Path of Exile has monetized cursors. You can now pay Grinding Gear Games $10 to get a pack of five customized cursors, “inspired by the civilisations of Wraeclast,” that you can than admire as you manage your inventory or navigate your way throughout the game. A high-contrast cursor has also been added to the game for free.
If you think this is a weird thing to monetize, you’re not alone. The Reddit thread dedicated to talking about the cursors has several “This is a late April Fool’s joke”-type comments, as well as a few less-than-cordial responses. As of this writing, the video has only a 16/84% upvote/downvote ratio on YouTube.
Viewing it from the perspective of someone who doesn’t play PoE, I’m both bemused by the choice from GGG to go this route – they need to make money, sure, but this is a weird way of doing it – and understanding of the response. A cursor is just about the most unnecessary cosmetic in the game, as far as pay-to-win as you can imagine. While I’ve had issues with overly aggressive monetization, even for pure cosmetics, in other games, I don’t think this one would bother me even if I was a PoE player.
I’m also not one to subscribe to “slippery slope” arguments, as more than a few Redditors have brought out the “What’s next?” question. At least one is invoking big scary daddy Tencent, which acquired a majority stake in GGG three years ago but apparently only now is choosing to “ruin” the company.
Still, it got me wondering: What could be next, for monetization of Path of Exile or another game, and where would you draw the line? To be clear, I’m talking about purely cosmetic, non-random microtransactions here, just like the cursors, which don’t affect gameplay in the slightest and don’t even have the stench of loot boxes around them. Is there anything along those lines that you’d consider a bridge too far?
Other players can’t see your cursors, and maybe that’s the reason this doesn’t bother me so much. I might be a bit more sensitive to microtransactions affecting the appearance of your in-game avatar, however, beyond just the simple notion of being able to pay for a cool outfit. Remember not being able to hide your helmet as a free player in Star Wars: The Old Republic and the furor that caused? That’s the kind of thing I’m thinking of.
To go fully into the hypothetical realm of things that have never been done before (to my knowledge), I could see a game taking a page from subscription-based services in other fields, like charging to remove ads or other (usually shop-related) notifications. Those broadcasts in some games that say “X Player just obtained Y Gear”? Pay us $5/month and you don’t have to see those any more. Every time there’s a new item in Guild Wars 2‘s cash shop, the shop’s icon on my top navigation glows until I click on it to look at it. Would a $3 payment make that (mild) annoyance go away? Maybe. (Please don’t get any ideas, ArenaNet.)
Both of those are examples of things, like the SWTOR helm case, that could be addressed in settings but have instead been monetized. Maybe Path of Exile players think cursors are the same, especially since one was added to the settings for free, and that’s why they’re being met with such venom from certain segments of the community.
Is that the sort of microtransaction that would set you off? Or would there be something else – again, completely non-game-affecting – that would earn your ire?