The future of in-game transactions??

Part 3 of the “Future of Gaming” series!

Alright, welcome back, and happy last week of September (really, already? Is it just me, or WTF happened to 2018?).

Ooooh boy, we have a tough topic tonight!

“Will in-game micro-transactions increase or decrease in the future? Should they?”

Wow. What a complicated question, but a good one! So, I think where I want to start with this is the morality of micro-transactions. In case you don’t know, that’s when a game is cheap or in most cases free to play, but in order to expand your experience or even to win you have to cough up some money within the game. For that new loot box. Or the booster pack. Or some gems to buy a mount. Or, you know, anything.

As a gamer, I passionately hate micro-transactions. That is just personal preference – I would rather have a complete game from beginning-middle-end and pay more upfront than have to get into the game and then drop $20 just to keep playing. Whenever I come across a micro-transaction, I feel scammed. It just immediately lessens my opinion of a game.

From a game development standpoint, micro-transactions are extremely profitable. And for an up-and-coming studio or a mobile game, this is a proven effective way to get people invested into a game and then be more willing to pay money after they are familiar with it. After all—paying upfront for a random game is a leap of faith and harder to make money. I have that feeling on Steam when thinking about trying a new game. Ehhh…it’s $20. Is it worth it? What if I don’t like it? Maybe I’ll just wait for it go on sale… If a game is free to play, but requires a micro-transaction to complete, at least it gives players a free demo, a chance to figure out if they even like it or not.

So, it’s a toss-up, depending on who you are. I think it comes down to personal preference.

However, something we all have to keep in mind: There is an important distinction between micro-transactions where you know what you are buying, and micro-transactions where the outcome value is chance. The chance outcome, such as a random loot box with unknown “bonuses” or the idea of a “booster pack” in any card game, is, in many ways, just another form of gambling.

Now, before you get all butthurt, hear me out: I find it fair for a game company to ask real $ for something players know what they are going to get. Access to a new level, completion of said dungeon, whatever. However, I find it completely unfair for a game company to ask for real $ for something relied on computer-generated chance, and that there is a chance you will walk away with something less than you expected. Chance. That is what kills a game, and its credibility, because suddenly that is just like playing a casino game. It’s addictive sure, and proven to be effective because, yeah, most people buy into it…but, let’s be real here. Gambling is a problem, a human weakness to buy into the “what if.” (I am guilty of buying into booster packs and random loot boxes. Ooohhh…what if I get the BIG thing?) But that’s where I draw the line – games should be an outlet for escaping real-life problems, not an example of them.

What do you think?

Now onto the second part – will these micro-transactions increase or decrease in the future?

Well, all evidence from a business-standpoint indicates a rapid increase, and we’ve seen a huge increase already. Seems every other game has it now, especially mobile games and MMOs. Fortnite, League of Legends, Battlefront 2, Guild Wars 2 (to some extent), Hearthstone…the list goes on. And it’s not limited to just video games – Magic: The Gathering booster packs and other collectible card games are the staple of the in-game transaction success…and, to be honest, most of those are based on chance value.

I, personally, wish to see a decrease. And I may not be alone – there may be enough developers out there, both big-title and indie alike, who agree and continue to create games that cost outright but don’t have any secret “hidden gems” inside. Both ways of creating games have been successful and, if done right, earn lots of money.



  1. Loot boxes: no. I find them unfair and manipulative.

    Microtransactions: sometimes. In a free to play game then I see no problem really, so long as the game is fairly balanced to accommodate them. Full price games should not have them though, even if you can earn that currency in game. This is due to the fact that the “grind” will likely be artificially extended to push people towards those purchases.


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