Microtransactions Need a Name Change

Microtransactions should not be called microtransactions.  But how do we change something that has been repeated so many times.  It seems that with the recent community uproar over loot boxes the term microtransaction has seen an uptick in usage.  But it seems that the term was not generated by players, as a fashionable means to describe content.  The term was created by publishers in order to make players feel like the purchase is insignificant and makes it easier for you to input your credit card.  But at the end of the day, there is just nothing micro about them.

Microtransactions are often used to describe digital goods for video games that can be purchased more than once.  Publisher refer to these as recurrent player purchases, and they make a lot of money from them.  Microtransactions can refer to the purchase of digital currency, like Destiny‘s Silver, Fortnite‘s V-Bucks, or Call of Duty‘s Call of Duty Points (clever).  The digital currency can then be used to purchase cosmetics, consumables, or the dreaded loot box.

Microtransactions are more popular than ever,  just look at this Google Trends graph that shows search popularity over time.

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People were searching for microtransactions more than ever during November 2017.  This was probably due to the way Star Wars: Battlefront II and EA mishandled their implementation of digital goods delivery and pay to win monetization model.

Microtransactions make sense when speaking in terms of a few cents or a dollar.  However, purchases referred to as microtransaction can often reach as high as $99.99.  In case you were wondering $99.99 is more than the price of a standard AAA game.  What about the purchase is micro or small?   The Game Boy Micro was small and also one of my favorite systems.  But microtransactions can become a significant investment from the player and could be the difference between buying an entirely new gaming experience or a few more loot boxes.

Publishers coined the term ‘microtransaction’ in order to better fit the narrative that players aren’t spending that much.  The transaction is small and meaningless.  You can afford a few microtransacations here and there.  One more loot box, it is only $1.99.  But those purchases add up.  They can even go so far as for Kotaku to publish an article titled, “Meet the 19-Year-Old Who Spent Over $10,000 On Microtransactions.”

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So let us all stop using the term “microtransaction.”  I am not sure what we should call them instead.  They are not downloadable content.  They are more just like digital purchases.  You can make a digital purchase to spend $24.99 on V-Bucks in Fortnite or you can buy Papers, Please from the Steam Store for $9.99, or you can even subscribe to Final Fantasy XIV for a month for $14.99.  Either way you are spending your same hard earned cash in exchange for something.  It is up to you to judge the value of that purchase, in order to determine if it is worth it.  And Spoon Deep will do our best to help explore the value proposition that video games offer.  But do not confuse a “microtransaction” with something that has a lower cost.

More accurately, a microtransaction could refer to something that provides very little, or micro, value.

Jake “prettyboyplaid” Fredericks

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