In the past couple of years, the rise in “games as a service” as seen developers and publishers go from a traditional release with DLC, then maybe a sequel, to releasing one game and giving seemingly endless support and updates.
Great, right? Less to buy, less distractions from latest releases? Nope!
Now, I find myself with several games that I can dip in and out of at my leisure, with quick rounds or matches, and new content and improvements being released all the time.
It’s a modern dilemma in gaming, but now, we not only have too many new games coming out, we have too many existing games to still play!
My list looks like this:
Rainbow Six Siege
FortNite Battle Royale
Destiny 2 (well…….not so much at the moment)
Destiny 2 and The Division are a little different, in that there is a narrative to follow and massive story-based content to complete, before the perpetual end-game, but in that end-game is where you find the constant need to be on and improving, and more content being added.
All of these games give me quick, easy access to a round or two. Giving me a sense of progression through perhaps getting a rank, or upgrading gear, or gaining points to spend in-game. They’re always available, with thousands of players to play with/against at all times.
It’s amazing really, no longer stuck waiting for my brothers to come in to play some splitscreen Perfect Dark, I’m now stuck with too many options. Each of these games is a game that I love, I’m not necessarily good at them (perhaps picking one and sticking with it would help….), but I have a great time.
The thing is, keeping a game running forevermore isn’t cheap, so that usual £40 purchase as a one-off (maybe add a £20 expansion down the line?) isn’t that standard anymore.
Gaming these days is a messy business…….everyone wants value for money, but gaming companies seem hell-bent on squeezing every last penny out of us. This isn’t all companies, of course, but just look at the news EA and their Star Wars Battlefront 2 fiasco is the perfect example.
Free to play
Some games come out as “free to play” whereby you download the game and play it for free, no strings attached. These titles then rely on thousands, if not millions of players to invest small amounts of money on in-game items (micro-transactions).
Sometimes cosmetic, sometimes big boosts to helping gain experience, sometimes packs of cards, it all depends on the game really.
Some games charge full price for a full campaign, then add micro-transactions later on to support the on-going maintenance/improvement. Servers need to be supported and staff need to be paid. It makes sense.
People don’t always like it, but it’s justifiable, right?
Similarly, some games charge full price for an online-only experience, but provide additional content at no extra cost, with the option to buy in-game items to help them keep ticking over.
You might have seen the rise of the term “season” in these games, with some taking it to further extremes than others. To some, a new season is a chance to reset league tables, and let players acquire a new rank, and see how they stack up.
In others, it means that they can create new limited edition purchasable items.
Sometimes though, it means the release of a new season pass, that allows you to pre-buy all the content that will rollout for the next year. You pay £20 or so, up-front, and you’re set for the next season.
Loot Boxes are becoming the norm, and a means for micro transactions to take place, whereby you either buy them with real money, or you earn points/experience and unlock them at key points.
These boxes then randomly generate the contents, potentially giving you rare or exotic items, and more often than not, common and duplicate items. It’s a clever idea, and one that has people literally paying thousands of pounds to get what they want. The randomness is essentially creating a slot-machine type game, and some people can’t quite say no to the allure of something potentially very rare.
Starting to be cited as gambling (well, it pretty much is….), “loot box” is becoming a bit of a dirty phrase. Perhaps a little unfair, as some games handle it nicely, only offering cosmetic items, whereas others can provide massive boosts. Tarring all games with loot boxes as a bad thing isn’t the right approach. Still, we do love to hang onto a label don’t we?
Skirting the issue
This piece only really dances around the issues at hand. The consumer is being squeezed and squeezed for every last penny. But the fact is, hundreds of thousands of people actually pay these things, so it’s not going to stop any time soon. Hopefully it’s useful as a guide to these terms and the basic concepts?
Of course we should all support those games that we love, it’s just common sense. I don’t mind buying the odd loot box in Overwatch, or some crate keys every now and then in Rocket League.
What I’m not pleased about, is when games lock content behind a paywall, even though you’ve already bought the game and all the expansions it has on offer. That’s when it goes to far (I’m looking at you Destiny 2…..).
In truth, it doesn’t really need to be a problem, I mean, nobody is making you buy this extra stuff. Better still, with all these never-ending games, who doesn’t love to have choices? Most of these games I can jump into with friends, and we can have a blast, so a few quid here and there to keep that going isn’t that big a deal.