With all of the controversy going on with Star Wars Battlefront 2 and micro-transactions, this question crossed my mind. We all know that development costs of Triple-A games can be in the millions. Yet with the rise in cost to produce these titles, the cost of a game in the United States rarely eclipses the $59.99 USD price. That is unless it’s a special edition or a collector’s edition. To recoup these high development costs, developers have begun to implement micro-transactions more often within games. These micro-transactions allow a person playing a game to spend real-world money for in-game credits for use to purchase in-game items such as weapons, costumes, or other cosmetic enhancements. In some cases, micro-transactions can provide a boost in a player skill level or provide an upgrade to give a player a foot up on their opponent.
One could say that this trend started with developers offering season passes. Season passes allowed players to pre-purchase any future downloadable content released post-launch of a given game. There were times when season passes cost almost as much as the game itself. I can remember specifically of the cost of the season pass for Fallout 4 costing $50 USD, whereas the game itself cost $59.99 USD at launch. My apprehension on buying the DLC came when the developer stated that they were not sure what would be included in the season pass, but only that it would be well worth the $50 price tag. For me, that isn’t a satiable enough reason to entice me to spend an additional $50 after I already paid $59.99. In my opinion, the developer spent a lot of money promoting and creating this game and they knew that only charging $59.99 would not provide the return on investment that they were seeking. So, therefore, they felt the need to create the season pass and to price it as such. Initially, when first revealed, the season pass for Fallout 4 was $30. However, over the course of development of the extra content, the developer realized that price point was too low. They did offer consumers a chance to purchase the pass at the original $30 price point; however, this would be only for a limited time as the season pass would eventually go up to $50. I honestly considered getting the pass for $30 but I didn’t like that I felt forced to buy it immediately or pay the higher price down the line, so I decided against purchasing the extra content even though I really enjoyed Fallout 4. Now looking back I do not regret my decision to not purchase the content. In this case, I voted with my wallet. Something I feel if done correctly will allow consumers get what they want from developers. This way they know when we like or do not like something by not purchasing it.
This brings me to my point. If game development costs more and more, why haven’t companies raised the price for games? In the 90’s, NES games costed around $50 USD. With inflation, that figure is $90 or more today. So if we were paying that much for games that are far less technologically advanced than the games of today, why are they so cheap? I feel that if developers raised the price of games this may negate the need for micro-transactions or season passes. Maybe this is naive but hey, it’s a thought. At least for the time being, it will detract from the controversy of micro-transactions being considered gambling. In fact in Belgium they have deemed loot boxes/micro-transactions as gambling and they want them removed from games. In my opinion, this is a huge blow to companies such as EA and Activision. These companies make so much money on micro-transactions that decided to incorporate them in all future titles moving forward. As a consumer, I have no interest in supporting the micro-transaction model. I would rather pay a higher amount for the game than be nickel and dimed for content. The only way paying to play or to win makes sense to me is if the game were free to play. But when there is an entry price to play the game it just doesn’t seem fair to consumers to have to keep pumping money in a game to advance or to explore content locked behind a paywall.
Unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at it, Star Wars Battlefront 2 is being made a martyr for the sins of micro-transactions. With the bad press this game is receiving, developers may need to re-think their approach to making games more profitable. I for one do not intend to purchase Battlefront 2 because I do not like micro-transactions. I can only wonder how many others feel the same way. Only time will tell once sales figures are released. Let’s just hope that for the sake of all gamer’s that a resolution to this growing issue is made sooner rather than later. Even if means raising the standard prices for games, all options should be explored.