There was once a time in the video game world where you would purchase a game for your personal computer or console, play through the game and then it was finished. You could go back and replay the game as many times as you liked, but there wasn’t any new content to be found after playing through so many times.
There were also expansion packs that sort of worked like sequels in the early days of gaming, though they were typically lower in price and didn’t add a full game experience. Not many complaints came from the gaming community at the time, but gamers are getting frustrated with developers to the point of boycotting games.
Once games started to go online more often in the early 2000s, there was a rise in downloadable content, or DLC for short. This content was (and still is) given for free in certain games, but there’s also paid DLC, and has been for well over a decade. In single player games, this paid DLC often unlocks new campaigns and areas to explore, while multiplayer games open new maps and weapons.
Some gamers revolted against paid maps as they already paid full price for the games, but it didn’t slow down the industry, and became quite profitable for developers. However, the rise of mobile gaming and online multiplayer games has seen an increase in what is known as microtransactions. In many games, you’re able to play the game for an extended period of time to collect certain rewards, but can speed up the process by paying the developer extra money.
This has been going on for years, and mobile games are making a killing as games such as “Farmville” and “Candy Crush Saga” allowed people to use real money to speed up cooldown timers that made them wait for hours, and the effect was that by 2011, mobile games were making more money than console games.
Now, the business model has seeped into the console gaming world, and the big contention is that the microtransactions in these full priced games doesn’t have the same fairness that the mobile games does. Instead, many are calling it a form of gambling that should be illegal. But why gambling? The difference lies within what’s called loot crates that usually aren’t present in the free-to-play mobile games.
“Grand Theft Auto V” was released in September 2013, and has went on to become the best-selling video game of all-time. In the online version of this game, players can acquire new vehicles and weapons using the money their character earns, or can speed up the process by purchasing “Shark Cards” in real life that give your character the money needs. The inflation of prices on these items has caused many to quit playing online, but the fact that the game is still making money many years later has caused their model to be duplicated.
Perhaps the biggest backlash came against Electronic Arts, developers of the popular “Star Wars Battlefront” video game series. In the game, and many other multiplayer shooters like it, there’s a presence of loot crates (that aren’t in “Grand Theft Auto”) where you can unlock new weapons or characters that give you an advantage. Some developers have chosen to stick with purely cosmetic loots that don’t affect gameplay, and these companies have drawn praise from gamers for doing so.
Those who preordered “Battlefront” immediately asked for their money back when seeing that it would take thousands of hours playing the game or thousands of real-life dollars to acquire all of the content, when the game was already priced at $80. Even countries such as Belgium responded, saying that these types of games should be investigated for gambling as many are played by children with access to their parents’ credit cards.
The Belgian Gaming Commission launched an investigation as the luck of the draw when buying a loot crate could give an advantage to a player. Because of this, the BGC’s Director Peter Naessens says “If there is a game of chance, it is not possible without a permit from the Gaming Commission.” Changes would have to be made if that’s the case for games like “Battlefront” or any that come afterward in countries that determine this “pay to win” model to be gambling, or else the developer could be banned in said country and forced to pay a massive fine.
The battle between gamers and developers rages on, especially as developer community teams have become more active on the internet. However, the profits continue to soar for these developers, so there’s little chance that these types of business models in video games will be going anywhere anytime soon, much to the dismay of hardcore players.