What are Microtransactions in games? All that you should know

To me, at least, playing some game I like, is the best way to kill time, and I am not the only one on this list. Talking about purchasing games, a decade or two ago, games used to be available in physical shops, where you once had to go, give them the money, and get the game in return, just like purchasing any other physical object. This method of shopping games also applies, to some extent, today, but most people love getting games from online digital stores like Steam, on PC; Google Play Store and AppStore on Android and iOS respectively. Getting games online is more convenient for most, as long as you have a high-speed internet connection to least wait after you pay for the game

When purchasing games have gone easier, and you don’t have to depend on physical disks, it is now feasible for game developers to distribute games for free, as they do not have to invest in making them available on CDs, DVDs, or other physical media. But, when games are distributed for free, there must be a way for the developers to make money, and that’s when they resort to micro-transactions. But micro-transactions are not just limited to free-to-play games. You can even see such a thing in paid games to help the developers earn money by offering you some advantages in the games that you play.

What are Microtransactions in games

But, let’s first find out, what micro-transactions are, and why most gamers hate this thing.

What are Micro-transactions?

When you play a game, you often come across advertisements for UNLOCKING some new costumes, skins, characters, game maps, or any other elements. Yes, there is a reason, for keeping that word in caps. Depending upon the game that you are playing, unlocking a new costume or character can make you look cool, if it is a multiplayer game, however, unlocking new game maps will give you more opportunity to explore your favourite game.

To unlock, or, as per games, purchase those things, you will either have to pay real money or some in-game currency. When you are paying real money within a game to get something, it is called a micro-transaction. Using in-game currency seems to be a better deal than paying real money, but there is an unsaid catch. It is hard to collect premium in-game currency necessary to unlock the premium items in a game unless you shell out some real cash. 

You might have to wait for weeks, or even months to earn enough in-game premium currency to be able to afford one single premium item. But some gamers have very little patience. On the other hand, with some real cash, you can get hands-on multiple premium items in only one go. The amount of premium in-game currency that you will get by investing real cash is again something that can frustrate you in certain games. 

Yes, it is similar to in-app purchases, which, however, is a generalized term that refers to paying real money for getting some more features in mobile apps or so.

Most costumes, maps, or other items unlocked through Microtransactions are already programmed in the games. It is not that, the items are not available in the game itself. Everything is there programmed within the game, but you are just charged to be able to use them.

Why gamers hate Microtransactions?

Hope you now got, what Microtransactions are. You must be pondering on, what’s wrong with getting your character a Santa Claus or Halloween costume for Christmas and the Halloween season! Why gamers have a reason to hate such a thing! Obviously, there is a reason, and only for certain types of microtransactions in games, rather than all.

Some game developers go a step further and offer players some in-game advantages who do micro-transactions. This is the thing that frustrates the pro-gamers, who want a level playing field for all the players who are on the arena.

Microtransactions can offer a plethora of advantages. One of them is, offering the experience of playing a game for an unlimited number of times, where you have to spend a ticket or pass for playing the game every single time. When you run out of passes or tickets, you will automatically get one pass after a point of time to play the game again or see an ad to get a pass. With a micro-transaction, you can get unlimited tickets or passes and you will never have to wait for the tickets to get refilled. This isn’t a micro-transaction most users will hate, as this is giving you the option to play a game any time you want, and you are not getting any in-game advantages anyway.

But some micro-transactions can even offer some actual in-game advantages in both single, as well multiplayer games, where the one, who is doing a micro-transaction to get the advantages will have an upper hand, over a regular opponent. So, even if you are having the necessary skills, the other player will probably win the game because he is enjoying more in-game advantages. Most pro-players call this a pay-to-win strategy, where the financial power, in some way, decides, who is the winner. 8 Ball Pool by Miniclip is such a game, where you can unlock better cues to increase the chances of winning a game, however, in the real game of Snooker or Billiards game, it is your skills that matter most. You can find hundreds of other games that have this type of micro-transactions in the ecosystem.

It can even increase the chance of winning certain in-game items, which apparently seems, aren’t programmed. In many games, you will have to spin a wheel to win items. Even though, it seems, the spin wheel is unbiassed, I have observed, players who often carry out micro-transactions have a higher chance of getting some rare and useful items, which other players will have to wait for years to get. The same goes for loot boxes and for cards, where you will have a greater chance to win pro items if you indulge in frequent micro-transactions. Such games are often compared with slot machines, where you will have to pay real money to win, but instead of getting cash in return, you are getting some mere in-game advantages.

Some games are programmed to endorse micro-transactions so that you can progress only by doing it. For example, you might need certain items to progress, and you can get those items easily from chests and other places, or by using virtual currency, whereas, if you don’t pay, you will have to lag behind, only the developers know, how long. Such games often look lucrative, but eventually, the real gamers opt-out of playing such games as the gaming skills hardly play any role in helping the user progress. 

But not all it are bad. As I just said, if you are unlocking costumes, characters, obviously who are not having some extra power than other free characters, is quite fair. Just look at PUBG. You can use UC to purchase pro-costumes, gun skins, and get some shoutout when you jump from the aircraft. But at the end of the day, the chicken dinner goes to the one who has the necessary skills. It’s your strategy, tactics, and your concentration that matters to win.

How micro-transactions is changing the gaming eco-system?

Microtransactions affect gaming eco-system in drastic ways. Just compare the game that was available a decade ago, and those available now. All the games are programmed in a way, to more or less influence the gamers to pay something using real money. So, if you can’t complete a level, you just pay to unlock it and proceed with the next levels. It is the money that is unlocking the game, but not your brains or your skills. 

When you are using your money instead of skills, the levels will go tougher and tougher, and you will use the money to unlock them. If you can complete all the levels by paying money, you are donating the developer, but isn’t really enjoying the game. The greed of exploring (not playing) the next levels become irresistible if you can purchase the level completions using some real cash.

Some micro-transactions are embedded into the user interfaces of the games using dark patterns, which you can learn more about here. Out of the frustration of not being able to cope with the hardship of the game or a level within a game, most users mistakenly be a victim of dark pattern and do a micro-transaction.

I was just talking with a friend, who frequently do micro-transactions. I told him to not use micro-transactions to win or get advantages in a game, and use the gaming skills for the same. In return, he said, ‘You people spend time, play and earn skills, but we don’t have skills, but subsidize the absence of skills with money!’ When people around you, in your favourite game, is doing micro-transactions, to get some unfair, or better, paid advantages in a game, you will too have to do micro-transactions as well, to win, as the developers make the game easier for those who pay, rather than those who have the appropriate skills.

Are Microtransactions that bad?

We all love getting things for free. Aren’t we? But nothing in the world is free. The developers have to invest millions of dollars sometimes to offer you free-to-play games. If they are offering the games for free, they need to find a way to subsidize their investment or the hard work involved in it. Some resort to ads, while others use micro-transactions.

Microtransactions are great if it’s not giving any unfair advantages to certain players. However, you can even get some unfair in-game advantages by seeing ads, and the real gamers also have a similar stand on such a strategy of offering in-game advantages by the game developers.

Purchasing games online is undoubtedly the most convenient thing ever, but when the same channel is used for micro-transactions to offer some paid in-game advantages, the complete gameplay gets ruined.

Even if some developers are offering some in-game advantages, such games can never be a part of e-sports or be the apple of the eyes for skilful gamers as they will hardly opt for such games. But just look at the top-grossing charts on Google Play Store or other places. Most of them are pay-to-win. The gamers don’t reject those games at all, and if that were the case, such games would have long gone from the Google Play Store or other digital stores, where they are still available, and register a few million downloads. The pay-to-win games have their own target audience, and most of them are casual games, which most users love playing while commuting, or simply for time pass.

So, no! Micro-transactions aren’t as bad as you are thinking. We can just hope, the malignant tumour of offering in-game purchases through micro-transactions never propagate into our favourite games like Dota 2, PUBG, Fortnite, CounterStrike Go, which offer their own type micro-transactions, obviously not for offering any advantages.

So, that was all about Microtransactions that you should know about. Do you have anything else to say? Feel free to comment on the same below.

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