Should Cash Shop Currencies Be Banned?

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor

News Flash To F2P Developers: Monetization Is The Hottest Of Hot-Button Topics 3

There's an interesting conversation going on on the /r/games subreddit right now. As with many things on Reddit, it's fueled by gamer outrage at perceived "unfair practices" by a gaming company. In this case, there's some justification for it, but the solution isn't as easy as it might appear upon first glance.

Darthvalium rails against the usual cash shop practice of selling currencies in "bundles" that don't always match up with what you want to buy. For example, spending $10 for 1,000 coins when you want to buy an item for 800 coins leaves 200 coins -- the equivalent of $2 -- unspent. Of course, the game company wants you to spend that, or insert more money so you get more coins to buy something more expensive, and so on.

The OP thinks it would be better if games followed a model more like... well, just about everything else. If you want to buy an $8 item, you give the game company $8, not $10. Seems to make sense, right? The only reason to do it otherwise, Darthvalium claims, is to "obfuscate the real price of goods in in-game shops and to confuse customers."

Well, it might not be that easy to change. Later in the thread, Redditor Cabadrin, who claims to work in mobile development, chimes in with his views. Much of what he talks about is in reference to Apps and the Apple Store, but similar principles would apply to microtransactions in free-to-play PC games.

One of his counterpoints is that handling real money transactions is subject to considerable regulation, so a company is encouraged to limit those transactions. Giving money to players is especially A Big Deal, so you could never receive currency from a game -- such as a bonus for a mission completion -- if it used real money instead of a special currency. He even delves into the psychological aspects of things a little bit, going into why certain people seem to enjoy having currency (though it should be noted that Hearthstone doesn't use cash shop currency at all, and it seems to do just fine).

That said, much of what he uses to defend the practice seems to benefit the seller -- whether in terms of generating income or minimizing expenses -- than the buyer. At the very least, a combination of payment methods that allows you to spend real money or cash shop currency, would seem to benefit the buyer and at least occasionally, the seller. It would be like having a gift certificate at a restaurant; you can use real cash to buy something, but it's another option if you want to use it as a gift or prize.

Of course, that would require more work on the part of the game developer, especially as they deal with currencies across multiple regions. And, considering how well things are going in the F2P world, it seems unlikely to happen any time soon, unless government agencies step in -- and that's a step I think we'd all be hesitant to wish for.

What do you think about games that sell currency that you then have to use to buy things? Would you like to have "straight cash, homey" options? What if it would require considerable work from the developer, work that might impact the game's content? Would it still be worth it then? Let us know in the comments below!

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In this article: Hearthstone.

About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

Discussion (14)

Chomper 7 years ago
Daybreak Games really stretched this business practice to limit recently with their latest CLOSED BETA wipe by introducing 'Lumens' that aren't accepted for purchases in the in-game store but are only good for purchases inside of a special kiosk inside the game (where they sell things to get past the grind they introduced to make players want to buy from the kiosk).

Here's an approximation of how that went.

1. Player purchases 'Daybreak Cash' in-game currency with real money.
2. Player purchases items from the in-game store with Daybreak Cash.
3. Daybreak wipes closed beta server, removing purchased items, but refunds players with Lumens instead of Daybreak Cash.
4. Player purchases more Daybreak Cash with real money.
5. Player re-purchases wiped items (at a 60% markup!) from the in-game store with Daybreak Cash.
6. A few days later Daybreak apologizes for 60% price hike and lowers prices back to normal.
7. Customer asks for an adjustment for recent purchases.
8. Daybreak responds "No" and says they're sorry for any "inconvenience" this causes.
9. Customer quits and wonders how long a company that screws their most loyal customers can survive in this industry.

View 1 reply
Chomper 7 years ago
Video game companies use in-game currencies for the same reasons that casinos use chips, they generate more profit. They're manipulating people in order to separate them from their hard earned money by gamifying purchases. When you buy items inside of games using their cute private currencies, you're literally playing a mini-game.

There is a known psychological disconnect when using chips (or gems or faux gold coins) instead of real cash. People tend to spend more because it's not the same experience as spending real money.

Another trick that's often used to deceive players is to make it difficult for them to calculate the cost of items, which is done by setting the value of in-game currencies to be (irregular) multiples of real money.

In addition, there will always be the odd fractional balances that never gets spent.

View 1 reply
Genesee Gaming 7 years ago
Most US States have laws against gambling. By selling virtual gems (or whatever) to use for those RNG-based chests and rolls, instead of legal tender, devs are able to side-step legal issues. That legendary hero roll; that uberepic unique item; these are some of the most profitable items to sell, even if the player only has a 1-in-100,000 chance to get what they actually want.

YOHO MOHO 7 years ago
Jason winter the Master of Beating Deadhorses i tip my fedora to you sir

rickshaw 7 years ago
I think having done the run around in rags and having paid for the game in full I'm then asked in order for me look cool I have to pay for cloths or other stuff to look good in their game.
The game co. is losing the drift of gaming by doing this sort of stuff, as they are taking away the essence of game play and progression of a characters value, the time the effort put in by the normal game player, alongside the loss of the natural look of the game. This all makes the game feel "without a shop" feel more alive, instead of "with a shop" seeing other players stand out & that are seen to have more cash in order to be seen better, they are seen as the shop buyers, not normal game players
Basics of the pay shops is..
They divide the game, make its game play a place for the have & have nots,
It becomes a poison of what is real in our society, & is a really unnecessary exploitation for the gaming world.

some random scottish guy 7 years ago
Companys in Asia creating FAKE currency taking money out of our economy by selling us pixels? it. They can bitch and cry all they want about being paid im sick of hearing devs need to make money too....while there is kids starving and homeless in the world, right?

They need to clamp down on these greedy digital capitalists, it is a plague and its ruining games aswell. How many more shity games do I need to play where the cash shop has been designed around the core mechanics of the game. Ill need to buy from the cash shop to advance in skills or weapon upgrades or pets that loot...the list goes on and on.

Jek Tono Porkins 7 years ago
As long as the items aren't pay-to-win, I don't mind having a cash shop currency. If the items are all skins that don't affect game play in any way, it's fine.

wut 7 years ago
I would think the easiest solution to the problem is keep cash shop currencies but add the ability to buy the currency in $1 increments as an example, while adjusting cash shop item prices to more rounded numbers so that there isn't a huge gap in what you buy and are then able to spend without being forced to buy more in order to spend all of the currency.

Fortegs 7 years ago
hmmm an intresting topic for sure, I have to lean towards simplicity in all things due to my nature, but I'm no businessman so I can't say for sure if such simplicity is overall bad for a games cash shop. I just personally rather know I'm spending x amount for y thing I want, then spend an amount on currency and probably have some left over.

Razer 7 years ago
If these shyster companies were forced out of business due to regulation, I wouldn't be shedding any tears for them.

meh 7 years ago
When I buy a 10 pack hotdogs, and buns come in an 8 pack.

View 1 reply

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