Nothing gets a rise out of most gamers more than the concept of microtransactions. DLC and Season Passes are still near the top of the list, but microtransactions are definitely the leader of the pack.
The reasoning behind the gamers' hatred is simple: many perceive microtransactions as unnecessary, since the content included in them can typically be found on the disc and should, in theory, be available for players to unlock without having to pay additional money.
One of the primary reasons it's a concern is that microtransactions are often found in games for which you already have to pay $60. It would be one thing if the game was free, but you'd think that, with a $60 price tag, a company would not feel the need to try and gouge its player base for even more money.
The FPS genre frequently makes use of microtransactions, and the usage of it is often the most sinister. For example, Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops III makes use of microtransactions in order to obtain Rare Supply Drops, which may have unique weapons hidden inside. However, the chances of the weapons appearing are so small that you're better off trying to beat the odds by just throwing tons of money at the game. Your chances to get a unique weapon won't increase per Rare Supply Drop, but you certainly will have more chances to obtain one.
Now, enter Overwatch, the new FPS on the block. Blizzard's new FPS features microtransactions just like other titles in the genre, but it's far more benign than much of what has been seen from other games of its ilk. In this instance, the microtransactions come in the form of Loot Boxes, which can be purchased with real-world money.
Here is how much they cost:
– Two Loot Boxes — $2
– Five Loot Boxes — $5
– 11 Loot Boxes — $10
– 24 Loot Boxes — $20
– 50 Loot Boxes — $40
Conversely, they can simply be obtained by leveling up, and since there is no level cap, there is an unlimited amount of how many Loot Boxes players can get for free. Regardless of how you obtain it, the Loot Box will contain four items that are entirely cosmetic, such as alternate skins, emotes or unique lines of dialogue. In other words, they have no impact on the actual game besides making you look pretty.
Since Call of Duty: Blacks Ops III was mentioned earlier, let's take a look at the pricing model it uses for microtransactions:
– One Rare Supply Drop — $2
– Five Rare Supply Drops — $10
– 12 Rare Supply Drops — $20
– 25 Rare Supply Drops — $40
– 65 Rare Supply Drops —$100
Do note that you aren't actually buying Rare Supply Drops, but CoD Points. However, those numbers refer to exactly how many Rare Supply Drops you could obtain with the purchased points.
So, what separates the way these two titles approach microtransactions? For starters, Rare Supply Drops can't be earned by leveling up (you need to earn 30 cyrptokeys by playing matches and that are better off used for regular Supply Drops) and only contain three items as opposed to the four seen in Overwatch. More importantly, however, is the fact that, while the items Overwatch offers are entirely cosmetic, as mentioned before, the items in CoD can actually have an impact on the outcome of a match.
In the end, we see that Overwatch has employed microtransactions in a way that is not only fair, but doesn't gouge your wallet.
With that said, we still need to ask why Blizzard decided to use microtransactions in the first place. The reason is because it pays for future content. Instead of introducing characters/maps in a future update and making players pay for them, all future content for Overwatch will be patched in the game for free across all platforms.