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Alternatives to Microtransactions in Games and Apps

Cell phones are ubiquitous these days, as are phone-based games and apps. These activities are colorful, fun, and addictive–if you have the money for an addiction, that is.

Most if not all cell phone games, as well as some apps such as Lumosity or adult coloring books, are free but have in-app purchases. The in-app purchases are usually tied to premium content or the ability to play the "full" game. For instance, in Jeopardy World Tour, you can play rounds for "free," as long as you have virtual cash. To increase virtual cash, you can wait more than 24 hours for your bank to build, or you can purchase virtual premium currency with actual money.

Even the best-intentioned game/app users end up engaging in microtransactions more than they mean to. In many online worlds, people who spend a lot of real money actually have a nickname; they’re called "whales." Whales or not, most players complain about microtransactions, but admit they don’t know an alternative.

Could there, or should there, be alternatives to microtransactions? If yes, what might those be? Are there currently apps or games that don’t depend on microtransactions, and if yes, what makes them successful? How are these games or apps able to "survive" without monetary microtransactions? Examine and discuss.


    Are Microtransactions Ruining Video Games?

    Ever since the meteoric rise of mobile gaming, microtransactions have plagued the world of modern video games. Games are being released with DLC content available from day 1, leaving many to consider such games incomplete upon release. DLC used to be used as a way of extending the playability of games after they have been out for a while. However, it is now being used as a cash grab for developers who sell game content separately. Is this trend leading to the downfall of video games? How long will players continue to shell out wads of extra cash to play a game that they already bought?

    • I think that one should be careful to separate microtransactions, DLC, and expansion packs. Like the difference between a Sims stuff pack, Oblivion's Shivering Isles, mobile game shenanigans, and buying a crate in a game like Overwatch. It might be obvious to some, but clearly delinating what's what will likely prevent a lot of confusion. – Scarlety 6 years ago
    • Make sure to define your terms very clearly, microtransactions, DLC, expansion packs, etc. Good, relevant topic, lots of resources to look and draw upon from across the internet/gaming sites. – Sean Gadus 6 years ago
    • To me microtransactions along with companies such as Netflix has started to lead us down the path of games as a service rather than or alongside buying and owning games. Because of this I don’t think microtransactions, as frustrating as they are, are ruining video games. Instead they are reshaping the way companies develop and provide games with continuing income in mind. – mfgorey 6 years ago
    • I don't think microtransactions are inherently bad. Free to play games, for example require this kind of business practice to get some form of money to maintain the game. Microtransactions in AAA games are going to be the norm now due to games like Overwatch and Hearthstone. However what I think is bad about them is how malicious some companies make them. For example, the Harry Potter mobile game recently held your character hostage until you could pay up the money to do so. Those kind of practices are outrageous and should be frowned upon. But that doesn't mean microtransactions themselves are ruining the game. It's like DLC, they could be cosmetics or they could be full blown expansions. How obtrusive they are to the game that the player is playing is something else. – Vladimito 6 years ago