What’s better than making $1 billion? Making $2 billion! Grand Theft Auto V crossed the ten figure mark within 3 days of release, and Rockstar Games already has plans to speed the game on to its second billion through the currently fashionable cash-farming method of microtransactions in the multiplayer mode, GTA Online. Essentially, you spend real money (up to around $21 for GTA $1.25 million) to get game money that allows you to buy better weapons and vehicles. The logic of it might be questionable, but at least the exchange rate is good.
There are a number of concerns associated with having microtransactions in a game, especially in multiplayer, the most prominent of which being that it turns the playing field into a pay-to-win arena, where players who are more willing or able to part with extra cash get an unfair advantage over players who are better skilled. Other GTA fans take issue with being asked for more money after already paying $60-80 for the game.
Rockstar has apparently been getting a bit of an earful from GTA V players in response to the announcement of microtransaction details, and has addressed these worries about GTA Online becoming pay-to-win in a Newswire post:
“To allay some concerns we’ve heard on this subject, we can assure you that the game is designed such that the option of purchasable GTA$ should not disrupt the playing field — and there are a few mechanics in place to help ensure that. All players still have to rank up with Reputation Points (RP) in order to get access to purchase high-end items. No one can begin GTA Online and simply spend a lot of money out of the gate to get a leg up. You will have to earn your stripes and play to unlock access to the aspirational clothes, guns and other items.
“Please also remember that in GTA Online, hustling to afford the finer things by earning GTA$ doing robberies, stick-ups, winning races and other profitable activities is a fun gameplay experience rather than ever being a ‘grind’. As we mentioned on Wednesday, we will constantly tweak all areas of the game to make it play fairer and iron out any balancing problems (while fixing all the other problems we encounter!), but we really need your help in figuring out what those issues are. So please work with us on that!”
Evolving the experience with players is one thing but presumably a balance will need to be found between making it virtually impossible for those who don’t pay extra to beat those who do invest in microtransactions, and making it so easy and/or fun to earn money the regular way that no one actually bothers to put down real cash for in-game dollars. When the system was first announced, Rockstar explained that microtransactions were for the GTA player who desires “instant gratification,” which could also include people who don’t have as much free time to spend playing the game.
Keeping the microtransactions optional and ensuring that high-end items and upgrades can only be unlocked by building up RP should hopefully mean that skilled and dedicated players still keep the overall advantage, but if the ways of earning money in GTA Online really are so much fun, then why offer a shortcut to skipping this gameplay experience entirely? It’s also a little strange to hear a purchase that costs over a quarter of the game’s full retail price referred to as a “microtransaction.”
Are you the instant gratification type who will be buying up in-game cash with real money, or are you going to earn your way up through the ranks of GTA Online the old-fashioned illegal way? Tell us if you think Rockstar has handled this aspect of the multiplayer well in the comments.
Grand Theft Auto V is available now for PS3 and XBox 360.