The Outsider: Microtransactions are actually really popular

The Outsider: He's here to judge you. Here's here to judge gaming's sacred cows. And he's brought his bolt gun. His views do not necessarily represent those of the GamesRadar+ team... and by that we mean 'definitely'.

So it’s my job, as somebody outside the bubble of gaming, to bring you the news from the rest of the world. And the news this week is that your righteous hatred of microtransactions will only get you so much respect out here in the fresh air. How much exactly? Ooooh, none at all.

It’s blazingly obvious that, like FIFA, Electronic Arts in general and sequels that’re just like the last game, microtransactions are popular. That’s why so very many people pay for them, and why they make so much money, and that in turn is why games keep appearing with them in. Stop me if I’m getting too technical.

I know, I know – they’re a con! Remember Oblivion’s horse armour? OH GOD, THE HORSE ARMOUR. Remember how we only got through the trauma of being offered something that looked nice for $2.50 with the help of our greatest friends, and with therapy, and after a long lie down?

The horse armour was so ‘insulting’ it created a meme, became a byword for money-grabbing DLC and created an online shitstorm so splattery it’s still referenced today. It was a terrible time.

OK, you didn’t have to buy it, and if somebody else did it had no effect. It was just a choice you could make. But still. There’s so much whining. Why?

Morally, runs the logic, it’s unfair to pay for things in games if you really love them. Why can’t publishers act out of love for games? We should go back to how it was in the olden days before capitalism, in the 80s and 90s, when we were small. Why, these days it’s almost as if publishing companies exist to make money!

Full disclosure: I’m being terribly sarcastic.

Even fuller disclosure: it’s not really your fault. While it’s obvious that expecting corporations to act charitably is naive to the point of idiocy (at least anywhere but the internet…), it’s also obvious that a very large chunk of the general population is intensely stupid.

And all these drooling chooches love microtransactions, because so often they’re a shortcut to getting to the end (‘winning’) without putting in any effort. It doesn’t matter that making the effort is the ENTIRE POINT of playing a game – they’re stupid. They don’t care.

So this is another piece of news I bring you from The Outside: there really are a lot of idiotholes out here. People like Duncan Hunter, the American congressman who claimed $1,302 for Steam games on expenses, with the excuse that his son had accidentally spent it on daddy’s credit card. The my-kid-spent-it story is a classic, and it keeps happening, though to be fair most of these people don’t make the taxpayer foot the bill.

Don’t worry about Duncan though, US citizens! He promised to pay it back ages ago. Only he didn’t. Oh, and that claim for $1650 against a ‘personal’ donation to a Christian school was just a mistake! So at worst, Duncan is merely a careless idiot rather than actually crooked. Guess which party he represents? Go on. Guess.

It’s easier in the UK. We don’t need to worry about public figures blowing all their cash on microtransactions, because we know their cash is tied up in offshore tax dodges. And anyway, British leaders have got far better ways of fiddling expenses than claiming £500 in magic beans for Anus Collector on iPhone.*

But you’re quite right – these window-lickers are making everything worse for the rest of us, occasional and committed gamers alike, though to be fair most of them don’t mean to.

No, most of these halfwits just keep happily clicking on Buy buttons, and paying to win, and buying rubbish sequels without really thinking about anything at all. They’re the ones clicking on all the stupendously irritating online ads too, and the links in spam email, and voting for anything but euthanasia on The X-Factor. They’re drinking in chain pubs and eating meal deals. They’re doing Stella and weed and being douchebags on Xbox Live.

Yet none of this, as crisply-argued and beautifully put as it is, gives you the right to object to microtransactions on a moral level. The publishers are doing their jobs, the punters are placing their bets, and the market is deciding the outcome.

If you object to being gouged but pay up anyway, you’re part of the problem. And if you object to paying at all because gaming’s your ‘passion’, a) you’re a self-entitled baby and b) you must also reject the consumerist, capitalist system that relies on profit.

Let’s see how long the imported consoles and megabudget games last once all the cool stuff is free, shall we?

Microtransactions, then – not right, but not wrong either. They’re just a part of the online landscape, and you’re going to have to get used to them.

And that, my friends, is that.

*A source close to GR+ assures me this exists.

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