Is GTA the Perfect Microtransactions Model?
Grand Theft Auto V

Have we finally gotten beyond developers trying to nickel and dime us to death?

There is no denying that game content is delivered in a very different way in 2014. While I have been a staunch supporter of the trend towards digital distribution (as we are ultimately on the path to seeing our physical media disappear) today I’m talking about a slightly different angle. It’s the new concept that has taken hold where, unlike getting the entire bang for your buck up front, we are often times being sold our in-game items piece meal. At some point, someone in the industry got the idea that slicing off a small section of the pie and dishing it out in dribs and drabs would result in bonus revenue (which they could include on their sale charts at the next financial meeting).

Thus, the opportunity for abuse was there from the start. And boy did it take a nose dive fast!

We’ve all heard the horror stories of DLC nightmares, like over-priced horse armor or locked characters that should have been available with the original retail purchase of $59.99. However, it would appear that some in the industry quickly realized that such a short-sighted goal would do nothing but kill the golden goose. It turns out; people like the idea of buying just the items they want individually (rather than dropping a hefty $10 for a DLC pack they don’t really want). Microtransactions allows developers to break things down into bite sized morsels that the community can gobble on as they choose. Luckily, we’ve seen a shift in the industry’s attitude in how they incorporate it. Some developers now see this idea as not just a way of generating revenue; but a way of enhancing their releases in the eyes of the public. Take GTA V for example. This could be the best example of a title implementing the microtransaction mentality in the proper way. Most people would agree that the sheer amount of content provide in the story mode, the online multiplayer elements and not to mention the expansive free-roaming world; was more than enough to satisfy.

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Yet Take Two and Rockstar still brought more to the table beyond what was found on the disc.

Most gamers will tell you that DLC (including buying items separately for a dollar here or a dollar there) should be used to enhance the core experience. If people get the impression that there is a huge chunk of stuff missing (and then the developer comes along with DLC at a premium) this is when we start to feel jipped. Once the notion sets in that the developer is double-dipping in our wallets, our resentment at the very idea of microtransacting begins to grow. Fortunately, this is a truth not lost on those who control the purse strings behind the scenes. Again, holding up GTA as our template here, I was very encouraged by recent comments made by Strauss Zelnick (CEO of Take-Two Interactive). Speaking at the Cowen & Company Technology, Media, & Telecom Conference, Zelnick explains their approach of ensuring consumers feel they’re getting MORE than what they paid for when it comes to additional goodies (rather than the opposite). “Virtual currency done right just further enhances gameplay and engages consumers with our brands. And when I say done right, we are not in the business of erecting toll booths along the way of gameplay…We're in the business of delighting consumers…we do it in a way that will make consumers happier, not sadder that they are engaged with our games. That is a different point of view than most of our peers in the business…When we sell a consumer an add-on content pack, we want them to feel like they got more than they paid for, not less…” He touts.

Grand Theft Auto V

So where does the advent of this new delivery system take us in the future?

The fact is, microtransactions are here to stay. Fortunately for us, I think those who almost choked the concept in the crib have finally woken up and realized their tactics were poisoning the well. Zelnick is right when he says Take Two has a “…different point of view than most of our peers in the business.” GTA V is an example of GOOD DLC. There are some game makers left that still struggle to figure out the right balance of what should be sold UP FRONT, vs. what’s appropriate to keep as an “extra.” However, it does appear microtransacting is finally leaving its growing pains period and evolving into a viable business model. In this day and age, people want what they want, when they want it. On-demand content (highlighted in the success of how things are done in the mobile market) is not the future, it’s the present.

So how do you feel about microtransactions? Do you enjoy buying your items on an individual basis, or do you prefer larger, “big-bang” DLC packs? Let us know in the comments below!

Jason Messer
Jason Messer
@J8sonMesser

Contributing Writer
Date: 05/30/2014

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