholeheartedly embraces the ‘micro’ part of ‘microtransaction’. You could easily shell out over £1000 on ‘in game content’ that adds very little aside from some different looking engines and varied views of the virtual countryside.

The Apathy Bear Gun – Gun Bros


Another in game purchase that stomps all over the micro part of micro-transaction. IOS title Gun Bros features a gun that costs 3,999 “war bucks” which is the in game currency you can buy. However to attain such an amount of such currency you would need to purchase the top level £69.99 currency pack SIX TIMES!!! equating to roughly £419.94. Sadly this isn’t the first time publisher Glu Mobile has tried this practice in several of it’s freemium games. This type of practice is the worst type of abusive cash grab that’s targeted at the game’s biggest supporters.

How do you feel about Micro Transactions? Do they have a place in full retail games? or are they just another way for companies to try and exploit our money from us? Let us know in the comments below

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This entry was posted in feature, Opinion on by .
Chris Cook

About Chris Cook

Chris has been gaming as long as he can remember and is almost old enough to know better. He can often be found staring wide eyed at the tv with a Xbox pad in hand or practising his Football Manager press conferences in the bathroom mirror.

  • born_naughty

    The only free to play game that I’ve played for a long time is Marvel Avengers Alliance. You can get just about anything if you have patients without paying anything. After a year of not paying a dime I did buy some gold. But they changed the game and now it seems to demand more out of your wallet. So in conclusing, I don’t like microtransactions, I rather just pay one full price for one full game. If that seems expensive, just wait a year and you can get it for only a fraction of the original price.