DLC and microtransactions have been picking up a lot of flack in recent times. It seems that publishers have begun to push the envelope on what is and is not fair game. Yet 2017 has seen a selection of microtransactions and DLC that really makes you wonder where the line is. We figured we’d point out the top five examples of terribly thought DLC/microtransactions that somehow made their way into AAA games.
Which pieces of microtransactions and DLC bothered you the most from AAA gaming?
5. Shadow of War’s Memorial DLC
I debated heavily whether to put in this or the loot boxes (To be fair, if I had to put in every example of bad loot boxes, this list would go on all night). Instead, I opted to focus on the piece of DLC that ultimately was intended as good, but came off as anything but.
The story behind Shadow of War’s Memorial DLC is very touching. a development studio wanting to pay homage to a former colleague is arguably one of the best things a studio can do. But almost as soon as the DLC was announced, questions began to appear over the intention of the pack. Usually, this kind of content is given for free (FIFA 16 famously included a whole ground in memory of one of that games developers). To see the memorial DLC being pushed with a money value rubbed gamers up the wrong way. Talk of charities and good causes didn’t help subside the feeling that a developers legacy was being used to shill more cash.
This wasn’t helped by the small text on all adverts stating that only in select US states would the promised money fully reach the intended charities. Promises were made – but the marketing around this DLC led gamers to feel they were being duped.
4. Destiny 2’s Single-Use Engrams
Destiny 2 raises a lot of questions – namely what is and what isn’t a core feature of a game? Back in the original Destiny, gamers could make use of armor engrams as many times as they pleased. The items were there to allow gamers the chance to reskin their armor how they wanted. In Destiny 2, that largely overlooked feature has suddenly become a hotbed for microtransactions.
Activision made the decision to make the items single-use only. It means that to color an entire armor set requires multiple engrams. Not a problem, except the only way to earn them, is through sheer luck in loot drops. The only other way is to buy them outright in the game’s store – a point that isn’t helped by the fact that you can buy the currency to do this. It’s a hilariously brazen attempt to monetize a part of the game that previously was given for free. If it was in a free-to-play game, it might not be such an issue – but asking gamers to shell out more money on launch day to get the look they want is incredibly tacky.
3. NBA2K18’s Virtual Currency
Virtual currency isn’t anything new. It’s been a staple of games for a long time, expecting gamers to earn the money needed to unlock new items, characters or upgrade custom ones (WWE No Mercy on the N64 was my first encounter with it). It’s a solid idea, but when mixed with microtransactions – the entire thing becomes a bit of a joke.
In 2K’s NBA2K18, virtual currency is drip-fed to gamers at an alarmingly slow pace. When gamers first boot in, they get 6000 points – but these don’t go very far. Want to add custom hair to your face captured custom character? That’ll cost you VC. Want to buy custom attire? More VC? Want to level your basketballer up at a pace that doesn’t make you want to yank out your hair in frustration? Best get that VC. This might not be a problem if the game actually delivered them in a decent manner. But as many have already discovered over on Reddit and Neogaf – the game is stingy at best.
All the while, the game dangles the option of buying Virtual Currency over gamers heads. Tempting them to use real money as a shortcut to making their character better. It’s a shockingly brazen attempt to push for more money in a full retail game. While some may argue money isn’t “essential”, this is the kind of thing mobile games do in order to get money from their customers. It has no place in a prominent AAA-game like NBA – and represents a cold new front on the microtransaction front.
For years, this has been a feature in games. Now it’s dangerously close to ruining the core experience.
2. Bethesda’s Creation Club
Bethesda’s Creation Club is what happens when publishers decide that they want to cream a bit more money off the top. Free mods have been a staple of PC gaming for years – but Bethesda has long shown an interest in monetizing the entire section. It failed once before, but that hasn’t stopped it from coming back around to the idea.
From the surface, it’s not a bad idea. Mod owners register their wares and receive a percentage of the sales they generate. Anything from reskins through to entire new weapons are on offer – but that’s where the problems start. Bethesda force gamers to use their in-universe currency to make transactions. The problem with this is that Bethesda is the one who gets to decide how much their currency is worth – effectively manipulating how much they could earn.
It points to a worrying future where Bethesda and Zenimax may not allow gamers the option of modding for free – something that would be wholly unthinkable in series like Fallout and Elder Scrolls.
1. Loot Boxes (In general)
If there’s one trend in 2017 gaming that really sums up the state of play – it’s loot boxes. These annoying DLC additions effectively offer gambling to gamers through virtue of digital rewards. Spin the wheel and get your hands on in-game weapons, clothing or more for the price of a single turn. What could go wrong?
The problem is that there’s no way for gamers to know just what the odds are, in most cases. Loot boxes typically come from two sources. Either they appear in-game and must be unlocked with a key of some kind (Typically purchased with money) or loot boxes can be purchased with money outright. The big draw for these is the ability to get your hands on content that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible – cosmetic or otherwise.
It gets much worse though when developers begin putting in essential content beyond just cosmetics. In the likes of War of Mordor, gamers will be encouraged to buy better orcs to face down in the games Nemesis system. Meanwhile, a string of AAA multiplayer shooters has taken to hiding more powerful weapons within the loot boxes – effectively teasing gamers with the idea of better equipment.
In theory, there’s nothing wrong with loot boxes as an additional extra. Increasingly, it seems that full priced games are working towards monetizing as much of a video game as possible – whether it hinders the game or not.