There has been rampant debate recently over the inclusion of micro-transactions in Grand Theft Auto Online as well as the payment plan to be included with the launch of Bethesda’s up and coming MMORPG, The Elder Scrolls Online. Should we be up in arms? Should we call for boycotts? Should we just ignore it and hope it goes away, or should we accept that for such vast projects and amazing end products, perhaps we can splash out a little extra?
Micro-transactions have been around for a while and have been on the heel of gamers for almost as long. They are small payments that give gamers the option to pay for in game content they would otherwise earn through playing. This can sometimes lead to immediate imbalance in the online community, with players willing to dish out, reaping the ‘rewards’. Understandably this leads to tension amongst gamers when micro-transactions are announced to be in titles, especially titles such as GTA that has clearly garnered more than enough profit in a ridiculous time frame. The same tension is felt when an MMORPG was given the monthly payment plan treatment, asking a monthly fee from players, in order to keep servers up and running and allow the developers to improve the game. This was not always the case however; there was a time when almost every MMORPG title came with a standard payment plan. This was at least until Blizzard’s World of Warcraft giant started saturating the market, now even that has gone free to play for the first few levels. The Elder Scrolls Online is a vast project, taking the scale and lore of the individual Bethesda titles and scaling them out to a ridiculous scale and depth. They, like GTA, have also received criticism for their payment plan. In the specific cases of these games though, is this attention unworthy?
In the case of Grand Theft Auto Online, this is Rockstar’s seemingly blatant attempt to earn a larger profit, allowing players to spend real money on GTA$, used to quickly acquire the game’s many assets. Sure they could make the excuse that if players were to engage in these micro-transactions then it would enable them to vastly improve servers and extra content, (which judging by the launch, they are in dire need of) but to be honest, I think they’ve earned the money for that by now. Of course, this movement could be looked at as a way to avoid the necessary grinding needed to achieve certain items and benefits in the game, but that reverts back to the imbalance micro-transactions bring. Rockstar stressed however, that this imbalance would not take effect and they have planned to avoid that happening.
“The game and its economy have been designed and balanced for the vast majority of players who will not buy extra cash. There is no in-game pay wall and nothing that should disrupt the balance of the game. You don’t have to spend real money to attain the cars, guns, clothes, flash and style of a high roller in Los Santos, but can if you wish to get them a little quicker.”
So then the inclusion of micro-transactions are simply included to generate some extra revenue for the Rockstar machine, and you know what? Why not? Grand Theft Auto V is the closing piece of a generation of console gaming, it’s the biggest GTA game we’ve ever seen and has amassed hundreds of near perfect reviews. The record-breaking sale rate alone says more than I could put into words. So the question is this, if Rockstar have put they’re time into making an incredible, giant, masterpiece of gaming, should they not be entitled to ask for a little more? EA’s Battlefield 3 was a great game, but it wasn’t unique, revolutionary or even out of the ordinary for the series, yet many gamers spent $40.00 (US) on the ‘Ultimate Shortcut Bundle’ that gave gamers every vehicle and weapon in the game immediately…talk about imbalance. Rockstar’s benefits seem less intrusive and give a source income to a game that’s beyond unique and revolutionary, a true masterpiece.
As for the Elder Scrolls Online, well that’s slightly different. What Bethesda asks of gamers is to give them their revenue and on top of that, pay a monthly fee to fund the scale of the project and the maintenance of the servers. When this plan was put into action for Star Wars The Old Republic, it experienced a severe drop in server populations after the initial couple of moths were through, eventually leading to the collapse of the game. Bethesda have said that they could just as easily create a game that holds a similar amount of content as The Lord of the Rings Online and requires little to no cost, but that simply just wouldn’t befit the Elder Scrolls mantra. Their games have always been expansive, fully explorable worlds that demanded manpower and loyalty. Now attempting to multiply that scale and hold hundreds of players in it at once, of course that would require an extra cost. Therefore, rather than hold an approach that Bethesda is asking too much money, we have to ask how much we are expecting of Bethesda. If we refuse to pay their specified $15.00 (US) a month then what kind of product will we receive in return, and will it even be worth the box store price of the game itself?
Grand Theft Auto Online and The Elder Scrolls Online are similar in many ways. They are established, loved franchises developing into an ambitious multiplayer setting. They are both asking for gamers trust and dependence in the quality of their end products. Rockstar asks for optional profit, Bethesda asks for funding and support. They both deserve our money and support more than so many other games that ask the same. I don’t know how long I’ll be subscribing to The Elder Scrolls Online and I certainly don’t plan on buying my way to success in Grand Theft Auto Online, but if you want to open your wallets and throw some cash around, there are much worse things you could throw it at.