It is becoming clearer as time goes on that many video game companies are taking advantage of players through various post initial-purchase mechanics in order to get more and more money out of them, and there are three main ways that this is being accomplished. The first, Downloadable Content (DLC), is able to be bought after a player buys the game and often includes additional content, however now companies are releasing unfinished games and selling the end of the game as DLC to make more money at the expense of the consumer. The second is by Pay-to-Win, which are games that allow you to pay a fee to bypass long and generally more boring portions of a game to advance. Lastly through loot-boxes, which are boxes earned for free through normal game-play but unlocked with real world money. This increase in purchasables shows that many companies are more interested in making a quick buck than respecting the players that are having to pay upwards of $70 to play a full game.
One of the ways companies make money off of a player after the initial purchase of the game is through Downloadable Content (DLC). DLC was originally introduced as a way of both adding more content for players, while the company could still be making money before the next full game release. Often it would include an additional chapter to the story mode, new maps with a unique design, more cosmetic options for a player’s character, or even additional weapons and items. A perfect example of the original intended use of DLC was in the game Rock Band, where the game was released with a large library of songs to play in game, but each week after its initial release they would add more songs that were able to be purchased for $1.99, eventually totaling to 1,244 songs. “Of course, not everyone will download even close to every one of those songs, but the opportunity is still there to spend nearly twenty-five hundred dollars on one game in addition to the initial purchase of software and expensive plastic “instruments.” (Lizardi, 2012). In recent years, however, it has become a problem because some companies are releasing unfinished games for the price of a full game, and advertising DLC that would contain the rest of the game for sometimes ridiculous prices. A player could spend $60 on a “complete” game, only to find out after buying it that in order to play with all the characters or complete the story they would need to spend another $10, $30, or even more. The most well-known example of this happened with EA’s “Star-Wars Battlefront” which released in 2015. After purchasing the game for $59.99, players were expected to also buy the “season pass” which would allow them to download all of the future planned DLC updates. The problem was this pass cost $50. Erik Kain, a writer for Forbes, wrote at the time; “But even if you are going to charge for content, $50 is way too much. It’s likely that each individual DLC will cost around $15, so you save ten bucks, but even still…this means that the ‘complete’ experience will cost gamers $110 plus tax” a sentiment he shared with many others.
Pay-to-Win is a special term that is used most often in mobile gaming to refer to any way you can spend real world money on something in game that will put you farther ahead of the competition. This mechanic has been around for a long time, almost as long as the app store has existed. Almost all mobile games are created for one purpose, and that is to make as much money as possible. One of the ways this is done is by integrating advertisements in to the game-play, for example making the user sit through a 30 second ad at the end of the match or every time they want to speed up the wait time on a certain task. This is where the second money-making technique is used, in the form of in-app purchases. Why would someone sit through a 30 second ad at the end of every game when they can just pay $4.99 to disable them. Often times in-app purchases are used to skip the wait timer that players would otherwise have to sit through, thus giving those who choose to spend a couple dollars on a game an advantage. This has shown to be a very successful method of making money as well, with both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store grossing a combined 71.4 billion dollars in 2018 (Nelson, 2019).
This isn’t shocking information considering how quickly the little “here and there” payments people make can add up, which is exactly what the companies want.
loot-boxes are a very common mechanic used in many multiplayer games today. As a player plays games, they will be awarded these loot-boxes, which they will then have to spend real world money to open. They almost always only include a random cosmetic option for the players character or weapons, thus they don’t give players an edge on competitive games, only on how they look. The issue with loot-boxes is that they are considered by many to be a form of gambling. Since video games are not age restricted, and many parents don’t know how to properly monitor their children in online gaming, the problem becomes apparent; loot-boxes are an easy way for children to gamble online. The problem also extends to people that have a gambling addiction. As found in a study done in late 2018, non-problem gamblers spent less money per month on loot-boxes than problem gamblers did, as shown here:
Both of those groups of people are at risk of spending lots of money and becoming addicted to the “rush” of possibly getting a rare item.
In conclusion, it is evident that the topics discussed suggest that the consumer is pressured to make payments beyond the initial-purchase of the game, else they miss out on features. DLC is a great tool for the advancement of video games but companies have to be held accountable so as not to release unfinished games and charge for expansions. Pay-to-Win games are unfair to those unwilling to spend money and thus players should be weary of them. Lastly loot-boxes fuel problem gamblers and tempt kids to spend hundreds of dollars while having little in game yield, and thus require a complete rework so as to remove the danger. Each topic is not perfect, but they all can be improved and made into safe, fun, and honest additions to video games in general.