Micro-transactions in Video Games

Like it or not, micro-transactions are here to stay. Micro-transactions are transactions between player and developer for items within a game. For example, some games may offer experience point bonuses for players for a small cost or access to certain cosmetic items that change how your character looks in the game. The business practice has proven to be very successful, and will likely be staying whether gamers like it or not.

However, Electronic Arts has taken it to the next level. The issue, as laid out by Lilo’s Lair #76 is that EA, who is developing Star Wars Battlefront II, was going to charge an exorbitant amount of money for players to play as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker which are two staples to the franchise. This is, of course, is a cost that is added on after the customer buys a fully priced game of $60-$80. Reddit responded by downvoting an official EA response to the issue over 675,000 times, shattering the previous record of 25,000.

EA is not the first company to incorporate purchasable “loot boxes” within their game, and they will not be the last. However, many games that feature “loot boxes” use them to reward purely cosmetic, meaning no game-play advantage, items, or are free to play to begin with, meaning they ONLY make money on in-game micro-transactions. An example would be Blizzard’s Overwatch which has had a wildly successful loot box system that players don’t mind because no advantages are given to those willing to spend the money on them.

The issue of loot boxes is gaining a lot of attention recently thanks to EA. So much so, that some governments are looking into considering them a form of gambling since the player doesn’t know what they will get when they buy them. This seems like a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to the situation, but if it does gain traction it could mean a world of hurt for game developers that rely on this form of micro-transaction, which would be a lot of indie and mobile developers. EA is the least popular company in the gaming community from a consumer standpoint, and if their greed gets loot boxes banned from video games, they may be hated by the entire industry.

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