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by Al Jackson

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Pay to Win Comes to Next Gen: A Call to Action

The Death of Video Games Part I

Shortly after I started Hardcore Droid, I stumbled upon a trend that spells the end of video games as you and I know them.  I’ve since read a pile of articles on said phenomenon, held countless conversations with gamers, writers, game journalists, even activists, and I’ve written about it at length. It’s fair to say that I’ve looked at this issue from a wide variety of perspectives and have come away with one conclusion.

If gamers don’t come together and draw a line in the sand, the video games we love may soon become a thing of the past.

If microtransactions in mainstream gaming prove half as degenerative as they are in mobile gaming, the following changes will unfold: Game ownership will disappear. New titles will be broken down into parts and sold piecemeal and because these parts will either have a half-life or be non-transferable, these games will essentially be rentals. And they’ll be rented at exorbitant prices, making games cost hundreds even thousands of dollars, if a player hoped to play them entirely. What’s more, these pieces will often be the components that make a game a game—think levels, skills and loot—or will serve to extinguish boring elements that have been purposely woven into a game’s fabric for no other reason than to put a price tag on them. Worst of all, they’ll often appear as solutions to a game’s challenges and because these solutions will be foisted on a player when they’re excited from playing, they will in one fell swoop unbalance the game and use a player’s enjoyment for gaming against them (often as not taking advantage of a child in the process), for the purpose of extracting as much money from said player as possible.

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EA’s overpriced and manipulative IAPs were only the beginning.

These “parts” and “components” are, of course, IAPs (in-app purchases or microtransactions, small virtual things and items sold within a video game). The problem is not microtransactions per se, but rather the type of games sold via IAPs described above; what are often called “pay-to-win games.”

A Long-Winded Rundown of Facts

  • Over the course of the past two years,  pay-to-win freemium games have gone from one of a few different types of mobile games to the dominant type, becoming the most popular and lucrative type of game on both Android and iOS.
  • Pay-to-win profits outperform those of premium games exponentially, with a number of pay-to-win casuals raking in several million dollars a day (see The Death of Video Games Part II—coming soon).
  • Pay-to-win games are being moved forward by the Games as a Service Movement, a loosely organized group of video game businesses that share the common goal of making game’s into services rather than items that players own. (They include a vast number of the largest and most powerful video game corporations in the world, such as Electronic Arts, Capcom, Sony and Ubisoft).
  • In the last couple of years, titles laden with microtransactions have made inroads into every mainstream gaming market.
  • In the past two years, while pay-to-win titles have come to dominate mobile gaming, Electronic Arts, the sixth largest gaming corporation in the world, released a number of over the top pay-to-win mobile games such as Dungeon keeper, Real Racing 3, Heroes of Dragon Age, transforming a significant portion of EA’s mobile library into a collection of over-priced, often psychologically manipulative, pseudo-games (see The Death of Video Games Part II—coming soon).
  • Electronic Arts has to date made several public statements declaring that design and marketing centered around microtransactions will be part of everything they do in the future (see The Death of Video Games Part II).
  • Console Games heavy with overpriced microtransactions have taken up shop on consoles; with mobile-style pay to win games appearing on last gen consoles, a few launching with the Xbox One and several more poised to appear on both next-gen consoles any day now (for example, Gran Turismo 6, Spartacus Legends and Crimson Dragon; see the upcoming Death of Video Games Part V for more details on this phenomenon).
  • Most game industry analysts forecast that games paid for by way of microtransactions will become the dominant type of video games in the near future (again see the upcoming  Death of Video Games Part V).
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In the last year console games heavy with IAPs have become commonplace.

Over the last year or so, numerous industry insiders, leaders and analysts have stated that the traditional AAA video game market cannot support itself; there is apparently no room for growth. They also say, however, if you stir microtransactions and subscriptions into the mix AAA video games suddenly become viable investments. This means that there is a very good chance that in the near future we will with be breaking out our credit cards, or parent’s credit cards, every time we want to buy a $40 gun in an action title, an $80 race car in a racing game or earn a skill point in the latest RPG or units in the next RTS, and the majority of core console and PC titles will be transformed into unbalanced pseudo games based on monetized cheats rather than well-made video games based on finely balanced gameplay.

Or gamers can stand together and say: Enough.

We need to come together now and send a clear message to the Games as a Service Movement that hardcore gamers are not having it. Pay to win developers need to stop building, peddling and ripping off gamers (and let’s not forget that almost half of us are children) with pay-to-win games.

We have started the boycott with a list of the most egregious pay to win games and tactics that we could find (the list is for now dynamic and open to scrutiny and alteration by the core gaming community) The List will establish our boundaries, our line in the sand.

We need to make the Games as a Service Movement understand that hardcore gamers know what pay-to-win games look like. We know what they do. We need to make them understand that if they value their profit margins, they will seriously reconsider how they plan to handle the countless IAP-heavy games that are en route as well as those that have already taken up residence on the four major consoles and the PC.

If you came into this article understanding the depth of the problem, and are thus already convinced, you can sign on by going here  >>>

The future of video games depends on your support.

If, on the other hand, you’re not convinced yet or you need to see more evidence, then I ask that you keep an open mind and continue reading the articles in this series. Over the next two weeks I will be releasing the articles in this series at a rate of one every few days or so. Check back to read the other sections and gain an in-depth understanding of exactly how pay-to-win works; why it keeps rearing its head; how it ruins solid game design and how it will, if left unchecked, destroy video games. When you’re done you’ll no doubt be as appalled as I was. Then I’d ask that you join us. The future of core video games hangs in the balance; and for those of us who love video games that’s no small matter.


The Pay to Win Boycott: A Call to Action | The Death of Video Games Part I

Microtransactions + Virtual Currencies + Children = Fraud | The Death of Video Games Part II

Dual Currencies: a Well-wrought Scam | The Death of Video Games Part III:

Boiling Gamers: A Brief History of Microtransactions | The Death of Video Games Part IV

All the Evidence you Need to Boycott Pay to Win Games | The Death of Video Games Part V

 

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About the Author

Al Jackson

Hardcore Droid's founder and editor has been a writer, an aspiring graphic artist, a heavy metal singer, as well as a secondary and trade school teacher. His short stories have appeared in online magazines, anthologies and literary journals.



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