Microtransactions are here to stay. This is the current reality of the video gaming world and, no matter how you feel able having to buy various downloadable content items to get the most out of your games, it’s something you will have to deal with. I understand that the creation, development and publishing of video games is still a business and companies will always want to make as much money as possible. I can’t really fault them for that.
With that being said, I still don’t like most downloadable content/DLC and microtransactions as a whole. There have been so many times where I feel the publishers cut out portions of the game and repackage them as Day 1 DLC. I totally despise how some multiplayer games sell incredibly powerful weapons and characters and you have to buy them just to keep up with the other people that bought them. There are also the loot boxes where you buy a crate of random items, not knowing if you’ll actually get something you’d really want. It’s actually kind of ridiculous, if you ask me.
The thing is, the process of adding microtransactions and DLC to a game doesn’t have to be as dumb as it is right now. In fact, I have five ideas on how they can be much more tolerable…
1. Make Trial versions of DLC available
Remember when demos were a thing? They’re not as prevalent as they were anymore but I loved them as they gave players a taste of what to expect. I mean, how many gamers were extremely hyped to play a Hideo Kojima helmed entry of Silent Hill when PT was released before Konami’s audacious decision to get rid of the fabled developer?
It should be possible to make demo DLC as well. Make new characters or units available for free for something like a week just to see if they would be worth controlling. The same can be said for weapons, armor, outfits and other cosmetic items for both single player and multiplayer modes. For the more substantial DLC items like additional story and campaigns, the free trial package could consist of making it so you can only play the demo for an hour, which would be okay since, if you can finish an extra campaign under an hour, it’s probably not going to be worth your money.
2. General lowering of prices
I personally have spend a good deal of my own hard earned money purchasing various DLC packages and have went through the trouble of making a few microtransactions over the years. But you know what? I know I would’ve made a whole lot more purchases if their price tags were just a smidge lower. It always seems like they just release a lot of purchasable content that are priced at some really ridiculous price range that makes me, more often than not, turns me off from actually taking the plunge and buying whatever it is.
Right now, the worst offender is, surprisingly, Bethesda. Of course, we can’t forget the entire “horse armor” fiasco with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. But they’re currently doubling down with their new Creation Club program. The Creation Club isn’t a bad idea. However, it is terrible because its content is competing with mods that you can get for free. And the free stuff is almost always more creative and fun than anything that you can get from the Creation Club. And their prices are pretty bad. Okay, 50 cents for a Pip-Boy skin is a decent price, but why the heck would I pay $4 for Chinese Stealth Armor when I can get the free version that looks better and works a whole a whole lot more better?
What developers and publishers don’t seem to understand is how pricing actually influences what we want to buy. By jacking up the prices for microtransactions and DLC, they’re effectively only targeting people with a good amount of disposable income. Now, if they lowered the price, this would entice gamers with less disposable income to make the rather frivolous decision to buy some “fake” in-game items and costumes. More purchases equals more income. Easy, right?
3. Make it possible to earn DLC items in-game
I will give props to Capcom on how they handled their Fight Money system in Street Fighter V. Essentially, you can earn Fight Money by accomplishing different tasks and goals. You finish the game’s major Story mode or each characters’ Story mode, you earn some Fight Money. You emerge victorious from a Ranked or Casual online match, you get some Fight Money. You complete one of the weekly or daily challenges… you get the drill. You can then use Fight Money to purchase different things, like costumes, new stages, new characters, titles and what not. It’s a system I wish most games would implement.
What I will not give props to Capcom for is that not everything can be purchased using Fight Money. You can get all of the DLC characters via the Fight Money system, that’s true. Most of the alternate costumes, however, can only be obtained using real money. And at around $3 a pop, that seems like it’s going to cost a player a pretty penny if they want to get all of them. That’s not even including the other fancy looking stages that the Ring of Destiny and Ring of Pride stages or the other Capcom Cup exclusive costumes.
Capcom should’ve made it possible to actually earn all of the alternate outfits via Fight Money and not lock them away with a “paywall”. It’s already incredibly difficult to earn enough Fight Money to purchase most of the content, so there isn’t a need to block all that DLC content. Since it’s an arduous task to earn enough Fight Money to buy everything for free, there are still going to be a lot of people willing to spend on this “free” stuff. I actually think they’d be more inclined to pay Capcom for those items if they were all available for purchase using the Fight Money system.
4. Continuously produce content for years
I don’t know any Triple-A game today that doesn’t have some kind of microtransaction system or DLC content. It’s just the sign of the times. I do have a sneaking suspicion that they are carving some chunk out of the game and shelving them as Day 1 DLC or make that slice of the game a “bonus” for those who preorder the games. Companies also like to sell gamers “Season Passes” so you can get most of the future DLC packages. These Season Passes are usually incredibly pricey; you can literally buy an entirely new game for the price of two Season Passes. I wouldn’t mind the price tag but, most of the time, you only get a handful of additional story modes or a few items; definitely not worth the price of half a new game.
This is because most DLC content is released within a year of the game’s release. After that, nothing new comes out. Season Passes would be much worth my time (and money) if DLC content was released in a steady stream of several years. This does a a couple of positive things: it always keeps a game fresh as you can add new content to it constantly and companies instantly find a new consistent revenue stream while not needing to create a totally new game. As long as the content is good, of course.
5. Everything you buy is clear cut
Have you played Shadow of Mordor? I haven’t. That’s because it has loot boxes.
The worst thing about the current microtransaction trend is the loot box fad. Basically, whenever you buy a loot box, you’re going to get a bunch of random things. Some of them can be really good and expensive stuff but there is a chance you’ll get a loot box that’s just filled with loser crap… a “loser box,” if you will. That’s the biggest problem I have with them: it’s totally the luck of the draw. You could get a bunch of fun, powerful or new items or you can get some lame, weak and things you’ve already got from other loot boxes.
On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with loot boxes as we’ve all encountered “packages with random stuff” before in real life. If you’ve ever played Magic: The Gathering or gotten into trading cards, you experienced “loot boxes” before. But they’re different in video games because, once you get a loot box in a video game, you’re stuck with it. You can’t trade it with another person who may want it nor can you get rid of the stuff you don’t want for something else. Whatever you got in your in-game loot box, it’s yours… for better or worse. The loot box system is too “evil” as it’s more about getting “lucky” by getting something good rather than actually being about buying something in the game that you really want.
I would rather get rid of the loot box system and make all items, good and bad, available for purchase from the get go. In the long run, they hurt the reputation of a game now because of how negatively they’re viewed by the general gaming community. Sure, you don’t have to buy them but they just leave an incredibly bad taste in my mouth that it makes me actively not want to buy a game, like Shadow of Mordor, that has the loot box system.
How else would you make DLC more agreeable? Let me know in the comments section below!