Micro-transactions in Modern Games


Yes of course. The 99.99$ purchase is the 'best value'.

Yes of course. The 99.99$ purchase is the ‘best value’.

It’s seen as a dirty word to some. In their eyes, it’s seen as a frivolous waste. Something unnecessary. For others, they see an opportunity. A chance to add sprinkles on the vanilla game (see that? Ice cream joke).

No matter how you see it, or what you think, micro-transactions are a part of games that aren’t going anywhere for a while. In fact, some folks say that they will be in every game you play within 5 years. Most games these days already have them, in some form or another. So that’s what I want to do today. I present to you: The Case of Being Content with No Content.

So unless you have been living under a rock with no wifi, you’ve noticed that everything you play, from console games, to PC games, to primarily mobile games, have some way to give more money to the developer¬† in the form of micro-transactions. League of Legends lets you pay to unlock heroes quicker. Clash of Clans lets you pay to speed up production of resources. Battlefield 4 lets you pay to unlock all the weapons and kit upgrades (at least, most of them). Sometimes the base games are free, such as League and Clash of Clans. Sometimes the base games cost as much as a brand new AAA title like Battlefield 4. Nevertheless, you are given the option to keep playing and earning upgrades, or save time and just buy them.

Sometimes, you will hear games referred to as ‘Freemium’ or ‘Pay-to-win’. Games like Warframe and League of Legends are usually at the top of the list. These games allow you to spend money to bypass having to spend time earning in game currency to buy items. While this doesn’t necessarily make you able to win by paying, it does help out because whenever the metagame changes, you are able to shift to the new playstyle much quicker and not worry about spending countless hours farming points. I will say this: while I do support most micro-transactions, I don’t care for this kind. It’s a pain in the ass for some people to spend even an hour a day playing a game. When you need over 500+ hours spent to complete enough rune pages to play in the current meta, it just isn’t feasible for casual players. So they are forced to spend real life Earth bucks.


Some games only have cosmetic items available for purchase. Games like Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2 and Counterstrike: Global Offensive. These all let you spend money to get different items for characters to wear. (League of Legends also has this). Most folks don’t really care that much, so they don’t buy them. Which is great for them. Other people like looking different or they like spending money that goes to the developer (in this case, Valve for every game). Each game has a lot of cheap items, and some very expensive ones. Knives in CS:GO are always upwards of 70 bucks. Dota 2 has special sets that are worth over 200$. The other neat thing about Valve games, is they all have a community marketplace. The prices for the items aren’t necessarily set by Valve themselves, but more upon the consumer. Items that look ‘cooler’ might cost more, depending on availability.


Then you’ve got your mobile games. Candy Crush. Clash of Clans. Fallout Shelter. Temple Run. Most mobile games are free to play (or you can pay a buck to remove ads or stuff like that). These games will sometimes limit the amount you can play in a day, and offer the chance to buy ‘gems’ (or any other form of in game money) that you can redeem to play more. To be honest, I sort of like this. It means that I can just put a few minutes a day or every few hours into the game, and not worry about becoming addicted. Some would refer to this as a ‘time wall’. It takes 8 hours to upgrade your elixir factory, so you can raid some goblins, or just wait until 8 hours are up. Fallout Shelter doesn’t quite let you do this, but you can purchase lunchboxes, which will contain weapons, outfits, or money. This means you don’t have to send out vault dwellers to scrounge up loot as much.

Here’s my bottom line on them. If I spend 30 hours playing a game I paid 60 bucks for, I say that was well worth it. If I spend 100 hours, that’s awesome. That’s over 4 days of enjoyment out of 60 dollars. I am more than willing to spend a few bucks on cosmetic items at that point. I have over 3 thousand hours in Dota 2. Some people are surprised to hear I’ve spent probably 500 dollars on it over the course of a few years. But when you consider that is 6 hours for every dollar, I’d say it’s not too bad. Sure, I could have had those 3 thousand hours for free, but now I have a bunch of cool items to show for it. It’s no different than buying a painting for your house, or seat covers for your car. I also bought the weapon kit unlocks in Battlefield 4. That’s a series I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing, but I switched over from consoles, so I had to start over. I wanted to be able to use all the guns and stuff I had, so I don’t see a huge deal in spending 30$ to have even more fun for longer.

I know not everyone would agree. But hey, I guess it doesn’t matter. I’ll be over here stylin’ in some cosmetic pixel items while you drool in a corner in pathetic digital peasant rags.