Micro-Transactions are features in games that require real world money to progress through games and obtain items or progress at a faster rate. While these games can be well-received, games that feature micro-transactions have still been criticized from gamers and critics as a way for game developers and publishers to milk out more money. There are two main purposes for Micro-Transactions:
- Getting cosmetic items and fun items that don't really assist in the game.
- Getting items at a faster rate which allows game developers to obtain more money by slowing down natural progress or put in items or features that require money to obtain.
Though very common in mobile games, as of 2014, several AAA games (high quality and highly budgeted games) have begun using micro-transactions such as Dragon Age: Inquisition and Assassins Creed: Unity, and sparked more popular to publishers/developers in 2017. This led to a controversy over the future of video games. Many games intentionally lock content behind micro-transactions and make it too difficult for the player to make progress otherwise in order to force them to keep paying. This also makes many games "pay-to-win".
- When Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered was released, it didn't have micro-transactions, however later an update was released that added micro-transactions to a remaster of a 9 year old game, it was hated by everyone specially since the game was released bundled with Infinite Warfare legacy edition, and to add salt to the wounds, they released a DLC that was in the original game but this time with a higher price than the original game's DLC.
- NBA 2K18 is becoming infamous for having micro-transactions for almost everything, even hair-cuts and shooting the ball correctly.
- In early "X Story" games such as Bakery Story for iOS which were published by Storm8, you were required to either add friends or pay to increase your building's size.
- The mobile game My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (based off the show of the same name) is a free downloadable game in which Twilight Sparkle needs the player's help to rebuild Ponyville after it's destroyed by the villainous Nightmare Moon. While the game has in game currency to help with the store, many items are only optional, but to obtain the more important characters, players need to earn rare gems which can take years of constant play to obtain. Without paying for the rare gems, it was estimated it would take 3 years to obtain the last required character and 10 years to complete the game. In one instance a child playing on her parents' iPad kept paying for rare gems unaware that it cost real money. In the end, she paid a total of £900 in real currency (roughly $1,105.95) in just 30 minutes.
- The mobile game Final Fantasy All the Bravest is the epitome of this term. While it only costs about $4 dollars to buy and download, it costs one dollar each to obtain a character or weapon. It also costs money to buy golden hourglasses to revive party members. The game is one of the very, very few times IGN has actively warned gamers not to buy the game.
- Despite developer Overkill Software promising Payday 2 would not feature any micro-transactions, they were added to the title in October 2015, which caused a severe amount of fan backlash against them. They tried to remedy this by adding several new DLC packs for returning players, but this did nothing to halt the fans' anger. Fortunately, Overkill removed micro-transactions from the game for good in May 2016 after parent company Starbreeze Studios acquired the rights to the Payday franchise from 505 Games.
- The mobile game Smurfs' Village was very popular and tied to the 2011 movie. In fact it almost topped Angry Birds in sales. The goal is to use in-game currency to obtain characters and buildings to build a village but real world currency could also be used to obtain in-game currency. As a result, kids would unknowingly rack up hundreds of dollars for playing the game. Parents sued Apple as a result.
- The Bravely Second ability in Bravely Default allows time to stop allowing one character an attack or ability to use. This ability requires Sleep Points which can be obtained by keeping the 3DS in sleep mode and obtain one SP every eight hours. SP drinks can be obtained through real world money to obtain SP points instantly. This feature was heavily criticized by YouTuber ProJared as most bosses have a difficulty spike to likely encourage gamers to spend money on SP Drinks.
- Dragon Age Inquisition has this feature to obtain resources for crafting. Though the game has been well-received, the micro-transaction was still a major criticism for the game.
- Budge Studio's My Little Pony Harmony Quest game has forced micro-transactions where you cannot continue the game, unless you pay the micro-transactions to continue the game. You have to pay for more characters (or 10$ for all of them at once).
- The medieval PVP brawler game For Honor which was developed by Ubisoft requires around an estimated $700 to unlock everything in the game or 2.5 years worth of gameplay. The director of the game, Damien Keiken, responded that gamers were never meant to unlock everything.
- A mobile game called Club Penguin Island was announced just as the original free-to-play PC game was about to be shut down on March 29, 2017. After the game was released, players had about one week free, but they had to pay for a membership to play for longer than that. Many players of the original were so upset, that they decided to go play the Rewritten version instead.
- A mobile game called Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow has a quest where you need to pay $4.99 to complete it!!! (Fortunately, it's not part of the main storyline)
- Middle-earth: Shadow of War, despite being a single-player game, features loot chests that contain XP boosts, as well as weapons and armor of varying rarity. These chests are completely randomized and can only be bought via in-game currency known as Gold, which you can either purchase using real money or earn via grinding. The game features a multiplayer mode called Social Conquest where players can create bases and post it online to challenge others to assault it with their armies. In ranked matches, any Orc followers that are killed in battle remain permanently dead. Unfortunately your chances of winning depend entirely on how much you're willing to pay up because how quickly you can obtain the best items and resupply your armies depends on how much Gold you have, which is contradictory to Warner Bros.' promise that Gold wouldn't give players any advantages. To make matters worse, to get the true ending of the game, players literally have an option to buy loot crates for more monsters to beat the game, though you could do it for free.
- Worse than this however, is that Warner Bros. is using the producer's death to make profits. During the game's development, Shadow of War producer Michael David Forgey died of brain cancer on March 3, 2016. To honor him, developer Monolith Productions created a character named Forthog Orc-Slayer, who will be released as DLC, purchases of which will contribute donations to the Forgey family to assist them. However, the trailer for this fails to mention that although the DLC costs $5, Warner Bros. is only donating $3.50 to the family for each one sold, a split which that Warner Bros. has not disclosed what it was for. To make matters worse, at the end of the trailer there's a small fine print below that has important information regarding the donations. It says "Donations will be made on purchases from any 1 of the 50 U.S. or D.C. (but excluding purchases made from AL, HI, IL, MA, MS, and SC)," meaning if you purchase the DLC from any of these six states or anywhere outside of the U.S., Warner Bros. will take all $5 of your donation and pocket at least $3.50 of it (which was later confirmed by the Shadow of War Twitter account). Warner Bros. is profiting off of a dead man's memorial under the guise of a charity event, which is unethical! Thankfully for those willing to donate, check this link to donate an amount of your choosing to the Forgey family without giving anything to Warner Bros.
- Two Bethesda developed games called The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and Fallout 4 were given an update which gave the games a new feature called "Creation Club" as a way to support modders using paid mods. However, it sent massive shockwaves in between the Fallout and Skyrim community and caused a large majority of Fallout 4 players protest against the Creation Club on YouTube, and even on Twitter. Pete Hines, a developer working for Bethesda, even tried to defend Creation Club on Twitter which made things even worse and caused even more backlash from lots of players. The paid mods were heavily disliked by players, due to the fact that they forced you to pay for credits, they were of poor quality, took up a lot of space on your hard drive (regardless of whether you paid for them or not), and most importantly, they are recycled content that already exists through regular mods that are of better quality than their paid counterparts. This caused Fallout 4 to be flooded with negative user reviews on Steam, which are mainly focused on Creation Club, giving Fallout 4 a "Not Recommended" score on Steam.
- One of the most infamous case of micro-transactions is Type Moon's Fate/Grand Order. A RPG Anime games in the Fate series, it was notorious for its horrible rare characters (called "Servants" in-game) drop rate which prevents players from progressing further in the game. This made many players pay to do summoning rare servants. There's a case that a Japanese man paid over 150,000 Yen (over $1314.25 in USD) but still could not get a 5-Star servant.
- The Chinese server of massive-multiplayer online tank battle World of Tanks was managed by Chinese company Kongzhong inc. with Wargaming license due the Chinese law. This server is notorious for selling various premium tanks (many of them are just reskinned tanks) at very high price ($60 - $150 USD for minimal), unlike other server where the maximum premium tank tier can be sold is tier 8, the Chinese server of World of Tanks sells tier 10 premium tanks which it's the highest tier in-game. The most expensive tank in the game, The Chieftain Mk.6, had absolutely ridiculous price tag at around $1700 USD. And to make it even much more worse, You need to spend $18000 USD on this game to get a "Contributor" status to gain access to buy the $1700 USD tank!
- Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 has microtransactions within the hero colosseum update. With time patrol coins which can be used for unlocking special moves for your character or outfits, In the update the figures for the new said mode,
- The MMO Neverwinter has a currency called Zen which is common in Perfect World games that usually requires micro-transactions. However, unlike most currencies that you buy with real world money, there exists an option to buy Zen using an in game currency called Astral Diamonds. Zen is required for keys for Loot Boxes, special wards to help in the refining process, stuff for improving the guild, booster packs, and even loadouts to create different customization for your character. You can also occasionally acquire coupons for reduced spending in the Zen Market.
- EA Sports UFC 3 has been noted to have loot boxes and special items you can get for your character, and also purchasable "rare" fighters that are much more stronger than your basis character.
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided are infamous for it's one-time use Praxis Kits, which basically unlock more weapons and equipment. The big problem is there is that the Praxis Kits are tied to just one playthrough, which means if you buy one for that playthrough, you have to buy it again for another playthrough.
- Duck Life (mobile verison) has a paywall that disables rest of the levels making only running, swimming, flying only playable causing you to pay $0.99 aka $1.00 to progress the game
- Some of MDickies games such as hard time, wrecked, and extra lives has a paywall the wardens in hard time arrest you for freeloading, and in wrecked and extra lives once you die you will lose your progress due to the NPC who saved you pull the plug
Why it Sucks
- Since almost every game on mobile devices today are full of micro-transactions, and most developers (such as Gameloft) are focused on how to get more money instead of improving their gameplay, now it is rare to find a unique mobile game that doesn't copy another app.
- It's almost inexcusable when games that already cost full price use Micro-transactions. You already paid for the game, those Micro-Transactions most likely are only there to milk more money.
- In some games, the game forces you to pay money in order to progress the game at a acceptable rate compared to playing as a free-to-play user where it is far too slow.
- In many games, Micro-Transactions exist as "Exclusive Items" that are dramatically more powerful than regular items, so that paying players can outrank players who don't pay very easily.
- In cases where players pay thousands of dollars or more the players who pay large amounts of money are called "whales", and these whales are usually what makes the most money for the publisher. This means they have to make those players keep playing the game.
- Sometimes, if a person links his or her online payment credit/debit card to a store account on a mobile device, children may continuously buy in-game items with the real life money in the account unaware that they're actually spending real money, most likely ending with the parent losing massive amounts of money.
It should also be noted however, that micro-transactions can be relatively harmless if done correctly. Mainly when the stuff you buy via micro-transactions is optional or can be obtained through normal gameplay at a reasonable pace, and when the game isn't specifically designed to restrict the player unless they keep buying micro-transactions. Money obtained from micro-transactions can be used to fund extra services that the game offers such as online servers, and as long as the game isn't intentionally milking the player with them, the use of micro-transactions can be somewhat acceptable.