A little extra cash can go a long way

By Izzy Harper

Staff Writer

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Many of the most popular video games on the market are free to download and play from the start. Usually there are no limits on gameplay and competitive features, like online multiplayer or exclusive mechanics and abilities. But how do the developers generate income, if needed? The solution is microtransactions.

Microtransactions are transactions within video games where you spend real cash to buy ingame items that, contextually, benefit the player’s experience. Usually players are prompted to irreversibly convert their real cash into in-game currency, and buy things in-game. 

These items usually range from limited time tools and weapons, playable characters, and fashionable clothing for your own character. Sometimes, this feature is even present in games that need to be bought to be played.

Another way these games generate revenue is through ‘lootboxes’: packs of random items, gotten in a single, usually cheap purchase. 

Items within lootboxes vary in rarity, and because you can get rare items for such a reduced price, they’re usually bought en masse. 

The concept of lootboxes has become controversial over the years; most notably, video game publisher Electronic Arts has been in hot water for the use of lootboxes in Star Wars Battlefront II. Lootboxes contained items and weapons that affected gameplay greatly. 

The game didn’t value play time; lootboxes were the only things that allowed you to get better weapons, and it was virtually impossible to get them elsewhere. 

EA was under heavy fire for this, and the game was updated so that lootboxes only contained cosmetic items. 

Even a bill was passed in the US to keep this common mechanic in line: “It is unlawful for a game publisher to publish a minor-oriented game that includes pay-to-win microtransactions; or an update to an existing minor oriented game [that would add such microtransactions].” 

This was to prevent children from gaining an early gambling addiction, and to keep games fair and fun to play in general.

The value of microtransactions vary from game to game. In the most popular ones, microtransactions can be made to buy in-game cosmetics that do not provide any gameplay advantage, whatsoever. This is so that the game is completely fair between every player. 

But even though consumers are made aware of this, why do they purchase these items?

“I’ve made some purchases on Valorant,” Says one student, when asked if they’ve ever spent money on microtransactions before. “The skins are pretty.”

This same student says that they’ve spent approximately $300 in transactions, within their memory. But they also say that they regret it.

Another student thinks very lowly of microtransactions in games. “I really hate [microtransactions],” they say. “Anything obtainable in a game should be available through hard work.” 

But hard work warranting rewards is a bit uncommon among students’ favorite games. 

The majority of students’ favorites have microtransactions, and the in-game currency within them doesn’t come easy (or is completely unobtainable) without spending any money.

The question of whether microtransactions are worth it is very subjective. The answer depends on the judgement of the player. Responsible players may incorporate thoughts into their choices, asking themselves if making the choice to buy something is the right thing for them to do at this time. 

However, some players just don’t really care about how much money they spend. They’d just want whatever would look cool, like buying clothes or shoes from your favorite store. But like real life, it’s important to consider what would be worth buying for yourself, and what just seems excessive.