Microtransactions are big business and they aren’t going away any time soon.

That’s the conclusion one can easily reach by looking at the latest brief from market research firm SuperData, which puts a number on the console MT business, and it’s a big one: $352 million per year. The number’s been trending upwards for several years, and there’s little reason to believe that trend will reverse itself. The door’s been opened, and nobody’s likely to shut it and leave that much money on the table.

Just about every game today, even single-player, non-F2P ones, requires a device with an Internet connection, whether that’s via your console or a PC service like Steam or Origin. That connection lets you play with friends or enjoy easy updates and patches, but it also serves as an avenue for game manufacturers to easily peddle their wares, sometimes in an obtrusive fashion. It’s not like the old days where you could buy a single game, like The Legend of Zelda, and never have to worry about being harassed about buying more content or outfits or unlocking this level or that power.

Wait, why is this a bad thing?

Take Zelda as an example. If, in 1986, you could have purchased more dungeons for the original game a few months after it launched, wouldn’t you have done so? I know I would have. If early Madden NFL games would have let you update rosters during the season or early Final Fantasy games would have offered more boss fights, wouldn’t you have considered that a good thing? More game = better, right?

Of course, we know where that road has led. Lots of MTs/DLC are good, solid content or at the very least inoffensive stuff, like skins. The problem, for most people, lies in a game seeming incomplete without the expenditure of additional money beyond the purchase price or initial download of a F2P game – like hotbars in Star Wars: The Old Republic, the prothean crew member in Mass Effect 3, or only having a single fighter available in Killer Instinct – or when the MT in question is viewed as pay-to-win. MTs are a little like Anakin Skywalker; they could have been a powerful force for good but have been subverted by the dark side to suit their own evil whims.

So, shady microtransactions make you more money?” – Luke

No. Not more. Faster money, yes.” – Yoda

So what’s an MT-hating, all-in-one-gaming-experience, F2P-loathing gamer to do? The same thing gamers have been doing all along: calling companies out on their BS and voting with their wallets. Now I’m not going to say this will be 100% effective. For all the SimCity shenanigans, Mass Effect 3 first-day DLC outrage, and mediocre Maddens, EA is doing just fine and will continue to rake in the millions, regardless of how many people scream on forums and Twitter.

But there is room for pushback, as we’ve seen with SimCity, which recently launched its offline mode. Or with CCP, with its $70 monocles for EVE Online. Or horse armor in Oblivion. Or premium ammo in World of Tanks. Gamers aren’t going to win every battle against MTs, but they can at least chase away the worst of the stuff.

To which I’ll bring up the most blatant pay-to-win concept: selling items that are only available in a cash shop and are statistically better than anything a player can get in game, like a gun that straight up does more damage with no drawbacks. Virtually no core mainstream F2P, or even sub-based or buy-the-box, game will touch that sort of thing. Sure, you might see it in some imported games from regions where that sort of thing is more acceptable, but not in North America. That’s because gamers on this side of the ocean have decided that’s not acceptable, and the developers know the negative reaction would be suicide.

That’s the best we can do: win the battles we can and learn to live with the ones we can’t. With $352 million in microtransactions on consoles alone, many developers seem to have found the right balance between profit and pleasing their customers, and they’re going to keep pushing that envelope. MTs are here to stay, and no amount of consternation is going to turn back the clock. Support the companies that do them right and abandon the ones that don’t.

Or just abandon every company that uses MTs. Problem is, in a few years, that means you’ll have to give up gaming.

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.

21 Readers Commented

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  1. lol on June 20, 2017

    people crying about micro transactions are mainly poor people

    spit out money or walk the other way …deal whit it

  2. ASD on September 21, 2016

    I probably wouldn’t mind the micro transactions if the developers did a better job on their projects instead of spam making games just because they want big profits. It’s like no developer cares about their game all they want is the money from their playerbase.

  3. Cloak on July 30, 2015

    More like 326 million reasons greedy bastards will keep sending trash out and consider it a “Triple A” game. When in reality its just a crash grabbing piece of sh!& game design to nickle and dime the player. Name one game that is not a solo mind numbing mindless grinding game you’re playing right now without a cash shop. That actually challenges you and not hold your hand. You can’t! And if you can you have diluted yourself into thinking that game you name is good. Despite how much they make they will always deliver complete crap of a game. I will not live with them. I will sell and quit gaming. F!&@ Microtransactions and the greedy bastards that have made this into a monopoly and not about gaming. RIP Gaming.

  4. Spanked your mother on March 30, 2014

    “MTs are here to stay, and no amount of consternation is going to turn back the clock.”

    Piracy + Single player games. Microtransactions can tryhard all they like.

  5. ZhaoYun on March 28, 2014

    2 problems with this article

    1:More game = better, right?
    Not necceserly u pretty much risking (if u forced to pay for more content that is)your money in order to get more content but its not 100% sure its gonna be better for u or if the content will be good or(if u wanna get more specific for you)even if u will like what u payed for.

    2:Or premium ammo in World of Tanks.
    Not sure ifu mean here that the feature(aka the prem ammo in wot)is a p2w feature but in case u do its not p2w u can get premium ammo with in game credits it just costs more credits than buyin normal or Hight Explosive ammo(i think thats logical)so u not really forced to pay gold(which u get if u pay rl money to get)to buy premium ammo BUT u are forced to pay gold if u want a PREMIUM TANK but premium tanks are another story.

    • MaxiTB on April 7, 2014

      You must be really new to WoT.
      In the old days gold ammo was only available for money, and the premium tanks were at least exceptionally good.
      Only after people starting to call WG out for their P2W scheme, they made gold ammo available with in-game currency.

      • ZhaoYun on April 8, 2014

        not really new to it i just kept quiting and rejoining wot due to trying out so many other games(which came out)and liking/stayin in some of em so i kept ending up liking 5 games at once and i had to quit some cause i didnt have time to play all 5 and 1 of them kept being wot then i got bored of the games i was playin so went back to wot and that pattern kept going for some time i guess i just never really bothered to check the whole gold ammo thing since i never bought gold ammo for any tank ever which i kinda should considering its helpfull sometimes especially when i am vs t10 tanks in a t8 one lol

  6. GamingMaster on March 28, 2014

    Of course they are here to stay, how do you expect companies to make money?!

    Just some companies are more greedy than others like EA, they don’t even respect their subscription players.Why people still play SWTOR I never know..

    Also premium ammo on WoT can be bought with in-game currency… so I don’t know why you complain.

  7. Razer on March 27, 2014

    “Or just abandon every company that uses MTs. Problem is, in a few years, that means you’ll have to give up gaming.”

    No it doesn’t. Unless companies like EA and Microcock somehow manage to monopolize the ENTIRE industry (fat chance), there will always be indie games, freeware, mods, and companies that make more traditional games because there will always be a demand for them. Some types of games are just better without any sort of microtransactions or paywalls. e.g.: Anything that is narrative-driven.

    • Bic Boi on February 24, 2015

      This much is true. The market for people who like a concise, complete experience at an exact cost is highly unlikely to ever disappear. This is why AAA games still get away with charging full price. F2P for the longest while has been a big gimmick mostly used by MMOs on PC. And the world pretty much didn’t give two $hits until consoles decided to pick it up.

      The chance of F2P dominating the entire flipping industry is about as likely as Jesus Christ himself showing up in Times Square.

    • Razer on April 5, 2015

      One year later and we’re still no closer to this doomsday scenario.

      Another little gem that leads me to think the editors of this site have never stepped outside their microcosm of F2P garbage:

      “For all the SimCity shenanigans, Mass Effect 3 first-day DLC outrage, and mediocre Maddens, EA is doing just fine and will continue to rake in the millions, regardless of how many people scream on forums and Twitter. ”
      Obviously he wasn’t paying attention in 2013 when EA won the Worst Company in America award for the second consecutive year, stocks fell from $60+ to the low teens, numerous studios were closed, and employees were laid off in droves. They were losing money hand-over-fist as a direct result of the backlash over Mass Effect 3 and Sim City. If that pecker-head CEO didn’t step down when he did, he would’ve driven the company straight into the ground! EA is STILL recovering from that fiasco.

  8. Annonymouse on March 27, 2014

    One thing that is good about microtransactions are an exceptional way for developers to get feedback. If they put something in the store and barely anyone buys it, they will know that they did something wrong. Either too expensive, not what people wanted, bad quality, etc. In turn, the devs can then learn from that and in the future provide what gamers want. This is something that I think alot of gamers overlook.

    Of course MT can be abused, but I do think that there is a lot of positive stuff that comes from analyzing MTs that in the end ends up benefiting gamers. I think that most developers think that it’s in their best interest to give gamers what they want (EA being a massive exception here).

  9. Phanda on March 27, 2014

    Biggest P2W game is Battlefield Play 4 Free

    • User on March 27, 2014

      You mean EA Games overall is who misleads customers about F2P .
      P2W Games
      EA Peter Moore says they do not belive in Single player anymore and only $$$$ in different ways

      Claimed F2P Games beside EA
      Path of EXILE is P2W Indefinitely (Anything make you better others) Cosmetic/Services..


      • Phanda on March 28, 2014

        i played POE its not p2w for me

      • lol on March 29, 2014

        How the hell is PoE P2W? It’s just visual cosmetics that do not alter your character stats…

        • koesir on April 1, 2014

          PoE is P2W? where’s the P2W part? more stash slot? I don’t see the real benefit unless you’re the guy who keep hoarding loots. And since the game has no currrency (like gold or money), you can throw away your outdated gear or give to someone for a price or for free.

          more character slot? yeaaah. nope. 6 character slot for 6 class is enough. you cna play every class in 1 account.

          the siny weapon and skill effect. it’s just a shiny toys for the rich.

    • -GG-TheSecondJoker on June 19, 2015

      It’s ok! They shut it down now.

  10. zakena on March 27, 2014

    Great article!!

    But tbh so far all the online games played War frame model is really nice for me .

    as an average cash shopper MT is ok as long as the MT is beneficial …. which is like Very few games.
    Most games that have MT are all for costume or unnecessary items.
    well what i feel is if balance is maintained as in Customer happiness along with reasonable Mts i see no issue.

    • Mystika on March 27, 2014

      Isn’t that a good thing? If MTs were beneficial to playing the game where not having them hinders you ingame, then that could easily be seen as pay to win (especially if you couldn’t even earn ingame currency to purchase MTs).

    • neoarcan on March 27, 2014

      a think that the turbian model as used in DDO and LOTRO are better