Microtransactions: How Do I Feel About Them?

AC Odyssey

Source:  Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Steam page

I have been playing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey for the past week, and while I will write detailed thoughts upon finishing the game, I am absolutely in love.  The gameplay, story, and beautifully detailed world come together to form one of the most engrossing games that I have played in recent memory.  While I am certain that many would agree with me, there’s also been a bit of  a controversy surrounding this game’s use of microtransactions.  It seems like the debate is mostly turning into two sides, with one side defending microtransactions, and the other side saying that microtransactions have no place in gaming.  Since the conversation needs a bit more nuance than that, I have decided to add my own opinions to the mix, for better or worse.

First of all, every instance of microtransactions in gaming merits its own discussion, as there is no “one size” approach to adding paid content into a game.  Looking at the best and worst implementations in microtransactions is certainly something I would be interested in doing eventually, but this post would be the length of a full book if I did a deep dive into all of it right now.  Therefore, the scope for now is primarily limited to looking at Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and a general overview of why microtransactions exist in the gaming world.

In order to get everyone on the same page with the controversy, I will give a brief overview.  Assassin’s Creed Odyssey launched with a microtransactions shop, which is not particularly surprising in the modern age of gaming.  The issue with this specific microtransaction shop is that, instead of purely cosmetic benefits, there is an experience and gold booster that will permanently boost the character’s rate of earning these items in game.  This has raised a lot of questions regarding whether it is appropriate to sell these sorts of items in any circumstance, but particularly in a single-player game setting.

Now comes the controversial part where I give my own opinion on this matter:  I don’t mind the microtransactions in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.  In a different game where the implementation is more predatory, maybe I would be more concerned.  Still, in my time playing this game, I have yet to feel like I needed the extra boost in order to improve the game experience.  That said, if I wanted the extra boost because I don’t feel like playing the side quests, I would feel like I was buying the boost because I wanted to play the game more quickly, not because the title is forcing my hand.

There are two major reasons for my stance regarding Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.  The primary reason is accessibility.  People that have busy lives may only have a few hours per week to play a game.  Given the length of some of these open world RPGs, it would take months to finish a single game.  These boosts give people who want a hand in getting through these larger games a little bit of leeway.  This can also help increase engagement in a game, as some people may not enjoy the level grind, but want to see the story to its conclusion and buy the eventual DLC expansions. I feel like the game is perfectly paced to my own gaming interests and I don’t need any boosts, but when I played Dragon Age Inquisition last year, I would happily have paid money in order to cut down on some of the tedious fetch questing necessary to complete the main story.

The other reason that I am fine with the use of microtransactions in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey comes from more of an industry standpoint.  Games are getting more and more expensive to make, and that money needs to come back to the developers.  My personal belief is that microtransactions are one of the ways that developers make sure they don’t have to increase the price of their game or cut corners and release a worse product.  If my choices are to pay sixty dollars for a game with optional microtransactions that I can choose to support, or pay ninety dollars for every game with all of the items that would normally be found in a microtransaction store added to the game for free, I would take the former option every time.  When I enjoy a game, I will buy some additional items as a form of support, but I want to have the choice to do this instead of being forced to every time I buy a new game.

Overall, every game is different, and so are their microtransactions.  I don’t want my opinions to be used against me in the future, as I believe that every game needs to be looked at individually.  In this case, the microtransactions are balanced appropriately so they aren’t necessary to most players familiar with RPGs, which means I have no issue with boosts meant to help players who don’t have the time or energy to play through the entirety of this game otherwise.  Other titles may purposefully make the grind rough in order to force players to buy boosts, and I do not approve of this behavior.  I would be curious to see what you guys think down in the comments, though, so let me know!

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7 thoughts on “Microtransactions: How Do I Feel About Them?

  1. I agree. I’m ok with it in single player games when it’s not forced on you. Plants vs. Zombies 2 was ruined for me because I felt I couldn’t really make progress in the game unless I spent serious time with it, or actually spent money on it. I stopped playing altogether. But if it’s optional, and people are willing to pay for it, why not? Now, if this was a multiplayer game, anything beyond aesthetics is a no-no in my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like to have the choice over microtransactions. I’ve just started AC Odyssey and have yet to have to address the issue in there. On the other hand, I have been a long-term Star Wars The Old Republic player and feel that got to monetized. In contrast, the Witcher games have none at all which is refreshing. Basically, I hate being pushed to spend extra money. I also agree that games cost the developers – just like movies – so they need to get funded properly.

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  3. You’re right that each instance of the controversial microtransaction depends on the how and where it is implemented. Of course the stats boost can help people with fewer available gaming hours, but the counter argument is “why is that a microtransaction?”. If developers really wanted to recognise the differing play styles of their customers then an “easy” or “rapid progression” mode could be included. Instead they put that option behind a paywall. Being more cynical it would be easy to come to the conclusion that developers look at the player demographic and realise that the older players with more disposable income are also less likely to have the time to grind those levels and increase the grindey quests to force them to pay for the xp boost.

    To me personally this feels like a cheap cash grab targeted at a specific player demographic. It’s not as though further development was necessary for this feature (such as developing a new character costume for example), it’s just changing an in-game variable.

    To be clear though, I’m not criticising people who buy the upgrade, I totally understand why and it’s all down to personal preference when it comes to game but enjoyment. I just think that in this case the developers are exploiting that. 😕

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    1. While I agree that they could have made this happen for free, I still wonder if making the option available for free would result in the overall game costing more money. These big budget titles cost so much to make, and there’s a lot of murmurs in the game industry that video games are going to go up in price again because developers can’t make their money back at 60 dollars. If options like this prevent further price hikes, then I’d rather we have this happen *so long as* it’s balanced well. This game still doesn’t feel like the grind was purposefully balanced to ruin the experience, but other games in the future may go that route, and that’s not a good experience for anyone.

      Basically, I’d love to only have cosmetic microtransactions (or none at all), but I don’t think that’s feasible in the AAA market as it stands. As far as microtransactions go, however, I think Assassin’s Creed Odyssey managed to make a gameplay experience that’s balanced and makes the microtransaction alterations as unobtrusive as possible.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s nothing straightforward about the arguement either way, and it’s reassuring to hear that in this case the microtransactions are unobtrusive (I’m not an assassin’s creed follower so I doubt I’ll ever find out for myself).

        … I guess the reality is that microtransactions are here to stay and hopefully consumers will reign in developers if they start to exploit that 🙄… Hopefully…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I feel like much of the criticism regarding microtransactions in ACO comes from long-term fans of the series that are not enjoying it’s switch to an RPG style of gameplay. I’m a big fan of RPG’s and didn’t find it grindy or in need of any boosts. I understand not everyone lives the same life as me and can’t pour hundreds of hours into a game, but to me, the complaint feels strange. It’s like me complaining that there’s no sidequests or customization in a linear game. Since I only play single player games I’ve never had any issues with microtransactions.

    Occasionally I get tempted into buying a cosmetic item, but I’ve never needed or felt forced to buy boosts or loot boxes. It’s certainly a complicated issue, but as you said, games are expensive to produce, and sometimes I feel part of the gaming fandom think games are some sort of public service, and that companies should produce them with no thought of profit. That’s just not realistic or fair to the studios.

    Liked by 2 people

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