Microtransactions aren't so bad, you guys. Sure, they tend to be most effective when parents don't realize their kids can make as many of them as they want for a whole half hour after signing in, but they introduce so many interesting new mechanics for developers to explore on top of new ways to make money. And I know just how to prove their worth to you: by defiling - er - improving your favorite games with their presence.
Come with me on a grand tour of what it would have looked like if a dozen classic games had microtransactions built-in from the get go. Trust me, you'll find the idea of a paid coin doubler much more palatable when couched in the familiar trappings of the Mushroom Kingdom. Heck, by the end of this gallery you could well be tearing at your clothes and shouting praise for new monetization methodologies.
Pay up to skip missions in GTA 3
It took me forever to get to Staunton Island in Grand Theft Auto 3. Y'know why? Four words (and a number): Bomb Da Base Act 2. It's so irritating that my ability to escape Portland and head to Staunton Island, the center of the GTA 3 world, hinged entirely on my ability - or inability in this case - to snipe dozens of thugs using clunky first-person shooting controls.
But there's an easy solution for everybody. GTA 3 simply needs a paid 'Cut to the Chase' feature, where players can pay a reasonable price for a set number of 'clapperboards'. Whenever you get stuck on one of GTA 3's checkpoint-free missions, you can just use a 'clapperboard' to skip it. That way players who prefer to bash their heads against poorly designed levels are free to do so, but everyone else can just pay up and get back to exploring the city.
Trade real-world cash for bigger wallets in Ocarina of Time
You got a purple rupee! That's worth 50 rupees! Too bad your wallet was already full, sucker! Don't lie, how many times did you open a chest and groan when Link pulled out another shiny gem? It should be a happy occasion, but you know full well that you'll need every one of those wasted rupees to buy yourself another Goron or Zora tunic after some asshole Like Like eats you.
You could go through the hassle of a Gold Skulltula killing spree and unlock them one by one - all the while wasting rupees from every pot you smash and monster you kill - or you could just spend a buck to upgrade your wallet right now. Hey, the Giant's wallet is only $5 and holds two and a half times as much - we'll just need your Nintendo Network ID and password to confirm the transaction...
Get a m-m-m-monster kill with Half-Life 2 Announcer Packs
Aside from a musical cue here or a burst of gunfire there, everything in Half-Life 2 is so quiet. I mean, is this a near-future dystopian city or a near-future dystopian library? It's fine if you like 'ambience' and 'atmosphere' and other fancy stuff like that, but what I could really go for is a disembodied voice that shouts whenever I manage to kill a couple Combine soldiers in quick succession.
That's where the Announcer packs come in. Fill out all that dead air with enthused hollering from a host of Valve characters! Thrill as the Scout shouts "bonk!" with every crowbar strike! Cheer as Louis observes how Gordon going for a health pack is not unlike grabbing pills! Also, you can craft them all into a badge. No, I'm not sure what that means either.
Keep the 1-Ups coming with a Super Mario Bros. Coin Doubler
I wouldn't do a thing to change the challenging, rewarding experience of playing the original Super Mario Bros. Actually, I could find one little issue with that 'rewarding' part - the coins. You need to get a hundred of the damn things for them to actually be worth anything. When you consider how many of them you'll actually find in an average playthrough, it's just a poor experience for most users.
Enter the Coin Doubler. A proven staple of the microtransaction arsenal, it doesn't replace the Mario coin economy or let you buy your way to victory, it just gives you a little boost. Now that you get to those 1-Ups twice as fast, you'll really go out of your way to snag extra coins. It's a winning solution for everybody! And it's cheaper than a venti frappuccino.
Get festive with Sonic & Knuckles & Skins
Aside from its own campaign, Sonic & Knuckles' lock-on technology lets players try out parts of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and 3 with the eponymous echidna, or access the new game's stages with familiar characters. On top of that, cramming the cartridges you already owned into the new one you just bought is still an oddly satisfying notion. The whole idea is so totally radical that it's a massive shame Sega didn't keep going from there.
Why stop building the lock-on tower at the second floor? Imagine a world with Sonic & Knuckles & Christmas, a low-priced cartridge that puts all the characters in Santa outfits and adds a North Pole level? Or Sonic & Knuckles & Hardcore, which removes the HUD and introduces permadeath? Mix-n-match however you want, as long as you can still fit it under the TV!
Suikoden Star Packs fulfill your destiny
Did you know Suikoden has 108 characters to recruit? That's only 32 less characters than you can fit in a tweet. Sure, it's a role-playing classic and all, but how much time do you really have to devote to recruiting fictional cronies - many of whom you'll never even bother to add to your party?
Let's get real here. If you have a job or kids to take care of, you're not gonna find time to get all the 'stars' and unlock the secret ending. But don't give up hope! Just buy some Stars of Destiny Packs! Each one contains a random assortment of six characters with at least one holographic hero guaranteed per pack. If you get doubles, you can grind extras down to Stardust and craft them into the heroes you need.
Monkey Island Hint Coins are an obvious value
Ok, you're pretty sure you need to talk to Otis in the prison next, but Guybrush keeps saying he won't because his breath stinks. That means talking's out, so let's try some other verbs. Use Otis. Nothing. Look at Otis. Ok, yes, you know what he looks like. Fine, let's get rough. Push Otis. Pull Otis. Turn off Otis? Arrrghhh!
But wait! You don't need to fret, and you don't need to overcome your crippling social anxiety to call the Lucasfilm Games help line! Just use a Hint Coin! What, you're telling me you don't have any hint coins? Well, you're in luck - all you need to do is click the icon in the corner of the screen, put in your credit card information, and buy some! Better get a few extra just in case - this game's tricky. Remember, 500 coins is the best value!
Halo goes cover-optional with Instant Shield Boosts
Halo introduced the genre-shifting concept of a recharging shield to first-person shooter games, (mostly) ending the long and glorious reign of the health meter and inexplicably effective medkit. But damn if it doesn't take a long time for your shields to start coming back. And once it does, the tiniest little pop from a Needler sets you back to square one! Sheesh, more like Combat Devolved.
Sure, you could take cover for a while. That's fine if you want to be all tactical. But players who prefer to run and gun can just make sure they're stocked up on Instant Shield Boosts. Hit up the Waypoint Store and get back in the fight in no time flat! It's not an advantage over non-premium customers, it's just another way to play the game!
Pac-Man Power Pellet Booster keeps ghosts on the run
Narrowly avoiding ghosts is fun and all, but it can get a bit stressful. Hardcore Pac-Man players know how to ration out their limited supply of Power Pellets so they always have one to turn to when they're about to be surrounded, but the rest of us get all too familiar with that "byoo byoo byoo BWAP BWAP" sound effect.
Don't deprive yourself of the thrill of munching on frightened ghosts. Activate a Power Pellet Booster to turn 24 random Pac-Dots into Power Pellets, and turn the tables on Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde!
Street Fighter 2 continues get you back in the fight
This is it. One win and one loss. It's the final battle to take down M. Bison and strike down his nefarious Shadaloo criminal network. You and Ryu have made it all this way and nothing's gonna stop you now. Just get back, set up a good hadouken and Ok! You've gotten him down a third of the way, play it conservative No! He pulled off a scissor kick! But you can still recover if you just... andddd he knocked you out.
But wait, you can start right where you left off! All you need to do is drop a quarter in the - oh, wait, you already know how continues work? Ok then.
Super Metroid exploration energy lets Samus wander
Here's the thing about Super Metroid: it's almost too big. Zebes has so many huge rooms and tiny nooks to explore, and every time you equip a new piece of equipment you get to go back and look it all over with a new eye for detail - like revisiting a book as you learn the complexities of its language. It's incredible. It's daunting.
Thankfully, Samus' limited supply of Exploration Energy ensures that players appreciate each and every room they visit. Passing through a door will deplete her reserves, so make sure you've found everything you need before you head out! Exploration Energy will recharge after enough time passes in the real world, but why not speed it up by watching a commercial or by using some of those Chozo Crystals you bought?
StarCraft SCV Boosts speed up construction
Ah, the joy of a well-constructed base. Look at it hum with activity, SCVs scurrying back and forth from mineral deposits and fresh marines pouring out of its barracks. The only bad part is that it took you so long to get everything set up just right that you don't really want to move on to the next level.
That's where SCV Boosts come in! Accelerate your building speed so new facilities form instantaneously, and never worry about spending hours establishing bases again! Don't worry Zerg and Protoss players, Larvae and Probe Boosts are available at the same reasonable price points!
Those are just a few of the many classics that could be made even better with the help of the humble microtransaction. I know you can think of a dozen more old favorites just begging for dialogue boxes that exhort players to spend more cash, so let me know what you think in the comments below!
As long as we're dwelling on the past, check out these classic cutscenes that aged terribly (opens in new tab). Or instead of shoehorning microtransactions into old games, you could just try the 100 best free-to-play games (opens in new tab).