Something that has been really bugging me about microtransactions and predatory monetisation in videosgame, that I haven't quite been able to coalesce into words, is how their very presence undermines consumer action against bad practices. Stop me if this sounds half baked, but..
Consider the situation we have where people are putting themselves into serious financial strain spending in these "live services" and children are emptying out their parents bank accounts, and think about how that impacts what it means for a game to be financially successful.
It means that hooking just one gambling addict, just one person who has issues with compulsive spending, one individual who'll spend thousands on their in-app purchases, and that'll make up for potentially hundreds of people who won't buy their product.
Now, it probably goes without saying that gamer boycotts haven't exactly had a successful track record, but it's more the principal of the thing than the practice. Aggressive, predatory monetisation is going to make any potential consumer action far less effective than it was.
We're now in a situation where single player experiences are being further monetised beyond the point of sale with not just cosmetic items, but gameplay advantages like XP boosters. If I say "I'm not buying you're game because of this!" what would a corporation care?
What's my promise of not buying a 60 dollarydoo game over microtransactions weighed against someone who'll spend literal thousands on it? One customer who'll spend compulsively is worth dozens of me to them, so why would they care about placating my interests?
Bad reviews, negative press, terrible word of mouth, none of it really matters as much as it used to. I think the average customer is losing the ability to hold AAA companies accountable for bad games as long as they have... *sigh* ...these "whales" to fall back on.
Making a bad game no longer carries with it the punitive aspect of bad sales if you can continue to milk the customers who did buy your bad game far beyond the point of sale.
For some reason, people still seem to play Fallout 76 despite the dreadful metacritic scores. Ironic.
As an addendum, I think this is why I like to gush about indie games so much. It's a sphere where I feel like my actions as a customer are far more meaningful and impactful. Hence why I often buy indies I'm interested in on release and at full price on principal.
Steamworld Quest got an instabuy from me, and remains one of the best games of 2019. Likewise when I was gushing about Deadbolt, Iconoclasts, or Dusk.
I'd also add, I still regularly recommend games that don't contain predatory monetization from bigger publishers/developers. I have a Steam Curator page where I've been recommending some very exceptional games, mostly indie, but some big budget titles too
Psst, framing any form of this kind of monetization as "optional" is an intellectually dishonest position, as the problem is not any one game individually, but what these practices are doing to gaming in aggregate. We as the consumer cannot opt out of this in any genuine sense.
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