Driving simulators and microtransactions now appear to be two ideas that are growing synonymous with one another. With not many additional next-gen games are releasing in the wake of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launches, the gaming world’s largely been left to analyse a certain questionable trend that seemingly came hand-in-hand with the new consoles – namely the reaction at the increased inclusion of microtransactions in games like Forza 5 and Ryse, and the sports titles from EA and 2K. It’s not just the next-gen releases trying to force it on gamers, as Sony’s major PS3 exclusive Gran Turismo 6 is coming with absurd microtransactions as well.
Microstransactions started as a way to sustain struggling MMOs that couldn’t survive on an expensive subscription based structure and as a way for cheap or free mobile apps to earn. Today, they are increasingly becoming a way for game publishers to attempt to squeeze more money from consumers on top of the expensive $60 retail costs. We won’t even mention the sad reality that content is being left out and included in expensive DLC packs and season pass subscriptions. With so much clawing at consumer’s money, it is unnervingly common for a gamer to end up spending in excess of $100-$150 during a game’s lifespan.
Earlier today it was reported that Gran Turismo 6 was next in line to go after gamer’s wallets in a big way. It was announced that if players wanted the Jaguar XJ13 right off the bat, they’d have to cough up roughly $196. That is over three times the original price of the entire game – or just as expensive as the PlayStation 3 you need to play the game on. It’s not hard to see exactly why gamers are concerned about the practice. They should be.
@Km2000gt read the posts, the game is just offering an alternative path to busy people. Read reviews when they come out.— Shuhei Yoshida (@yosp) December 4, 2013
He continued, defending the practice by saying that there was nothing wrong with microtransactions as a concept, but that it could be problematic if games begin to be designed around it. In a manner of speaking, Yoshida is correct. Microtransactions can be used well and it’s only their dodgy implementation that is bad. The problem is that the implementation of the microtransactions in Gran Turismo 6, which asks buyers to pay $60 for the game and then has the gall to charge nearly $200 for one of the game’s cars, is definitely dodgy implementation.
In saying that microtransactions are just another path for “busy people”, it suggests that Sony really just wants to capitalise on that niche. Every car in the game is available through normal play, but that understandably takes time. The problem is that in the past these kinds of short cuts were saved for cheats, letting players mess around with what they hadn’t earned yet. What Sony and Microsoft are both asking is for player’s to pay for permission to use cheats online – or access content they already paid for immediately. That is definitely a problem. Both in terms of what is ‘fair’ and also for players who do just want to play with certain car yet have to throw away money to do so.
While it perhaps isn’t as deplorable as selling a kart for $100 in a game aimed at children, it is comparable. The bottom line is that microtransactions in a game that a consumer has paid full price for is a shady, anti-consumer practice. Players of course don’t have to literally buy into microtransactions, but developers have the incentive to design games to force to grind for longer than they should in order to access content in an attempt to break their patience and make them pay (again). Gran Turismo 6 may not end up like that, instead allowing players to unlock cars with ease, but it is certainly opening another door for worse practices in the future. This is a slippery track that gaming is headed down and neither Sony of Microsoft are helping the situation with their respective franchise driving simulators.
There’s also the simple reality that no single digital vehicle in the game should cost $196. It’s absurd.
Gran Turismo 6 releases December 6, 2014 for the PS3.