Payments within games have existed for a long time, but in recent months developers have begun to introduce microtransactions in paid games. This provoked a series of conflicts between studios and gamers dissatisfied with the double payment system
The global video game market in 2017 exceeded $120 billion, analysts of the research company SuperData calculated. A large part of this amount came from microtransactions – payments inside games for additional functions. This method of monetization has existed for a long time, mostly it is used in mobile and free to install games.
However, in recent months, developers have begun to actively introduce microtransactions in paid games. This provoked a series of conflicts between studios and gamers, dissatisfied with the double payment system: users actually have to fork out both during the purchase of the game and for the right to access its “full” version with all the artifacts.
However, companies are not going to abandon the profitable strategy: according to SuperData, In 2019, gamers spent $22 billion on microtransactions (for comparison: revenues from the sales of games on PC and consoles amounted to only $8 billion), and in five years the amount will grow to $25 billion. Lootboxes create a lot of problems among gamers and in this article, we will have a look at this topic.
Star Wars Battlefront II
Ahead of the release of the eighth episode of Star Wars, Electronic Arts (EA), licensed by Disney to supplement the movie saga with game blockbusters, released the multiplayer shooter Battlefront 2. The company six months before the release introduced a new system of transactions within the game: users were offered to buy virtual “credits” that could be spent on so-called star maps. Maps, in turn, “pumped” the functions of the characters through the opening of loot boxes.
A month before its release, EA launched an open beta test. Participants of the experiment immediately noted the viciousness of the economics of the game: the model with star maps assumes that not the player’s skills determine success, but the thickness of the wallet. In general access for an impressive amount, EA planned to sell only a part of the content, outraged gamers. The company in response assured that it will make changes, but the adjustments were cosmetic and did not affect the essence of monetization.
The game was made by the Swedish developer DICE. If we take a look at the concept of loot boxes it is very similar to slots in online casinos. You do not know what you will receive when you open the box. But the criticism was headed towards the fact that most parts of the boxes held no value and were useless for gamers. The game became very popular in other Scandinavian countries as well. Norway was at the forefront in this regard. The country’s gambling industry drew some inspiration from these loot boxes. Some of the top-rated Norwegian casinos online decided to introduce the idea of loot boxes in their games, which unlike Battlefront worked effectively, because it was thematic to the platform.
A few days before the release of Battlefront 2, a Star Wars fan posted a post on Reddit in which he resented the lack of access to all the game’s content. According to Forbes, the extraction of all items, characters and other upgrades inside the shooter costs more than $2,000 or 4,000 hours of additional missions. When the post gained popularity, an EA representative came to the branch. Instead of acknowledging the mistakes, he said the company had provided players with a “sense of pride in achievement.” The comment turned out to be historic – it scored the most “downvotes” in the history of Reddit. The number of negative reactions approached 700,000 on the day of the release of EA, faced with a barrage of criticism in social networks and media, temporarily disabled the transaction system.
The first days of sales were accompanied by protests of fans and critics of experts. In Britain alone, sales of games on physical media for the week were 61% lower than the same figure of the first part of the shooter. The user rating on Metacritic was below one point out of a hundred with almost 3,000 ratings.
EA ended November on a minor note: the stock lost in value by almost 10%, the capitalization fell by almost $3 billion. At the end of January, the CFO of the company Blake Jorgensen stated that the game’s sales at the end of the quarter amounted to 9 million copies – 1 million copies below the forecast.
Middle Earth: Shadow of War
One of the first ones to encourage gamers with loot boxes or their own money decided American Monolith, the developer of the series of games on the universe Lord of the Rings. In the regular game saga Middle Earth: Shadow of War, the studio invited players to buy boxes with rare artifacts. In the case of Shadow of War, the loot boxes were most often orcs, the main element of the project’s game mechanics. It was possible to replenish the army with orcs and just spending time in the game, but it took an order of magnitude more time.
Fans of Shadow of War soon began to organize their discontent on image boards and forums, and the main platform of the riot was Reddit. Despite the user protests, Monolith did not respond to the claims. The Shadow of War scandal came to naught without consequences for the studio but paved the way for the next, even more, resonant loot box scandals.
The anger of gamers was also visible in the second part of the shooter Destiny. It all started with the release of the add-on, which closed access to some of the content to players who didn’t buy it. The American studio offered an alternative to payment – participation in special in-game missions, but gamers felt that there was no motivation to receive artifacts when all of them can be bought. At the end of December, the official forum of the game was inundated with proposals to close the in-game store. According to users, its work contradicted the high cost of the game: for the main version and two additions, the developer asks for more than $90, and along with internal purchases comes out even more. Unlike EA, Bungie made contact with users: the developer ensured that microtransactions would never extend to artifacts that influenced the passage of the game’s main scenario.