In the build up to release for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 a lot was made about the impending onslaught of free-to-play games that would be released for the consoles. This gave many people, myself included, a sense of dread for the next generation. F2P games largely rely upon microtransactions as their revenue streams, and in the case of mobile gaming, they can be extremely profitable. Titles like Candy Crush and the notorious Simpsons: Tapped Out empty bank accounts with incredible speed. Still, these games, however evil their schemes are, can be played without spending a cent on them.
Two Xbone launch titles in particular, Forza 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome, generated an extreme amount of negative publicity due to their microtransactions. In the case of Forza, microtransactions are not a new addition to the series as Forza 4 included them. Forza 4 had a sensible system, at least, as sensible as one can be with microtransactions in a sixty-dollar game. In Forza 4, cars could be purchased early for one to three tokens, with tokens costing about $0.77 a piece, depending on the package purchased. Forza 5 fucked up the entire process and introduced new token packs with the twenty thousand token pack (sold for one hundred dollars) earning the badge of “best value”. Based upon Forza 4‘s scale, those twenty thousand tokens could buy a ton of cars, but Forza 5 no longer employs the the one to three token pricing for the cars. The most expensive car in either game, the Ferrari 250 GTO, costs at least $50 in Forza 5 (provided one bought the “best value” package) compared to the $2.50 it cost in Forza 4.
Ryse uses a similar system as most free-to-play games, real money can be used to buy digital gold that is used to purchase booster packs of items to outfit your character for the game’s online modes. I have singled out Ryse and Forza due to their popularity, but nearly every launch title for the Xbone featured similar, time-saving, microtransactions. The backlash that Microsoft received brought back memories of the aftermath of the Xbone’s announcement event. The backlash has caused Microsoft to once again go on the defensive and admit that they are still learning how to properly gouge customers with microtransactions.
The Xbone is not the only console littered with this bullshit as Gran Turismo 6 has been confirmed to have them as well. It appears that Gran Turismo will follow Forza‘s initiative and allow idiots to spend real money to buy the best cars without having to grind through race after race. Although both games have microtransactions, Gran Turismo 6 has been praised because its progression system remains nearly identical to the previous installment. A large amount of the criticism aimed at Forza 5 is due to game giving out very few credits for races, meaning that grinding it out to buy the Ferrari 250 could take days of racing. Gran Turismo is also scoring points because it expands upon the car lineup available in its predecessor, bringing the total cars at launch around twelve hundred to go along with seventy-one racetracks. For a comparison, Forza 5 has two hundred cars and fourteen tracks, a drop from Forza 4‘s five hundred cars and twenty-six tracks.
A scary thought about the Xbone situation is that the same situation would have likely generated less anger two years in the future. Many Xboners expressed their discontent that they had just spent five hundred dollars on a new console, sixty dollars on a new game, only to be pelted with requests for even more money. This grasp for more money, combined with shallow gameplay (Ryse), and disappearing content (Forza) left many Xboners feeling like they got the shaft. Trying to spin microtransactions as options of convenience just makes the wound sting even more when a game that costs sixty dollars is designed in a way that punishes players that refuse to part with even more money.
Game companies have been salivating for years over the prospect of introducing microtransactions in full-price releases. A few resorted to meaningless DLC packs that were released in bunches, but these packs still provided a bit of content. EA has been using microtransactions in their sports games for a couple of years now, but they are so evil that people expected it. Simply having microtransactions would not have been anything new, but Microsoft allowed their developers to try to push towards the extreme side of things, and pissed off many of their fans in doing so. Microsoft’s comments did not exactly instill confidence that this is the last time something like this would happen either.
As we have known for a while, microtransactions are not going anywhere for now. No matter what lies the developers spew, microtransactions exist for the sole purpose of extorting more money out of gamers. Perhaps we will get lucky and not see things hit the level that they did with Forza, but I think we will see incremental increases until the consumers reach their breaking point. While I despise them, I can at least have an uneasy tolerance of microtransactions when they are added as an afterthought, like they seem to be in Gran Turismo 6. Still, I would prefer cheat codes or something similar to give me the same benefits for free, but that will never happen because cheats ruin multiplayer modes. Fuck, it really is high time that this tower of shit crashes to the ground.