ImRage: Dead Space 3’s Micro-Transactions Goes Too Far
If you’ve been a fan of the Dead Space series and you’ve gotten your hands on the latest game, then you’ll notice that it brings something new to the table, something awful: micro-transactions. Well how do these micro-transactions work exactly? Well at any point in the game you can buy additional upgrade parts or bonus items… for real money. And no this is not premium content or bonuses as is the case with DLC, these are items that are already in the game and can be acquired freely. In this week, I’m going to talk about why this is a shameless policy and why EA might have finally gone one step too far.
So we all know about the DLC buzz that’s been going in the gaming industry as of late. You buy a game off the shelf and it has locked content on the disc, such as bonus levels or costumes, which you then have to pay to unlock having already bought the game. Also, this is content that has usually been developed prior to the game’s release and is already on the disc so ‘downloadable content’ is a bit of a misnomer. Already this is a shameless policy but it does have its defenders amongst corporate suck-ups and greedy developers.
Micro-transactions are something new and, frankly, they’re far worse. All you’re actually getting when you spend $5 in Dead Space are items that can actually be found within the actual game. This is not content that you otherwise can’t get as is the case of DLC, these are components to build weapons and med-packs; items that are acquired frequently in a normal playthrough. Corporate defenders will say that these purchases are entirely optional, but this is missing the point about what makes this policy so bad.
For starters, bear in mind that everything that is bought through micro-transactions is essentially free. You aren’t getting value for what you pay for, instead you are getting items that already exist in infinite quantities within the game itself. And once you use those items, they are gone forever; to be honest, they never had any physical presence to begin with. What you’re buying is essentially nothing and this means that EA is printing money out of thin air on anyone foolish enough to buy it. Furthermore, bear in mind that infinite items was once available for free in most earlier games. In anything from Tomb Raider to GTA you were once able to cheat for infinite ammo or health if that’s how you preferred to play the game. In fact, even the original Dead Space had codes you could input to get free money, stasis or items; now, all of those things you have to pay for.
The second thing that makes the micro-transaction element so bad is far, far worse. Sure you can say that it’s optional to buy these items but it no longer becomes optional once the games are designed with micro-transactions in mind. Let me give you an example. In Dead Space 3 you have a robot that can go around the level and scavenge items for you. This is a potentially limitless source of resources but comes with a drawback of waiting 10 minutes for the robot to complete its circuit. There is, however, one way to reduce this waiting to 5 minutes. Guess how? Pay $5.
If this doesn’t strike you as scandalous, then let me explain. What this means is that developers have intentionally placed something negative into the game (waiting 10 minutes) and are then forcing you to pay them if you want it gone. It’s the equivalent of making you pay to reduce loading times. This is perhaps the worst thing that could possibly happen to the gaming industry because who knows where we can go from here? When DLC was first instituted people questioned the idea of paying for additional content that some developers offered for free. When on-disc DLC came about then people questioned the integrity of selling someone a product but then forcing someone to pay to acquire all the features. Now we have developers purposely placing hindrances to the enjoyment of a game and then forcing us to pay money to remove them. Dead Space 3 isn’t the first time that developers have done this. Cell phone and iPad games have been doing this for a while: structuring the game such that it’s impossible to get earn enough gold to complete the game without grinding and then giving you the option to buy gold for real money. Look up Infinity Blade and Dungeon Hunter 3 if you don’t believe me. In fact, triple A games have even dabbled with this before. Prince of Persia 4 forced you to pay over R100 if you wanted to unlock the Epilogue and see how the game actually ends. The same happened with Dragon Age where you had to buy the DLC that let you see the Epilogue of the game and what happened to certain characters.
Gaming is just becoming worse and worse as times goes. It’s already one of the most expensive hobbies around: you have a buy a TV and a console before you can even get started and then the games themselves cost a fortune. What’s making it so bad is that developers are giving you less and less than what they used to and charging you more for the privilege. In the previous console generation, online gaming was free (it still is on PS3 and PC) but on XBox LIVE you need to pay for a feature already built into the games. And now that same mentality is filtering into the games. With each passing year, more is being removed from games that you have to pay for. First it was the bonus levels and secret missions, then it was alternate costumes and unlocks and now it’s even the cheat codes. The defenders will say this is all optional but as time goes on, the definition of ‘optional’ begins to get blurred. Would you say DS3 charging you to remove hindrances is optional? Imagine going to a movie and being forced to sit through 1 hour of trailers unless you pay an additional 10% on your ticket price and then not being shown the ending unless you pay 25% more? That’s where gaming is going and it’s a scary place.
The scary part is that consumers just don’t seem to be noticing this. They either just ignore these policies or, even worse, they defend them and take the sides of the corporations. But corporate greed, like many things, is a slippery slope and the moment something horrible gets accepted, they’ll try to make you accept something else. It might not be too long until we see micro-transactions in all games and consumers being offered the chance to buy health upgrades or skip levels for the ‘reasonable’ price of $5. If that becomes the case, gaming will move further and further away from its dreams of becoming an art form and degenerate into an extortion service; its possibility of greatness lost forever in the mire of corporate greed. If that’s something you don’t like, don’t ignore it; outright refuse to buy the games from the companies that do this and buy games from developers that deserve it. Remember, they’re games and they’re supposed to be fun. If you find yourself bitter or cheated, then look for fun elsewhere. You don’t need corporations, they need you. And you deserve better.
See you in two weeks