Season passes, micro-transactions for currency, pre-order and “deluxe edition” bonuses, these are a few of the more annoying business models of today’s video game developers. Generally, most people see these decisions as making many games “Pay to Win” or “Pay for Full Experience,” essentially making games “Pay for Fun.”
PAY TO WIN
Some people have no problem embracing the “Pay to Win” model of video games, it’s a beautiful metaphor for life, really:
“Money is not the only answer, but it makes a difference” – Barack Obama (source:https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/barackobam167634.html?src=t_money)
Combat Arms by Nexon was a military FPS I frequently played back in the day. I remember the ability to spend real world cash on weapons, characters, equipment, and so on. There were OP weapons and, according to Redditor, Frenes, OP characters:
“…one could buy a specialist character model with smaller hit boxes and specialty abilities, arguably the most blatant pay to win item in the game. As hard as it is for me to admit, I caved and bought that character and I immediately began to do dramatically better.”(source:https://www.reddit.com/r/pcgaming/comments/2o3sfl/what_game_is_the_worst_offender_of_the_paytowin/cmjn2xt/)
If that doesn’t scream Pay to Win, grow a brain.
PAY FOR FULL EXPERIENCE
Now, while pre-ordering isn’t really costing you extra, I’m counting it as a “pay for full experience” sinner due to the fact that it is asking gamers to fork over cash before seeing the final product (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, ALIENS: COLONIAL MARINES). However, some of these games come with experiences only available if you pre-ordered, until months later when they are, inevitably, available to all for an additional cost. Games such as Alien: Isolation (way to redeem yourself, Alien franchise), Mortal Kombat X, and Batman: Arkham Knight all came with additional story missions/chapters (not one-off, forgettable side missions) and/or a character(s) to play as. (source:http://www.hardcoregamer.com/2014/09/22/best-and-worst-upcoming-pre-order-bonuses/106364/)
Plus, there are plenty of “special edition” video games, ie. Forza Motorsport 4‘s “Limited Collector’s Edition” which gave owners a slew (over a dozen) of new cars available only to them (even if for only a limited time).
PAY FOR FUN
Take Grand Theft Auto V, for example, where buying cars, houses, and offices that lead to more jobs, cars, and houses, requires in game currency. Can’t hold back the impulse to keep buying shiny new clothing? Buy shark-cards with real life currency and you’ll get a wad of cash to spend in game to have all the fun with. Can’t afford that? Be prepared to spend a lot of time grinding to get that cash.
Money = power in video games, be they “free” mobile games, or AAA titles such as For Honor, just like in real life it can help you get an edge on others giving you access to content/abilities earlier. Is it fair? Nope, but life isn’t fair. Is it a problem with today’s video games? Well, yes and no – it depends.
Am I about to defend some of these “shoddy” video game business models? Yes, but not all of them. Some games I believe get it 100% right, such as Grand Theft Auto V and Rainbow 6: Siege, in the fact that micro-transactions can be made to enhance a user’s experience, but the developers are also continuously working to add more content FREE OF CHARGE. Sure, with R6 you could buy a season pass, but eventually everybody gets access to the toys you get early access to. In GTAV, all the new game modes, including the long awaited Heists, were released for free. In both of these games, you can Pay to Win (getting access to more powerful weapons/equipment), Pay for Full Experience, (paying to get access to all the content), and ultimately, that leads to Paying for Fun (having all the goodies should be a good time, yes?).
Season Passes tend to be hit or miss, as, like pre-orders, one is putting a lot of trust in the game developer to deliver good, quality content worth their money. I bought Watch_Dog‘s season pass, and because Ubisoft couldn’t deliver the content due to the game being rather buggy, I (and many others) got Far Cry 4 (or any other Ubi title) for free. This was a wake up call for me to be more wary of promises from developers.
Some expansion packs or DLC content is good, but there are some that are complete rip-offs. I see some of them as rip-offs, because it is content that should have been part of the main game; instead of getting a nice side of fries, I got the lettuce and ketchup that was originally missing from my burger. A prime example of this is from Assassin’s Creed II. Two pieces of DLC, entitled Battle of Forlì and Bonfire of the Vanities were released early 2010, and
“filled the previously missing memory sequences, which were originally cut from the game’s development.” (source:http://assassinscreed.wikia.com/wiki/Assassin’s_Creed_II_downloadable_content)
I’m not kidding, I remember playing the game and it randomly jumped two “memory sequences” and the game brushed it off by saying “oh it’s a technical glitch in the Animus” (AC‘s memory machine). I was furious.
We need to remember that there are individuals working tirelessly for these companies, and they need to be paid too. However, we shouldn’t be accepting products missing key ingredients or that are a shell of what we are promised. It sucks sometimes, but not all service is perfect. We need to be vigilant and pick and choose what is worth paying for, or grinding for, or just ignoring.
TL;DR: Money = Power, but don’t burn it all
Image source: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/rdFplXRNMAA/hqdefault.jpg