On several past Podcasts now, the GFR team has discussed many topics around microtransactions in games and the overall concept of “freedom” in gaming. I was reintroduced to this concept again earlier this week when I posted another link from Destiny around a new Loot Cave exploit and saw hundreds and hundreds of folks view the post on the various interweb sites.
I was intrigued.
As I’ve stated on the show numerous times people want options and choice. Let me go into your game Mr. Publisher and let me do what I want. Give some story sure…throw in a linear progression but give me the OPTION to deviate off course and make something of the game for myself whatever that means. In stark contrast to games of the past where a basic construct and linearity were limits of the technology, such restrictions are only limited by a publishers desire to either further gain gamer cred or monetize a fee structure that enrages gamers who otherwise pay for their crap anyway.
I know the tone here is harsh, but it’s a classic business tactic making its way into the gaming scene and could spell disaster if not put in check. I recall back in the PSX (PlayStation 1 for n00bs) when Wipeout started allowing advertising on billboards as you drove through the game. Magazines were all in a tizzy and marketing seemed to have found a new way into your living room. It was passive, “added realism” to the game because that’s how NASCAR does it, so it must be a legit thing. While gamers everywhere were initially enraged, it soon subsided and marketing people everywhere scored 1-0 against gamers in an unknown war.
Fast forward to 2015 where we gleefully pay for what Brad said in our last post, $2 for what used to be a cheat code, and the sad state of affairs begins to unravel. We are marketed to EVERYDAY in our games. The industry now survives on expensive console life-cycles by selling adds to companies to get into our living rooms for hours on end. We act like it’s “part of the game” but in fact it is forming our opinions now about what games are and should be.
Back to my earlier point…it’s almost as if the path we are forced down crams as much advertising at us as it can. The linear model works because the business case behind it is driven by how many eyeballs I can promise Coke for a splash in my game. There is an incentive for the publisher to NOT give me choices when they can control the path and force you to see various things from various places…and sometimes shamelessly. Then I’ll thrown in microtransactions or terrible game mechanics to piss you off enough so you’ll gladly give me my $.99 to move on and claim instant gratification has been achieved. Some games buck the trend like Dragon Age: Inquisition but that lot is growing smaller and smaller by the release calendar advance.
If the gaming industry is going to survive…sure it needs money, but better monetization schemes need to be developed to keep people playing than a rip off of a shoddy Apple iTunes money grab on mobile iOS. We as gamers need to demand more immersive experiences that don’t require online access all the time (thanks Xbox and PSN for sucking) and let me go do what I want and give gamers the space to explore and be creative…our own creativity may be the only thing keeping games alive in the next 10 years.