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As Long As Microtransactions Are Profitable, They Aren't Going Anywhere

by Mike Futter on Nov 11, 2014 at 12:21 PM

Earlier today, we posted our review of Assassin's Creed Unity. As you may be aware, there is a furor among some readers over the inclusion of in-game microtransactions.

We noted their inclusion in the latest Assassin's Creed title, stating that they are available to speed progression through the game. Specifically, players can bypass in-game earning mechanisms to show collectibles (unlocked in game by climbing view points), purchase weapons and armor (in lieu of cash earned by playing), and speed upgrades (otherwise powered by Creed points earned in combat).

Assassin's Creed Unity also features an "Eshop" in which you can purchase "helix points" to "hack" items, skipping over the earning process baked into the game. This is exactly like mechanisms you find in racing games that you let you purchase every car, WWE titles that allow you to bypass character unlocks, Mass Effect 3's microtransactions, Dead Space's weapon upgrading, and even last year's Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag.

This is not new, and it's not likely going away any time soon. Publishers have hired "monetization experts" for the express purpose of creating mechanisms like this.

If you think the presence of these things in games is silly and something you wouldn't use, you aren't alone. In fact, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I can't imagine a situation in which I'd open my wallet for something that breaks the game's natural flow.

I suspect that among our readership, this is a prevalent feeling. In this case, it's entirely possible to bee-line to the end of the game with powerful equipment without engaging extensively in side-content. I wouldn't spend money for microtransactions for any retail game, and I'm not sure to whom this money-making scheme is targeted.

The pricing is absurd ($99.99 gets you 20,000 helix points, which won't get you very much at the end-game), and it's pushed far enough to the side that you'd have to go looking to spend your money. Those on staff here at Game Informer who have played Unity have shared with me that the presentation isn't oppressive and pacing isn't impacted by the presence of the Eshop. You aren't reminded every few steps to visit the real money store, and the game doesn't nag you to spend cash.

Assassin's Creed Unity isn't even the worst offender in the retail market. NBA 2K15 invites players to spend real money to instantly improve the skills of created players. Want a better dunk or jump shot? Take out your credit card.

The best thing that you can do is avoid these transactions. Don't buy into these schemes. I would hate to see the console market become the time-gated miasma that has alienated scores of core gamers from the mobile marketplace.

As long as microtransactions provide a positive return on the investment of implementing and maintaining the code and server structure that support them, they aren't going anywhere. You don't have to be part of the problem, but you can help bring about your desired solution.