Please tell me I’m not crazy when I say devs are going completely overboard with in-app purchases this holiday season? This has been a trend for years, and I could go on and on but I think we are all on the same page:
- It was cool when devs made holidays fun with free gifts thanking us for playing their games.
- It was perfectly okay to have event rewards for playing the game, but not some obscene amount of time, maybe an hour or two per day max…and if they allowed purchase, more options for the time-challenged.
- It was even fine when there were cheap cosmetics on sale for maybe a dollar, silly stuff that disappeared, icons, emotes, whatever. Some bought them, some didn’t, it wasn’t a status symbol it was just for fun and the game was still the core focus (or playing with friends).
Now…here we are in the era of Fortnite and Overwatch etc. and we are getting time-gated in BFA for those of us playing WoW (with the annual wallet-draining Festive Items), Fallout 76 is trying to milk $40 out of players for some emotes (static, not even gifs) and a Santa suit (same price as game…for now), the mobile game I play added an event that will cost $600 to complete (can earn about $5 worth of tokens), and Hearthstone added a $20 winter bundle to store (cheaper cards for whales and occasional spenders, ). It’s sad when Fortnite, with their Seasonal Battle Pass ($10-25, depending on how much you plan to play), is somehow the most charitable seeing as they give players ALL seasonal content for that price assuming you play and enjoy that kind of thing.
Now from an investor standpoint I step back and think yes, the gaming industry is here to make money. Preferably lots of money. All the money if possible. And games used to be priced reasonably – $60, one and done for AAA, no DLC, no expansions, usually 100s of hours of content depending on genre. That wasn’t healthy enough (apparently) for video games as we saw many of the modest studios go bankrupt, disappear, or get gobbled up by larger devs. Even one-hit wonders were not safe – we would see a game smash through 1mil in sales, only to see the company release a mediocre follow-up and die.
The entire industry is renowned for extravagant spending and lascivious lifestyles when they “win big” by releasing a hit game, so it’s no surprise they rarely budget for the future, plan properly, anticipate failures, or build up a warchest to survive a winter/drought. That is a major factor – ballpark I’d say 80% of the industry’s money issues could be solved with a robot that asked “why?” every time a developer asked for something, having them justify it. The robot wouldn’t even deny them the purchase, it would just delay it long enough the devs might think “maybe we don’t need that” or “I really don’t want to fill out 17 pages of paperwork just to have the company buy me six curved-3D 2160p monitors”. The other 20% of the money issues does come from smart pricing – initial, sales, stairsteps, dynamic, in-app, etc.
When did it become okay to ask $15 to shade my Power Armor rusty blue? Why do I need to summon 130 five-star heroes (the odds of which are 3.16% during the event, so estimated 4114 summons) to unlock a ton of new artifacts, gear, and a new hero? For perspective on this unnamed game, I have 526 five-stars after 15 months of playing, so I average about 40/month now…effectively 3 months of summons during Christmas event (1 week) only possible with ~$600 of bundles and “holiday packs”. What happened to a thank you for playing?
Oh, and then there is Warframe and Path of Exile happily chugging along being awesome. Warframe did release some Winter Glyphs for purchase but you can earn it with raiding per usual (and it won’t take 3000 hours). Path of Exile devs gave us a DLCs worth of new content, for free. League of Legends did their tailored “just for you” shop which is surprisingly nice giving you up to 6 deeply discounted on skins for champions it already knows you play and like (my price 405RP vs 675RP cheapest: 40% cheaper than generic public sale, Dragon Sorceress Zyra so tempted). So there are exceptions.
TL;DR – Just wanted to know the games you are playing with microtransactions and in-app purchases, what they are doing for the holidays and what the most likely purchases you think are worth versus the most egregious and gouging. Also, make your prediction for market trajectory, like will the industry keep doing these things or scale back a bit, or push even harder down the road of monetization?