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!
About the Author
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.
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