Thirty four years ago – way back in 1983 – the entire videogame market essentially died. The ratio of quality games to unplayable garbage was so skewed that people abandoned gaming en masse. Truth be told, though, the crash didn’t happen overnight. It took several years for the industry to truly hit bottom, which happened around 1985. Were it not for an ambitious upstart of a company called Nintendo and their Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) – which single-handedly jumpstarted the industry again – its recovery may have taken quite a few years longer. We’re now a little over a month into 2017 and gaming is as ubiquitous as fast food, cell phones, and social media.
A lot of us, myself included, can’t imagine a life without videogames. They represent the pinnacle of entertainment and deliver experiences that no other form of media can replicate. We play them on our phones, our computers, our tablets, our consoles, and our dedicated gaming handhelds. They’re an integral part of our lives. That said, there are some facets of modern gaming that are decidedly bad for gamers.
Two prime examples of this are DLC and microtransactions. They’re two different, yet very similar, methods for content delivery that have become the norm in the past decade or so. DLC, or downloadable content, was pitched to gamers as a way to keep old games fresh with new content and features. The reality, however, is that the preponderance of game developers and publishers have used DLC to parse out content and then sell it back to us. What would’ve simply been included with a game prior to DLC is now removed, or locked, until a fee is paid. If games were all $20 or $30 this wouldn’t be such an issue, but most games sell for $60+ upon release. DLC can then add on tens or even hundreds of dollars in some cases.
It isn’t compulsory to buy, but ignoring it can mean not getting the optimal experience from a game. In most instances integral features will only be available once you’ve paid for them, in addition to the $60+ you spent for the game itself. Publishers and developers will point to the massive costs of producing so-called “AAA” titles like the latest Call of Duty or Uncharted to justify this business model. These costs can be upwards of several hundred million dollars, so there is some validity to their claim. Nevertheless, the extent of the content parsing is beyond any modicum of reasonableness. It’s exploitative and takes the goodwill, and pocketbooks, of gamers for granted.
Microtransactions, while similar in concept to DLC, differ in one significant way; they’re usually recurring. Typically, games that have microtransactions are called Freemium games; they’re free to download and play, but it costs a premium to progress and stay competitive with other players. Certain items will cost you, as will whatever in-game currency is needed for various things. Frequently these games will have turn limits that prevent you from progressing further until those turns are replenished. Usually if you wait long enough they will replenish on their own, but you can pay to speed that process up. It’s a model that has proven extremely successful for games like Clash of Clans, Game of War, Mobile Strike, and Candy Crush.
Please check back next week for part two. Until then, happy gaming!