It seems not everyone has learned the distinction yet.
I know a lot of people instinctively hate them, but I have been a champion for microtransactions for some time now. Microtransactions are a perfect middleground between new content and making money. In theory, you can continue creating new content for your game that is available to everyone for a minimal price at most and you can continue to earn money via cosmetic and quality of life items from those who want to support the game; making all parties happy. This way, everyone gets the content and you continue to raise money. In fact, I believe that this model likely earns more money than the typical release/DLC model that we’ve seen for years.
When I think of microtransactions, Overwatch is the perfect example that comes to mind. Whenever Blizzard releases new content for Overwatch, it’s completely free. Without paying a single penny, you have access to all of the same maps, heroes and game modes as everyone else that plays the game. The community isn’t fractured behind paywalls in the form of DLC and you can come back to the game after months of inactivity and be right where everyone else is in terms of content. To support Overwatch, you can pay for loot boxes (which are also earnable through regular gameplay) that contain exclusively cosmetic items. I can go and buy 100 loot boxes while someone else doesn’t and we’re both still on the same level playing field. It’s a model that works flawlessly when done correctly. However, pay to win remains a problem in the industry.
Last week, we got some insight into Star Wars Battlefront II’s microtransaction system from people in the game’s alpha testing and it’s not good. Much like Overwatch, Battlefront II will have purchasable loot boxes, but they aren’t just cosmetic. Battlefront II is apparently jumping on the “progression through rng loot boxes” train and hiding its progression system inside the loot boxes. So rather than progressing through gameplay, you have to luck your way into it (which is an increasing problem with multiplayer games). Some of the items in Battlefront II’s loot boxes are stat increases such as increased or reduced damage, and that’s a problem. In Battlefront II, I can go and buy 100 loot boxes while someone else doesn’t and the playing field is no longer level; I am above them. I don’t care how the people with exclusive access want to try and spin it, that is indisputably a pay to win system.
This is where microtransactions go bad. EA did so much right with Battlefront II to solve the problems of Battlefront (2015), most notably being that all of Battlefront II’s DLC and post-launch content will be free. This obviously meant there would have to be microtransactions to support the game and I’m totally cool with that. But those microtransactions can’t be pay to win. Developers need to come up with better ideas than just stashing progression in rng loot boxes and then making them purchasable with money. Pay to win models suck and that’s how you ruin microtransactions. Microtransactions should be designed for cosmetics and quality of life; nothing else. As far as I’m concerned, a pay to win model is just as bad as a season pass. Figure it out, guys.