Beware of microtransactions!

By Aminah Madihah

Gaming addiction can and will hurt your bank account if you’re not careful.

If you’re a gamer, you might notice that a lot of games this era cost money, even if they’re free to download and play. These small, in-game purchases have reshaped the way we interact with and experience video games.

Microtransactions began as a way for free-to-play games to monetise their content. Players purchase virtual items, cosmetics, or in-game currency to enhance their gaming experience.

This model quickly spread to paid games, creating a new revenue stream for developers.

Why do people spend money on free-to-play games?

  1. Player upgrades
    Microtransactions allow players to customise their gaming experience, whether it's acquiring a new skin for their character, unlocking powerful weapons, or speeding up progress.

There are games that give you the option to spend money to keep playing. For example, in order to progress in Monopoly GO, you need to have dice to roll. When you run out of dice, you need to wait for it to fill up again in an hour. For those who refuse to wait, they can choose to purchase the dice to continue playing and level up.

  1. Character customisation
    Cosmetic microtransactions often foster a sense of community, as players can showcase their unique items and express their identity within the game.

In games such as Mobile Legends, players can customise each character with skins that need to be purchased. In Valorant, players can buy bundles of skins for the weapons when they top up their credits in-game. These skins however, do not affect the gameplay in any way. Some gamers just like to have nice things in their favourite games.

  1. Pay-to-Win
    In some games, microtransactions offer advantages to players willing to spend money. This "pay-to-win" model has faced backlash for undermining skill-based competition.

Of course, where money is concerned, these microtransactions come with their fair share of backlash. Here’s how it has shifted the gaming landscape negatively:

Irresponsible spending

Critics argue that microtransactions exploit psychological triggers, encouraging players to spend more money than they initially intended. This has raised concerns about addiction and the impact on vulnerable players, especially minors.

Gamers should not prioritise buying bundles in games over real-life commitments. Not to mention most of these digital items are excessively expensive for something that can only be used within the game.

Gacha addiction

Are you familiar with machines where you insert coins and get random toys? This is how gacha works. Games featuring loot boxes, which operate like virtual slot machines, have faced criticism for resembling gambling and potentially contributing to gambling-related issues. Players will keep spending money to get the exact item they want in the game.

This has become a problem for a Singaporean dad, who was in a $20,000 credit card debt after his daughter spent it on Genshin Impact - a game that makes money off the gacha mechanic.

Incomplete games

Back then, when you pay for the price of one game disc for your gaming console, you get to play the whole game and finish it. Now, developers have come with DLC (downloadable content) where you have to purchase it to continue playing with new levels, characters, weapons, or skins.

Microtransactions have been used to monetise content that was originally intended to be part of the base game, leaving players feeling shortchanged.

Think you might have a problem with microtransactions as a gamer? Here are some tips to maintain a healthy gaming experience!

  • Have self-awareness and identify if you have a microtransaction addiction. Look through your purchase history. Are you spending more than you should on these games and found yourself starving in the middle of the month because you’ve spent it all on in-game purchases?
  • Set a budget! If gaming is your passion and paying money to progress or buying skins in these games gives you satisfaction, then go for it! However, it’s important to set a limit to how much you can spend on games every month so you don’t forget what’s more important - like paying your rent and bills.
  • Remove payment methods from your gaming accounts. Having to manually enter payment details can serve as a deterrent when you're tempted to make a purchase.
  • If you find it difficult to control your spending, uninstall the problematic games or take a break from gaming until you regain control.
  • Invest time in other hobbies and activities that don't involve gaming or microtransactions. This can shift your focus away from constantly making in-game purchases! Go outside and spend your money on experiences instead. Making memories is much more worth it and sometimes it doesn’t cost as much as skins or player upgrades in games.

Photo by Pandhuya Niking on Unsplash.

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