24

Cart, Meet Horse

December 28, 2022 by Tim

Generally, I’m pretty lenient with cosmetic microtransactions, especially in support of a game’s ongoing development. I’m happy to chip in to a live service game once I feel like the amount of hours I’m getting out of it has exceeded the value of my initial purchase price. That’s an entirely subjective threshold that will be different for everyone, but as a general practice that I’m free to opt in or opt out of, I find cosmetic MTX pretty benign (that’s not to say it can’t be sketchy/abused, but that’s more on the individual proprietor, and not the concept itself).

However even if I feel like MTX are generally acceptable, launching a buggy, barebones product with a fully stocked, fully functioning cash shop is simply not a good look. And no one should be surprised that it doesn’t sit well with gamers.

Now, the people who write game code, and the people who design and model cosmetic gear are not the same people on a development team. It’s not necessarily true that having a ton of cosmetic items to sell at launch is somehow responsible* for a lack of updates or content for said games. The programmers did not stop coding to texture a new hat any more than the graphics guys can stop modeling to help fix bugs, for instance.

(*Though, at some point the programmers did have to spend time building the MTX shop backend, so make of that use of time what you will.)

But from an optics standpoint, from a purely PR perspective, seeing a big shiny cash shop built on top of a shaky, still-needs-lots-of-love game just doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence or goodwill regarding a company’s motives. Don’t try to upsell me on leather seats while the car’s engine is leaking oil. In this day and age, developers could be at least a little more cognizant of how this looks, and so even though programming and art are two separate departments, maybe just don’t push the microtransactions until you’re on more solid footing with the important stuff?


Subscribe
Notify of
guest

78 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Darkhorse
Darkhorse
1 month ago

Though I fully agree, the microtransaction shop itself is probably a largely fixed piece of code. The backend can be near identical per game for many game studios. For independent studios prebuild packages are near certainly available. Only the front end and the contents need to be truly different. Compared to the rest of a game the store then seems peanuts for me. That only means there should be more time for the real game. That means they actively choose to peddle garbage to the players to already get an income. It is like pre ordering a game, but instead… Read more »

CTOWNS
CTOWNS
1 month ago
Reply to  Darkhorse

Instructions not clear, URL stuck in trash can

P2Mc28
P2Mc28
1 month ago
Reply to  Darkhorse

My buddy’s mother makes $50 per hour working on the computer (Personal Computer). She hasn’t had a job for a long, yet this month she earned $11,500 by working just on her computer for 9 hours every day.
Read this article for more details.. https://payathome.blogspot.com/

Last edited 1 month ago by P2Mc28
Crestlinger
Crestlinger
1 month ago
Reply to  P2Mc28

This is the ultimate fate of those who go too far down the microtransaction hole! Don’t end up a bot! Boycott the snot!

Belle
Belle
1 month ago

Obese fish should be ashamed at the game they put out.

Fartsy
Fartsy
1 month ago

As long as there are suc…- customers willing to pay for microtransaction, this kind of shady businness will continue to exist.

leduk
leduk
1 month ago
Reply to  Fartsy

I often pay something like 50€ when I played a F2P for more than 500hours. I did this for warframe. I think sometimes mtx are ok, if the game is reeeally good.

Pablo
Pablo
1 month ago
Reply to  leduk

I think Fartsy was speaking of non-F2P games when he said customers. F2P games like Warframe need some way of cashing in, and people spending some money for cosmetics or boosters should be viewed as “supporters” and not “suckers”

vaisravana
vaisravana
1 month ago
Reply to  Pablo

I do not mind mtx in full price games either, IF the full price game upon release is FEATURE COMPLETE, polished and finished as a stand-alone game.
And THEN the mtx pay for potential added content that FEELS like added content and not like something that should have been in the game from the get-go.

But alas…

Vedrit
Vedrit
1 month ago
Reply to  vaisravana

Guild Wars 2 is perhaps the only game I’ve played – f2p or not – where I don’t regret the money I’ve thrown in on the cash shop.

Thomas D
Thomas D
1 month ago

Also, the larger gaming companies will typically have several teams working on a game. So, the team that works on the MTX shop will most likely have nothing to do with the game engine team.
Still, shady as F*** though.

zox
zox
1 month ago
Reply to  Thomas D

I mean, that’s literally what Tim said. Good Parrotting Thomas.

CTOWNS
CTOWNS
1 month ago
Reply to  zox

Chill buddy, he probably read the comic and not the essay afterward.

zox
zox
1 month ago
Reply to  CTOWNS

Sorry I assumed someone invested enough to comment and be logged in with a profile picture to… read.

Kaedys
Kaedys
1 month ago
Reply to  Thomas D

It’s less that the MTX team could directly work on the game, and more that the game company, at some point (and continuously throughout the development timeline), made the decision to allocate X headcount of budget to the MTX backend team, Y headcount of budget to the MTX frontend team, Z to the actual MTX items (graphics artists and the like), and then T headcount to the game team (or amongst the probably dozen+ teams working on various parts of the game engine and backend). You couldn’t just slap the MTX team onto the game engine team and expect useful… Read more »

wkz
wkz
1 month ago

Counterpoint: what the Cycle Frontier is facing right now. It has a relatively barebones cash shop, and the game itself has released in less than stellar condition, between balance, gameplay and cheaters it has been some rough going. That being said, the devs have been moving mountains to fix bugs, add content, balance weapons and queues, and (surprises of surprise) even managed to address the problem of cheaters in an FPS game through the combination of quick bans, trusted queues, cheater compensation. (and some other stuff?). That’s the ideal, yes? Fix the game before the cash shop. Yet, I will… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by wkz
vit
vit
1 month ago
Reply to  wkz

Counterpoint: CoD is a yearly cashgrab, missing features from previous games only to be introduced later as a DLC (yea, I know it’s actually – supposedly – 3 year cycle with 3 studios working on games towards yearly releases but if you’re missing features from beyond 3yrs cycle…), constant bugs and things proper QA should eliminate. Bugs and exploits that affect gameplay like godmode, infinite gasmasks, out of bounds playing and so on take months to patch but if it affects say XP (most game sales are motivated by easier weapon grinding, there are xp boosts in the store, skins… Read more »

J.M.
J.M.
1 month ago
Reply to  wkz

I played TCF in early access beta. They knew there was a huge cheater problem and should put more effort into fixing that before full release.

wkz
wkz
1 month ago
Reply to  J.M.

They did fix it… eventually. The Season 2 experience was so, so, SO much different from Season 1’s cheat-festival (as long as you’re in the trusted queue, that is).

I think the devs weren’t aware of how much people are motivated into cheating in an extraction shooter. That, and as I said before, it is very likely their marketing is probably nagging at them to release before the hype dies down.

Demurr
Demurr
1 month ago

I hate how predatory the monetization of this game is and how clearly it’s prioritized over delivering a solid product.
But have you SEEN the karking Iron Halo for zealot in the leaks? I’m gonna throw my money at FS very angrily

Last edited 1 month ago by Demurr
leduk
leduk
1 month ago

I’m glad I never saw that (for now at least) in the games I play.

WereCatf
WereCatf
1 month ago

I, for one, don’t really like a full-priced game having microtransactions in the first place. I mean, why am I paying for the game in the first place, if it’s then financed via microtransactions?

I don’t like microtransactions to begin with and I never buy any in any games I play, but it just feels extra scammy to demand an up-front payment and then still keep pushing you to spend more and more and more in perpetuity.

pookysgirl
pookysgirl
1 month ago
Reply to  WereCatf

I’ve been playing an MMO for 10 years now. It’s had 3 official expansions and 5 in-between stories that you got for free if you were logged in when they were released. The base game is now free (with some limitations) but let’s say you got in at launch and paid for the base game. That would be $50 for the standard edition, and if every player did the same thing, the company would be looking at upper six figures for what they received for one game that first year (it might be more, but you have to factor in… Read more »

Vedrit
Vedrit
1 month ago
Reply to  pookysgirl

I feel like you’re talking about GW2, which is probably the only game – free or otherwise – where I don’t regret the money I’ve spent in the MTX store. I love the story, the characters, the world, and I want to make my character and mounts look as epic as the story being told.

Merida
Merida
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim

Subscription models are getting bad in general, but if something has ongoing costs like cloud/servers, it seems fair enough. Photoshop, MS Office,… no. Same with games. MMOs with subscription for frequent content upgrades and online servers makes sense (excluding security and bug fixes as being outside buy-once models… Microsoft) and mtx instead of subs fits when the multiplayer game relies on people with time and not money to fill the ranks, when part of what the game sells is other players. This also fits DLC, when the game is actually $50 of gameplay before for DLC and not annoyung when… Read more »

Kaedys
Kaedys
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim

Ya, it’s extremely context-dependent. For example, I’d buy the hell out of MTX for Rimworld, simply because I’ve gotten way more playtime (~2000 hours) out of it than I paid for it (~$15 via Kickstarter, than 3x ~$20-30 expansions). It was the same way when I was playing Warframe actively, I put well over a thousand hours of play time into that game, it was worth the microtransactions, both for their individual rewards (mostly cosmetics, some convenience features) and to support further development of a game I really enjoyed. But when it’s a game that I bought for a normal… Read more »

HonoredMule
HonoredMule
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim

I feel it’s a dangerous metric, equating play time to value. That just incentivizes addiction mechanics. These days I have to regularly ask myself not how much time I’ve sunk into a game but whether I’m still having fun – or just got conditioned into habitual play. The answer to that question is why I’ve been completely off MMOs for quite a few years now. And ironically, the games which turn out being properly fun after many hours tend to be very poor candidates for MTX and require little to no ongoing dev support anyway (notably roguelikes, classic RTS and… Read more »

Tim L
Tim L
1 month ago
Reply to  HonoredMule

This is an incredibly important point. Almost all MTX that will actually be sold has the need for it created artificially.

koobah
koobah
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim

The continued development is what keeps a vibrant and engaged player base which in turn continues to drive new players/payers. I have been both the loyal player bringing friends in years later and the newbie many times and MTX is a great way to keep that from happening

M37h3w3
M37h3w3
1 month ago

A little late to be memeing on Halo: Finite like this.

> FatShark logo

Ah, well that’s a dam shame.

scottsmom
scottsmom
1 month ago

The four signs of the apocalypse: 1) Fire and brimstone 2) Cats and dogs living together 3) Mass hysteria 4) Gamers stop blaming corporate decisions on programmers.

Eric the White
Eric the White
1 month ago
Reply to  scottsmom

Who did that?

Joel
Joel
1 month ago
Reply to  scottsmom

If you’re going to bogart 2 of the things Dr Venkman says in Ghostbusters, at least get the first one right.

myd
myd
1 month ago

Most developers have very little say about the production timeline, so if the priority is to make the microtransactions store before the game, then that’s that.

NT523
NT523
1 month ago

Every person is probably thinking of a different game. Place yours here if you want, I’m on the project playtime vote.

Mike
Mike
1 month ago
Reply to  NT523

When I saw this comic strip I immediately thought of DarkTide, then I noticed Fat Shark logo on the shirt and I knew I was right. 🙂

J.D.
J.D.
1 month ago

I don’t mind then selling the cosmetic things. but when you actually have to pay for items you actually need to make progress in the game it sucks.

Maxwell
Maxwell
1 month ago

Now, the people who write game code, and the people who design and model cosmetic gear are not the same people on a development team.(…) The programmers did not stop coding to texture a new hat any more than the graphics guys can stop modeling to help fix bugs, for instance.
True, but at the same time someone gets money for doing their jobs, you can be pretty sure that the microtransanction oriented team will get that money. Just pointing out another vector the game can be screwed.

Last edited 1 month ago by Maxwell
Calibus101
Calibus101
1 month ago

Im uninformed here. Which game is being referenced here? To me i see this with any AAA title now

WereCatf
WereCatf
1 month ago
Reply to  Calibus101

Warhammer 40k: Darktide. The game was released in extremely barebones and pretty broken state, it’s still mostly that way, and yet Fatshark — the company behind the game — clearly made getting the microtransactions store in shape a priority.

alexye
alexye
1 month ago
Reply to  WereCatf

Pretty much the same boat as OW2.

Dorander
Dorander
1 month ago

Well they could’ve hired another programmer and one fewer designer… you know, depending on their priorities. Any developer has a finite amount of resources and how they distribute those resources is relevant.

Michael Livote
Michael Livote
1 month ago

I do not buy/play any games at all that use MTX, even if it’s “free to play” (ESPECIALLY if it’s free to play….). It’s the main reason I don’t game on my phone, every single game is based on raping your bank account down the line, there’s never any fun in that at all. More power to anyone who thinks this is ok, as P.T. Barnum said “There’s a sucker born every minute”……

Eric the White
Eric the White
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Livote

You could say the same things about computer games themselves right? Why would you spend money on a useless hobby like computer gaming? You must be a sucker? Of course not. Everyone has what they want or are willing to spend money on. I paid for Team Fortress 2 but I’ve never purchased a key or cosmetic. On the other hand I’ve bought quite a few cosmetics in Dead by Daylight because my group plays that so heavily.

Last edited 1 month ago by Eric the White
Michael Livote
Michael Livote
1 month ago
Reply to  Eric the White

The fact you HAD to buy it is the problem. I’m not even that old and I remember just buying a game…and that was that. You got upgrades, nice extras, etc without ever paying a single cent more for that. What a concept, getting your monies worth s/

Eric the White
Eric the White
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Livote

Name me a full price game that came back later and added additional cosmetics, additional content, etc for free. Companies are not, and shouldn’t be in the business of giving away free things. Those are called charities. Even with the cosmetics, try going into autodesk and creating a free flowing jacket for a favorite character. You can’t. It takes an artist, who deserves to be paid.

Michael Livote
Michael Livote
1 month ago
Reply to  Eric the White

I didn’t mention anything to that effect, at all. I’m actually an artist for a living. This has NOTHING to do with not getting paid for doing work, in any way. Seems like you’ve been hurt at some point (takes out male doll) now point to the spot where you were touched, ok?

Roborat
Roborat
24 days ago
Reply to  Eric the White

No Mans Sky, for one, Valheim is another.

Tim L
Tim L
1 month ago
Reply to  Eric the White

MTX is generally speaking detrimental to the game. Cosmetics are *sometimes* an exception, but certainly not always. I don’t think any one individual should be called a “sucker” over capitulating to these industry wide practices, but the fact that these practices exist is precisely because of the existence of human behavior embodied in that sucker-quote.

Phaet
Phaet
1 month ago

It all started with one rich guy who found a game too hard so he paid money so that they’d made it easier for him. And then some marketing guy found out and then it just went downhill.

Staris
Staris
1 month ago

You misspelled manager when you said “developers could be at least” as the developers I’ve had the pleasure to meeting would be in agreement that the base game is needed to be at least as solid as any microtransaction shop. That at the end of the day its the higher ups that are calling the shots.

Kaedys
Kaedys
1 month ago
Reply to  Staris

“Developer” can be confusing in discussions on this topic, since the term can variously refer to either the individual software engineers, or the game company developing the game as a whole. In the context of the final paragraph, I’m pretty sure Tim is using the latter usage, but I can definitely see the confusion. He used the term “programmer” for the former, the individual engineers, instead.

Thomas
Thomas
1 month ago

(Please take all this with a grain of salt, I work specifically on an FPS and it’s a big world out there.) I keep seeing this argument that games have separate art/programming teams, and that the work companies do on their storefronts must be separate people from their in-game folks, but this is kind of an oversimplification. The project I work on, for example, is pretty sizable- every new skin that comes out for a character introduces myriad new issues in game that need to get hammered out (client crashes, server crashes) from bone meld interactions with other characters, vehicles,… Read more »

J.M.
J.M.
1 month ago

I feel like absent an extreme customer reaction, like say a boycott on a new game, there’s no way we’re going to see companies stop putting MTX before quality control.

And it’s hardly a new issue. PGI was doing this with MWO over 10 years ago. Banning people asking about community warfare in the forums and pimping a $400 mech pack instead.

DJWG
DJWG
1 month ago

Money is one of the tricky factors of making a modern game. When you’re making a game and have to meet the (nigh impossible) standards of current gen gamers, it’s going to require years of work from a big team and very, very expensive hardware. It takes a lot of money, requiring a lot of investments. Eventually that money runs out and you either need to fold, find more investors, or release what you have. And if the game isn’t 100% complete, you either have to hope the game sells well enough to more than pay for development AND also… Read more »

Tim L
Tim L
1 month ago
Reply to  DJWG

The issue isn’t that less buggy/more complete releases wouldn’t sell well, the problem is that predatory business practices sell so much better because they’re predatory. Blaming this on gamers’ standards is also an unfounded, not to mention tired, argument given that plenty of (virtually) MTX-less games still exist that measure up to these titles just fine. There’s also the fact that these “high standards” generally exist only for games which are incessantly formulaic: If improved graphics are pretty much the only thing you’re offering in “new” versions of your game it shouldn’t surprise anyone that that’s what people are going… Read more »

Kaedys
Kaedys
1 month ago
Reply to  DJWG

The sales rate on games with extremely low graphics requirements, but very well-designed and fleshed out game systems, serves as a powerful counterpoint to your initial assertion here. Gamers don’t demand amazeballs graphics unless, as Tim L pointed out, that’s the only real improvement your game has made. If you make a really fun, well-designed, and well-rounded game, the graphics rapidly become an entirely secondary concern. I’ve dropped well over 4000 hours combined between Factorio and Rimworld, and both of them are barely above pixel graphics.

Last edited 1 month ago by Kaedys
foducool
foducool
1 month ago

heh, when setting up shop, put the cash register first XD

PhobosRising
PhobosRising
1 month ago

I feel like it would have been more amusing to have had him say “a priority” instead. So you knew he was full of crap, but technically not lying on the true ratio of effort.

Last edited 1 month ago by PhobosRising
Bobismeisbob
Bobismeisbob
1 month ago

While it’s true that people who make the cosmetics and the people who code can’t do each other’s jobs at some point the producers decided to spend money to hire people who do cosmetics when they need more coders to fix the game.

justin
justin
1 month ago

Aaahhh, dang it, I see what you also did there Tim.
The Game, made me lose The Game, dang it, lol.

Olivia
Olivia
1 month ago

“The Game” sign

Awww, man, I lost the game!

Cyrad
Cyrad
1 month ago

A company’s leadership and project managers are responsible for determining the focus and amount of resources allocated to various parts of a game. So if a barebones game releases with fleshed out microtransaction features, it’s because more resources (people, money, time, etc.) were allocated towards the microtransactions. It’s not the fault of the individual developers working on the base game and not the fault of the developers working on the microtransaction tech. It’s the fault of their superiors giving more or less resources than the other.

Junjie Xie
Junjie Xie
1 month ago

Every mmo ever

Just want to remind everyone this is not a launch problem, this is not a sudden infant game death syndrome, this is a game disease in general

Eldest Gruff
Eldest Gruff
1 month ago

Before creating a store to sell a whole bunch of additional features, one should make sure that the game itself is something that someone would want to actually spend money in.

That being said… I can’t exactly relate, as I generally don’t play the types of games that seem to spawn huge MTX cash shops like this. My life got insanely complex around when the PS4/XB1 came out, and since then, gaming on anything other than handheld became problematic. And I hear this is something that mostly plagues Sony, Microsoft, and Steam.

flikr
flikr
1 month ago

The cash shop 100% represents lost dev time, even if there is a division of labor. Every one of those items represents design, writing, artwork, logic for shaders, and if there was the slightest chance the cosmetic might appear to interact with a system differently than the default, programming too. Even if you say a programmer wouldn’t be the one doing all that, you could have had an additional programmer hired for all the work each other person involved was being paid for. If a studio’s bean counter couldn’t figure out how to break even without the allure of free… Read more »

Glory
Glory
1 month ago

Well, when Tencent has majority ownership of a studio, you *know* that MTX store is gonna be priority #1

Kaitensatsuma
Kaitensatsuma
1 month ago

Can’t sell hats if nobody is buying your game!

Wait, shit that means they’ll slash the price or go to a Freemium model.

Scarsdale
Scarsdale
1 month ago

Micro-transactions have always been a thorn in my side for years, I used to play a web game called “Kingdoms of Camelot” a fairly decent strategy game that was browser-based. I had played it 3 years and became one of the most powerful players in the game, then they added not only microtrans, but a card game that gave ridiculous boosts to even scouts IF you bought chances for loot boxes basically. Some deep-pocketed player attacked my castle with only 50k scouts and I had 2.5 million high-level troops and all the wall defences that could be built and they… Read more »

Dan
Dan
1 month ago

The problem with MTX is, if you dish out even the slightest (as in Tim’s case), you’re giving incentives (not only for that company, but for others) to double-down on MTX. MTX has, and will continue to have a negative effect on game quality.

Tim L
Tim L
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan

Yeah, it’s a really annoying social dilemma. If everyone stopped buying MTX we wouldn’t have this problem. But it’s really hard to withstand the predatory nature of the ways these things are being pushed. It’s a race to the bottom, really, and the saddest thing is that we aren’t at the bottom yet.

HonoredMule
HonoredMule
1 month ago

The postorder is where it’s at. Have you ever noticed how games tend to go on their first sale shortly after reaching a point where they’re actually stable and polished? Publishers know what they’re doing; they’re trying to appeal to all the gamers who waited for both professional and peer reviews and then turned their noses up at all the bugs and/or controversy. Once they have a game actually worth selling, they need to remarket it to the more savvy consumers to recoup their post-release development effort, and it’s a win-win-win. Players who waited get a better price, get to… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by HonoredMule
Urazz
Urazz
1 month ago

The way I see it, even though developing a microtransaction shop doesn’t take much resources to make, that is the last thing that should be made for a game before you launch it.

ThatMageGuy
ThatMageGuy
1 month ago

This exists because shareholders don’t care about the product that’s put out, they care about the profit margins. They’re more likely to pull their funding from an industry held to higher ethical standards than to change their ethics.

Consumers should demand better for their $, but if this ever materialized to a significant degree, it wouldn’t be a catalyst for change. It would just cause studios to shutter as investors pull out.

Mirra
Mirra
26 days ago

I’m in the same boat. I don’t care about MTX and MTX stores anymore. We lost that battle and it’s of no use getting worked up about them. But it still makes my blood boil, when a game in beta has a fully-functional MTX shop. There are signs “unfinished” and “to be done” everywhere (making it more of an alpha version, rather than beta), but the shop is spotless and for the full prices. I can understand the need to test the shop, but then why not give every tester some amount of ingame currency that they can use in… Read more »