Microtransactions have become a massive factor in gaming during the last decade. That’s not to say that they were never present, but they were never really as aggressive as they are now. Microtransactions were mostly found in mobile games and free-to-play games, but it was at the beginning of the 2010s that they caused a great divide in the gaming community. However, are they as bad now as they have been during the last ten years?
So the first instance that really brought microtransactions into full-priced triple-a titles was in 2014 with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare which introduced Supply Drops, a form of loot box, which is where our discourse begins. People loved this feature in Advanced Warfare but I feel like this was almost the calm before the storm. Little did we know that harmlessly buying one or two would tell these companies that kids were more than willing to shell out their pocket money for a small chance at a rare item. Loot boxes then seeped their way into almost every game on the market, to the point where it could even have been considered a ‘trend’. Every Call of Duty title until the most recent Modern Warfare title contained loot boxes, even games like Gears of War and Halo now contained loot boxes and thus began people’s frustration.
In terms of Call of Duty, the worst point it had ever got to was in 2018’s Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII, where the system became simply outrageous. The base game was £59.99, then you had to purchase the Black Ops Pass to gain access to any post-launch content which cost £39.99; on top of that you had a battle pass with purchasable tiers priced at £1.50 each, and then there were loot boxes on top of all that which contained weapons that could only be obtained via gambling. Thankfully they’ve changed all that in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and have even reported higher profits as more people were spending as a result of completely getting rid of loot boxes, so with a new decade thankfully comes a new method of money-making that doesn’t completely abuse the player.
Then you had Star Wars: Battlefront II’s microtransactions which were so hated that EA were forced to remove them altogether. In essence, the loot boxes were actually built in to the character progression, meaning you had to gamble to improve your character, and those who purchased loot boxes with real money could progress faster than those who earned them slowly in-game. The response from one of the developers ended up creating the most downvoted Reddit comment in history when they stated that “The intent was to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes”, and the comment ended up getting 683,000 downvotes. The game has been revamped and is now in a much better state but EA as a company still took a massive loss with Battlefront II.
Now onto my original point: have microtransactions improved? Overall, I believe that yes, recently they have definitely improved but that there is still a ways to go. EA and some other companies still adhere to their microtransaction systems, however I believe more game publishers are beginning to realise that microtransactions can be good when used properly. Even Fortnite, being the meme that it is, has a solid system in place, as does Call of Duty Modern Warfare. My final thought on the matter is that as much as gamers may wish it, I don’t believe that microtransactions will ever go away. We’ll never go back to those old days of buying a game and having the whole game on one disc, as many companies have come to realise there’s more profit in releasing a game and adding more content later. However, that’s not to say that with a good system in place that microtransactions can’t compliment a game well.