50
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In many games nowadays we see micro-transactions in the form of in-game purchases. The benefits of these purchases can be anything from disabling ads, cosmetic unlocks, or in-game currency. Here's an example:

microtransaction example

That is of course an extreme example of pricey micro-transactions. But it seems that even more "reasonable" in-game purchases are more or less despised by the community as a whole, even though they are there to help monetize the game and without them the game wouldn't exist.

So why are micro-transactions so despised?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Philipp, Tim Holt, Bálint, Alexandre Vaillancourt Nov 13 '17 at 20:48

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  • 27
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm missing the "micro" in your example of micro-transactions. Generally "micro" means on the order of cents (and less than 100 of them). \$\endgroup\$ – R.. Nov 11 '17 at 22:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the term for what you're talking about is in-app purchases or in-game purchases. Maybe gamedev has appropriated the term microtransactions for something similar, but conventionally it refers to systems for paying (or donating) a small amount (on the same order of cost as an ad click or impression) when you access an article or creative work of some sort. \$\endgroup\$ – R.. Nov 11 '17 at 23:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @R.. "micro-transactions" probably started out as "micro" but as the price of the purchases grew the industry kept the "micro" since it sounds a whole lot better than "100-dollar-transactions" :) Kind of relates to Eldy's answer as well about manipulation and dishonesty. \$\endgroup\$ – Charanor Nov 11 '17 at 23:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 "So why are micro-transactions so despised?" You don't provide data to back this statement. And game companies' profit is not there to back it either. \$\endgroup\$ – Alexandre Vaillancourt Nov 12 '17 at 3:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can anyone explain to me how this is not a canonical example of a question which should be closed because it's primarily opinion based? There is no evidence or prior research provided to support the question's only claim. Stackexchange is so hypocritical sometimes. \$\endgroup\$ – spacetyper Nov 12 '17 at 18:58

19 Answers 19

95
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This is my own personal opinon on the subject, and some other people may dislike microtransactions for other reasons, but hopefully this will give you a first element of answer.

I personally dislike microtransactions because they are not honest and up front with the customer.

They are often associated with psychological tricks to make you spend money. One basic example of these tricks is create a fake currency (like the gems in your example) which act as a layer to detach the customer from the money which is actually spent. Another example would be to tease the player by giving him one free item, which will later on only be available through microtransactions. Much more devious methods exist.

There's also the issue that you don't know beforehand what will be locked up behind microtransactions when you buy the game. Of course you can make your researchs, but there's a difference between buying a game without microtransactions and knowing you can explore it fully without any constraints, and buying a game to later on realize some of the content is not available.

And of course, there's the slightly different issue of competitive games where microtransactions can give you an edge. It's hard to not feel cheated in this case.

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  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ Indeed. \$\endgroup\$ – Fizz Nov 11 '17 at 21:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also loot boxes are a completely unregulated form of gambling that pray on children and people with addictive personalities. They use all the same psychological tactics as casinos, but are unhindered by gambling laws because the winnings are not monetary. \$\endgroup\$ – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Nov 12 '17 at 10:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree. One of the greates examples is H1Z1:KOTK. There are many skins in the game, accessible through the loot boxes. You get one loot box each 5 levels(which isn't much; you'd probably get ~10 boxes after 100 hours of playing), and other boxes require real money. The thing I hate the most about this is that whenever they release some new type of loot box, you will get a box for playing the game. The catch is that the box is... locked. You get locked box. Opening the locked box and buying the open box is the same thing. You're literally getting an advertisement as a reward. \$\endgroup\$ – MatthewRock Nov 12 '17 at 16:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's also kind of like cheating if you get some super powered gun for example. \$\endgroup\$ – Keith Loughnane Nov 13 '17 at 10:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ In mobile games (and increasingly "AAA" games) they are frequently used to skip grinds, and to make the monetised option attractive the grinds become long and arduous. What this tells me is that the publisher is making the game itself unattractive to play in order to justify me paying to skip it, with the promise of it being better later. To my mind it's actively ruining games where entire mechanics are bent to fit in paid options, as publishers aren't happy making money unless it is ALL the money. Note I use "publishers" - I'm convinced developers just want to make a good game. \$\endgroup\$ – Folau Nov 13 '17 at 11:08
58
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Back in the day when apps were $1-$2 (or the occasional $5 or so for something above and beyond or very specialized) I bought quite a lot of apps. Buying an app and then having full control over the game play is terrific.

Now that apps have gone to free download + microtransactions, I have stopped paying for anything completely.

Why pay to play is terrible:

  • You have no idea what the true cost of the game is. It is generally hidden, and you only find out after passing a few levels that you need to pay $10 for a "package" to get your further. But what next? Many times the prices keep going up, or the credits required in the game escalate so you are required to buy substantially more credits to make progress.

  • For multiplayer games, the enjoyment of competition and skill is overshadowed by who is willing to spend more. When you find other players are beating you because they are spending more money on the game, and there is basically no limit to the amount you can spend, most people will stop playing. I believe it's a very small percentage of people who can't control their spending who make the most money for game publishers. Check out the reviews for Mobile Strike and you will see people who claim to have spent thousands of dollars on the game. Ridiculous! You can see people get hooked and keep pumping money in because of the sunk cost fallacy (aka Escalation of commitment).

  • The feeling that the game is constantly tricking you, cheating you, or is generally stacked against you. "This game cheats!" is so commonly yelled at games because players want an even play field, and any unfair advantage the computer has against the player is not received well. When the whole point of the game is to put up arbitrary unfair obstacles in your way that can only be removed by paying, players feel scammed.

  • The prices are ridiculous. $100 for a package of gems that will last you a week, for a simple phone app? I can buy several high end games for my PC that will give me much more enjoyment for the same price. Who pays these prices?

I'd love to pay a fair price for a game, but the current model seems aimed at people who make poor financial decisions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your point about people who get hooked is an important one. A number of mobile games are designed around this, and the experience is horrible for everyone. A very small percentage of players become "whales" and pour hundreds or thousands of dollars into the game. Everybody else becomes frustrated, left in the dust by those who are spending more than our car payments every month on a single game. The entire design of the game exists to hook and serve whales, and there's nothing to play. \$\endgroup\$ – Zach Lipton Nov 11 '17 at 23:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ One benefit these games have over the traditional model though is that you can freely test the actual game. If a game has to be payed it needs to already have a big name / come with some recommendation so people actually want to spend money without having tried it. This is especially true, I think, for all these smaller mobile games, where the gamers are not so much into the hobby that they regularly read reviews and know exactly what they want to get the next few months. \$\endgroup\$ – Frank Hopkins Nov 12 '17 at 0:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Darkwing How are microtransactions better for playtesting than the "old" system of publishing a free demo version and a paid full version? (Non-rhetorical by the way.) \$\endgroup\$ – 11684 Nov 12 '17 at 13:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Really? I see them all the time (although, admittedly, recently less frequently): Angry Birds, Assassin’s Creed and Doodle Jump had at some point a free and a paid iPhone app, to name a few. @Darkwing \$\endgroup\$ – 11684 Nov 12 '17 at 23:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Darkwing Steam is recently experimenting with "free weekends" where players can test an AAA title without any restrictions while it is on sale (they are usually titles which are already a few years old, though). \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Nov 13 '17 at 1:12
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People hate scams and price increases, and have been taught to associate micro-transactions with both.

In some cases, especially most of the early cases, micro-transactions were used for illegal scams. There was a time when Apple and Google ignored the password requirement for payments, under some conditions, which was used to prey on children and (other) addicts.

In far too many other cases, micro-transaction are legal scams. Pay to win, pay to avoid grinding, etc.

In many of the remaining cases, micro-transactions end up being either a real or a perceived price increase over past pricing, or unethically milk gambling habits while circumventing gambling laws (loot boxes/crates).

In those cases that are none of the above, there are significantly fewer complaints about micro-transactions. IIRC, one example of those was the first version of Heroes of the Storm - but the current version offers random loot crates for money.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It is true that microtransactions do not have to be scams, theorically. In practice, they are used to hide the full-price ahead of time, whatever the reason is. Only micro-transactions which do not affect the gameplay are not scams, and those are rare. \$\endgroup\$ – Shautieh Nov 12 '17 at 7:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree that microtransactions are just another tool in the developers toolbox, they have been abused to the point where they are now synonymous with exploitation. \$\endgroup\$ – Shaamaan Nov 13 '17 at 8:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Any chance you could provide an example of the latter, "good," implementation of microtransactions? (Or for that matter, an example of each kind?) \$\endgroup\$ – ThunderGuppy Nov 13 '17 at 14:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThunderGuppy A truly "good" (i.e. ethical) implementation of micro transactions would be a tip jar. I did not put examples, because I was afraid EA fans might have derailed the comment thread in response. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Nov 13 '17 at 15:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThunderGuppy The Blizzard Shop, while not exactly "micro"-transactions, contains many items that are cosmetic in nature. As it is currently, nothing there provides a material advantage (e.g. better weapons than your opponents). Even Overwatch's loot boxes don't do that - they contain skins and other cosmetic effects. \$\endgroup\$ – user45195 Nov 13 '17 at 20:34
28
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I would go a bit further than what Eldy said (+1) and quote this additional bit from a Rolling Stone article on the matter:

A free-to-play game does not sell its in-game currency or items; it doesn’t sell anything, in fact. It holds hostage the one thing that is obviously more valuable than money. They hold hostage your time in this world [...] You still lose in the end, because you’ve traded money for time. You haven’t purchased a game. You haven’t incentivized quality through the dissemination of your money, which is the only real power an individual holds in a free market. You have been sold back time in your life to do something, anything, else. All the confusion created by multiple in-game currencies, endlessly adjusted pay scales for items, manufactured fluctuations in a game’s self-contained market, and so on, is an endless loop meant to divide your spending from the game’s true value proposition: time, or, your actual life away from the game.

The above does assume that the game (eventually) offers all its contents just through grinding and that microtransactions only speed up that aspect. That isn't always the case though; there are certainly games where some items with gameplay value can only be purchased with real money. But then it's probably improper to call it free-to-play anymore, maybe just free-to-play-some-portion.

As for buying in-game advantages over other players (even if just cosmetic), there's a UC Berkeley paper that says, in its abstract:

In one survey and two experimental scenario-studies with active gamers as participants (total N = 532), we found evidence supporting the idea that a player using microtransactions will be judged more negatively. More specifically, we find that gamers dislike it more when microtransactions allow the buying of functional benefits (that provide an in-game advantage) than when they are merely ornamental, and players who buy these functional benefits are respected less. In Studies 2 and 3 we found that players who use microtransactions are perceived as having a lower skill and status. This happens both when the microtransaction-using player is an enemy who bought a competitive advantage, as well as in games where one cooperates with the microtransaction-using player and the advantage is thus effectively shared.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Star wars Battlefront would take an estimated 13,000 hours to play without microtransactions. \$\endgroup\$ – Carl Nov 11 '17 at 21:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer should have more recognition, in my opinion, due to its use of sources rather than "I think" (as much as "I think" can be very useful) \$\endgroup\$ – Jibb Smart Nov 12 '17 at 13:14
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Because it’s nickle-‘n-diming, nothing else.

Just imagine you go to Disney, and pay 20$ to get in the park, and while you walk along, every some yards there is a turnstyle, where you need to pay another 4.99$ to pass. You have no idea how many more are coming, and either you pay them all, or you turn around and wasted all the money you already paid. Would you like that park?

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    \$\begingroup\$ A better analogy: Imagine standing in line for a ride. There's a 1 hour wait from where you are. But you can pay $4.99 to ride right now. And then... take away the line entirely. There's just a 1 hour wait for people who haven't paid extra. There's no physical limitation on the number of people who can ride; there's just a 1 hour wait to milk more cash out of you. \$\endgroup\$ – Nicol Bolas Nov 12 '17 at 22:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NicolBolas hate to say it, but that's not an analogy - it's an example :( \$\endgroup\$ – Jeutnarg Nov 13 '17 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ There was a 15 min wait, but then they let people pay $4.99 skip the line. Now because of all the people paying to jump ahead of you, you have to wait an hour. So you pay $4.99, but now you still have to wait behind all the other people who also paid $4.99. But wait! You can pay $4.99 to skip that line! Etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Acccumulation Nov 13 '17 at 20:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ After passing all those Disney turnstiles, you get hungry. The only place to eat costs $100 for your whole family and there aren't even any open tables to sit at. Oh wait, this was supposed to be hypothetical, right? \$\endgroup\$ – user45195 Nov 13 '17 at 20:37
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Players don't care about the economics of game production cost. I spent all my Saturdays and some Sundays for 6 months to make one of my games. A friend, when presented with having to pay $3 for it, said that I owed him a beer for buying it. No, he got a game that I worked hard to make.

Players don't want to pay for a game, no matter how cheap. Many, many excellent iPhone games were $1 or $2 before the advent of common microtransactions in games.

The best way to get people to pay for microtransactions is to link them to player performance (known as "Pay to Win"), since most players want to perform better. So one reason people hate these things is because it means that people willing to spend more money than them will be able to beat them regardless of skill.

The other reason people don't like these transactions is because ultimately it means that games are more expensive. Since they're not willing to pay more than $60 for AAA games, which have been that price for decades while cost of production has gone up, the big studios are going to look for ways to pay these huge budgets. So now we have the phenomenon of buying a game like Overwatch, but still being asked to buy loot crates.

I work in the games industry, and have been on mobile projects for many years now. I see what goes on behind the curtain; I see how hard it is to get people to keep playing and more importantly pay. Budgets for even what seem like small mobile games are in the millions of dollars. The support infrastructure for customer support, content delivery, patch delivery, content production and many other facets of game development are very expensive to maintain.

We work hard to give players the best game we can, but we can't continue to do that if we can't pay our mortgages and eat. So we will adapt to the market, and find whatever way we can to pay the bills. At this moment in time, that means microtransactions. Perhaps, I hope, this will change.

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  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Are you trying to answer why microtransactions exist or why are microtransactions disliked? \$\endgroup\$ – Eldy Nov 11 '17 at 20:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Both because they are intertwined. \$\endgroup\$ – Almo Nov 11 '17 at 20:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think they are intertwined as you seem to assume here. You're going off on a tangent. Obviously at the end of the day commercial businesses are here to make a profit. But micro transactions aren't inherently bad, it's a matter of how they are implemented and offered to the player. Adapting to the market implies it's exactly what the market wants, not so much that it is frowned upon. Throwing millions into your mobile product is on you though. Micro transactions are, imo, frowned upon because they artificially extend gameplay. \$\endgroup\$ – Sidar Nov 11 '17 at 21:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Players don't care about the economics of game production cost." Actually, no consumers in any market care about any production costs. Consumers just want to pay less for more value in every possible way. Ideally, we all pay nothing and get mansions, smoking hot partners, delicious food on-demand, free robots clean up our messes, and we fly around on free flights. In game dev, the MARGINAL costs are trivial, maybe a few cents per copy. So, consumers only pay what MARKET dictates, by supply and demand. Neither supply nor demand depend on production cost, because copying a game costs ~$0.00. \$\endgroup\$ – Tom Mercer Nov 11 '17 at 23:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ I didn't say "aren't of huge consequence". Obv they are. I said, "consumers don't care about production costs". In some industries, production costs are very large drivers of the "supply" side of supply and demand. Some industries don't exist entirely because production costs are too high - rare metal extraction from asteroids, superyachts with supermodels for middle class Americans, etc. It is always true that copying another MARGINAL digital game costs ~$0. You did not counter that. Your example of app stores' fees is a distribution or marketing cost, not a production cost. \$\endgroup\$ – Tom Mercer Nov 12 '17 at 2:41
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The cost is not entirely known up-front

Let's compare against two other monetization models;

Players are all too happy to shell out $60 for a triple-A title that has decent reviews - because they understand the cost that it will incur to them. They feel like they can appropriately weigh the cost against the reviews (and their preferences) to decide if they want to invest their time in the game.

Players are also quite happy to buy into subscription-based services - most MMO's use this format, and are quite successful because of it. This subscription is not generally tied to your ingame actions, and you pay regardless of if you play. But, again, this is a well-understood cost to the player. There is no surprise here, they understand what they're getting.

But microtransactions are more uncertain. Players don't know if they'll end up spending $3 or $30 over the course of a week or month of gameplay. There's no upper limit to the amount they might need to spend in order to play the game the way they want.

It frequently reminds the players that they are losing real money

If you ask a player for a lump sum at the outset, or silently bill them every month, they forget about the money. But if you constantly harangue them to buy more skins or loot crates, they are viscerally aware that they are constantly spending money in the game. This is bad, because even if you only ask for a dollar or two at a time, doing so a dozen times feels like you're asking for more than if you just asked for $30 up-front.

Most mammals act like this; our reward centers are focused on getting rewards more often, not necessarily in larger amounts. Similarly, we feel costs more strongly if we incur them more often. A pet cat who is fed multiple times per day is much happier than if the exact same amount of food was given to them all at once.

The cost is usually not associated with things that actually incur development cost

Let's say you're playing a non-pay-to-win game, and you buy some hats or skins. The assumption is that because the game was free, but the skins cost money, that it must be costly to produce skins. But this is ludicrous, skins and hats are the easiest things in the game to produce! Players know this, and so when you demand $1 for a fancy hat, the cost is associated with the hat, and players feel a bit cheated because they know that the hat couldn't have taken more than a dozen or so man-hours to slap together, and it seems ludicrous to demand so much money for something like that.

TL;DR

Microtransactions are hated because they activate all of our uncertainties and biases about money.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The sad things is when they will happily pay upwards of $80 for a game such as FIFA and then continue to buy FIFA coins constantly. What has the world come to hey :D \$\endgroup\$ – Big T Larrity Nov 13 '17 at 12:17
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As a hobby game designer, I have an especially deep hatred for microtransaction for a reason that I think many players also understand instinctively:

If your game has microtransactions as its business model, it most likely means that your game design has been mutilated to maximize the profit. That means progress will be artificially slowed so that people buy things that speed up progress. It means there will be soft or hard barriers that are best overcome by spending money and that have no other place in the gameplay.

In a movie analogy, it means your movie is not only interrupted by advertisement, it has been scripted and edited to maximize the opportunities for ad interruptions.

That means the game is not as good as it could be, and not even as good as you could have made it. It has been intentionally crippled and downgraded to maximize profit. This is the opposite of what I expect from an honest transaction. I want to give you money and in return you should try to entertain me in the best way possible. But with microtransactions, I am no longer a valued customer, I am a mark to be fleeced.

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12
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It's not the microtransactions per se that are hated.

It's the hate-able game designs and the way the sale items are designed, which happen to use microtransactions.

For example:

  • Microtransactions for advantages, creating pay-to-win games where players are essentially in an endless bidding war with each other, and/or free players are at a huge disadvantage to paying players.
  • Never-ending microtransactions on addictive games that can add up to much more than a game is worth.
  • Games that are made annoying unless you pay microtransactions.
  • Games that get you to invest time in them until you can even tell how much you're going to need to pay to enjoy keeping playing them at all.
  • Games that are barely games, where the design is mainly about getting people addicted and willing to pay money for imaginary things.
  • Games designed to have players be attached to their character, virtual pet/farm/kingdom/etc, or their involvement with other players (q.v. so-called "social" games or games with clans) and that involve microtransactions to keep their pet alive, their country from being invaded, or their clan-mates from being "let down". (Thanks for the comment, @H.idden.)
  • And other hate-worthy schemes.

It would be possible to make non-awful games that use microtransactions, which would hopefully not be hated by association. For example, some games are actually interesting games but happen to offer some microtransaction sales of things that don't materially mess up the game, and aren't excessively priced.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Doesn't that list cover all or at least 99.9% of real-world uses of microtransactions though? \$\endgroup\$ – Fizz Nov 12 '17 at 12:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Don't forget that "free" mobile game for 5-year-old children in the UK which was about taking care of an animal. After some hours of playing their animal "went ill" and needed a visit to the doctor or else it would die. The visit would cost about 1$ paid by the parents. Now the parents are blackmailed to pay the 1$ (and unknown amount of further incoming microtransactions) or they would need to explain to their kids why you would kill an animal instead of taking care about it. Sadly I forgot the name of the game. But otherwise very good list. \$\endgroup\$ – H. Idden Nov 12 '17 at 14:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @H.Idden The internet in general is a very unsafe place for children. For example, you can search any game that is universally-accepted as friendly on You Tube, and at least 50% of the results will be bloody (literally) parodies of the game. \$\endgroup\$ – Cpp plus 1 Nov 12 '17 at 17:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @H.Idden Yes, that's a particularly hate-able example. Where I listed "addictive" could also be substituted other kinds of attachments, even for older audiences where players get attached to their characters, the virtual country or farm they run, or to other players (many of these are "social media" games, where that's at the core of the design, and the game itself is often extremely trivial). \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Nov 12 '17 at 18:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Fizz It's certainly seems very common, but I think it's worthwhile (and vital to understand the question) to distinguish the annoying exploitive designs from the microtransactions themselves. e.g. If you had a good game with optional microtransactions to donate a bit to charity and get a pin displayed on your character, that'd still be a microtransaction but I'd hope wouldn't be hated. \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Nov 12 '17 at 18:27
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I think fundimentally it is because it is a business model which no longer emphasises making the best possible game (or even the best game with the limited available budget). Look at these businesses models:

Paid up front: Further revenue is driven by reviews and positive recommendations, providing a very good game drives this

Paid by advertising: The longer a player plays the more revenue is generated, providing a very good game drives this

Paid by microtransactions: The game as delivered must not be too fun, parts of the game must be intentionally disabled in order to rent them back. As much of the revenue is generated by the small percentage of players who pay vast amounts, and they need something to buy, the game must be compromised even for players paying moderate amounts (to incentivise the players who pay vast amounts).

Ref: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/7.843665-Most-Freemium-Revenue-Comes-From-Less-Than-1-of-Gamers

All in all its a great business model but doesn't lead to very good games

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    \$\begingroup\$ The effects you list aren't necessary features due to microtransactions per se. They are however common features of the atrocious designs that are common and that use microtransactions in those ways. \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Nov 12 '17 at 6:10
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Microtransactions are not universally hated

Having a game or aspects of an otherwise fun game altered invasively simply to sell more microtransactions is what is universally hated.

I think a list of games and give a short evaluation of each on how I personally feel about microtransactions in each would help show which games to them well and which do not and why.

TL;DR If the microtransactions don't affect game balance, add fun cosmetic content to the game, and are non-intrusive, I don't think anybody hates their inclusion in any game.

  • EA Battlefront 2 - Hated. This is a competitive premium shooter where additional gameplay advantages can be bought, thus creating a conflict of interest for the developers, and dividing the community into haves/have-nots after an already $60 or more purchase.

  • Overwatch - Great! The microtransactions add fun skins and are non-intrusive. Loot are frequently given out for free, and there are NO mechanical microtransactions, ensuring competitive balance. All new gameplay-related content distributed for free, thus ensuring community unity in matchmaking.

  • Rocket League - See Overwatch

  • CS:GO - See Overwatch, 3rd party gambling sites non-withstanding.

  • Leage of Legends - They're ethical because LoL is free, but affect gameplay balance to a non-negligible degree... and additional cosmetics are sold anyway. The community does not seem to mind, but it is why I stopped playing and never bought anything.

  • TF2 - See League of Legends.

  • Warframe - Ethical, but for me, too expensive for what the core game provides; a simple grindy corridor shooter (plains of the Eidolons non-withstanding)

  • Tribes Ascend - Ethical, but had a very negative affect on the games balance. Gun and side grades were very pollutive on what otherwise was a fun core experience.

  • DotA - See Overwatch.

  • Shadow of War - The developers purposefully introduced grind to their game to incentivise additional purchases. This is a slimy tactic, especially given the game is single player (no continued server maintenance) and already has a high price point.

  • Dungeon Keeper - Microtransactions are ethical here (as the game is free), but is the game worth it? No. Not by a long shot.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, there is a lot of controversy around Overwatch loot boxes, mostly due to perceived rates of duplicate being high and the fact that it's preying on gambling addictions. (I personally don't hate it and agree with Kaplan that they are much closer to the good side than the evil side.) \$\endgroup\$ – CAD97 Nov 11 '17 at 22:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I hate the CS:GO stuff as it annoys me when they show me some nonsense shit box I've gotten and I need to click it away. That being said, it's still quite mild to the level that I can ignore the few annoying moments and still play the game. \$\endgroup\$ – Frank Hopkins Nov 12 '17 at 0:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ "They're ethical because LoL is free" - I don't play LoL so I don't know specifics but I don't think most people consider uTransactions ethical/unethical because they are in free/paid games but weather or not they try to make you become 'gambler' or not (bonus point for children). \$\endgroup\$ – Maciej Piechotka Nov 13 '17 at 8:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding TF2: gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/179127/… \$\endgroup\$ – Pharap Nov 13 '17 at 11:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Overwatch's microtransactions are actually very intrusive. Even character speech is locked behind lootboxes. Also the backstory contradicts the rest of the game because otherwise the game wouldn't have been profitable enough. Rocket League on the other hand lets you completely disable anything microtransaction related in the settings of the game. \$\endgroup\$ – stommestack Nov 13 '17 at 16:35
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The biggest problem with micro-transactions is that they are, in general but also in some very prominent examples (which people remember well), deceptive, fraudulent, abusive, and explicitly designed to take advantage of the weak. Insofar, they are also massively unethical. That, and they're not "micro" at all.

How are they deceptive and fraudulent? The game is usually advertized as "free" or "play free", but it is not free in any way, on the contrary. Usually, what you can do for free is so much limited (purposely, of course) that you cannot really claim it's useable if you are being honest.
In fact, if you look at the screenshot that you posted yourself, it is not only not-free, it is outrageous. The smallest thingie costs $5.49 and while I don't know that particular game, you can bet that the 500 stuffs you get for that are worth next to nothing game-wise. Prices go up to well beyond 100 dollars. That's a lot of money for something that's free.

Add to that the fact that usually you have to pay very real amounts of real money and have no way of getting refunded, but whether or not (and for how long) you actually get back some "value" is uncertain. In-game items may be taken away, the entire game may be discontinued on short notice, and the price tags on in-game items may change every day. Things you bought for real money may suddenly become free for all as an advertising campaign, too (all that has happened with some real games).

How are they abusive and designed to take advantage of the weak? Microtransactions make it easy to spend money, or money-equivalent (which you will promptly refill using money) when you would normally not do so. They are designed to make it exceptionally hard to tell exactly how much money you have spent.
They make it especially easy for kids to spend greater amounts of money, and deliberately so. They take advantage of lacking impulse control of mostly (but not necessarily) young humans, and their inability to realize what amount of money they're spending in a very short time.

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We have to differentiate between micro-transactions which buy content, from those which buy consumables.

In the beginning, micro-transactions were not only cheap (around $1 or not much more), but they bought content. New levels, new characters, new missions, new hats. Even if it was just decorative, if you bought it, you kept it. It was yours.

Now, most micro-transactions are buying you consumables. In-game currency you spend, and it's gone. Time-skips, extra lives, you spend them, they are gone.

If you want to understand how players feel about it, imagine the following: take a very famous, well-beloved old game. Like DOOM. I assume you know it, if not, then you can get it almost for nothing, or you can try out the shareware version or a number of its free ports.

Now imagine that the developers added in the possibility to buy ammunition for real world money. Yeah, right, who needs that? But as you play, ammo crates in the game start becoming more and more rare, up to a point when they are almost completely gone, and the only way to proceed is to buy ammunition for real money. And as you fire that ammunition, it's gone. You have to buy more, for even more money. And then monsters suddenly start getting ten times as strong, and the only way to survive them is to buy that exclusive armor only available for real money. And then, if you want to save or load the game, you are greeted by a screen which says you have to either wait two hours, or pay real money. Ok, you go do some household chores instead of paying, but on the next occasion, the waiting time is for hours. And after that, eight hours. And once you got used to paying just another dollar instead of waiting for days, one day you open the game, and see a message saying that monsters are about to steal your backpack, and if you don't buy a protective charm for real money, they take away all your equipment (equipment you spent so much time gathering, and some of it you bought for real money).

Would you think all this improved the game, or would you hate it instead?

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I can offer two reasons. One is that old style gamers such as myself just prefer to play the game without having to pay extra to get the content. I would prefer to unlock content by player.

The second is worse, its the game companies that appeal to children and constantly try to sell items to them that have zero value , sometimes for reletively large amounts each time (even 50p per time is a lot if they are going to buy 4-5 things per day at age 10).

Your question of course requires an opinion as an answer. And this is just my opinion. Many people love to buy skins and other useless in-game items and dont care about the odd £1-£10 they spend on them.

Dont even get me started on the full grown men I know who work all week and will spend minimum of £30 per week on FUT and other things lol

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There is one point for hating micro transactions that I didn't see made here.

tl;dr players feel like people who pay get an unfair advantage.

Players in games often feel like people who pay have an unfair advantage. In clash of clans and clash Royale there exists the slang term "gemmer" which has a negative connotation, referring to people who pay the micro transactions for the in game premium currency, gems.

The (majority of) game developers do their best to make winning based on skill (hard), but the company does need money to improve their game.

I personally like that others are paying for the game for me, but it seems most others don't look at micro transactions that way. I wouldn't call it an unfair advantage, I'd call it a fair advantage.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This has already been noted in Dronz answer: "Microtransactions for advantages, creating pay-to-win games where players are essentially in an endless bidding war with each other, and/or free players are at a huge disadvantage to paying players." \$\endgroup\$ – Alexandre Vaillancourt Nov 12 '17 at 23:55
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They can be used benignly, but when that happens, they don't make the news. And even when they are used just on cosmetic aspects, they still threaten to partition your users into "haves" & "have nots", which creates its own complications.

As the question observed, sometimes they represent the only way to finance development. But end users rarely see that side of development & even when they do, most consumers don't care.

They do have the capacity to present designers & developers with choices that ultimately amount to the promise near term financial rewards at the expense of user experience. As such, they can incentivise poor design & development choices.

So from the user perspective, the negatives are more visible than positives, thus making them unpopular.

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In my not-so-humble-opinion, micro-transactions are a manifestation brought to life by gamers themselves.

For the sake of a simplistic and well known example; how popular did it used to be or still is to buy currency in World of Warcraft using real money?

Blizzard uses everything in their power to stop such activity but people keep on doing it. However they too eventually figured out that if you can't beat 'em, exploit 'em.

As for why micro-transactions are so hated, I think the answer boils down to the conditioned expectations of gamers based on past experiences and the harsh truth of the current reality.

Additionally, the continued deterioration of people's patience is nothing more that a self-sustaining business plan for those who can afford to cash in on that impatience.

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Microtransactions themselves are not a bad concept, in my opinion. The problem is what they encourage. Instead of the game developer creating a reasonable timeline to get some cool unlock, it encourages for them to make the timeline... less reasonable, so that it encourages people to use the microtransaction path to unlock it. This is put to the extreme in the latest EA scandal where a very desired unlock takes ~40 hours to unlock, but can be unlocked very easily by simply giving EA some money.

It was not always like this too. When microtransactions were first introduced, they were actually praised by quite a few people. For instance, I paid $5 in either Battlefield 3 or 4 (can't recall) to unlock some weapons. I could've unlocked them by putting 5 hours into a game mode I couldn't care less about, but $5 is cheap enough to justify saving 5 hours of uninteresting grind time. However, the equivalent design today would be more like put 30 hours into a game mode OR the "get lucky" approach. In the get lucky approach, there is no outright guaranteed timeline. This has become increasingly popular with the advent of lootboxes. This is used in recent Call of Duty's. Now, you have the choice of buying an unlock, or you can wait... for some unknown amount of time until you happen to get some amount of lootboxes and unlock 8 different items (usually 2 very rare, with the others more common).

This kind of gambling aspect that was introduced is what makes it all seem very unfair. Microtransactions are no longer a short-cut. They've become a way to unlock something that most people will never put in enough time to unlock.

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Imagine if, in real life, you went to a shoe store in order to buy new shoes, but then you discovered you don't have enough money to buy them. What do you do?

You use a Microtransaction to buy the shoes anyway.

Wait. What? How did you do that? Where did you get the money to buy the shoes from?

Microtransactions break the story, in the exact same way cheat codes do. And while cheat codes can simply not be used, mechanics accompanied by microtransactions are there by default and can rarely be disabled.

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