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Microtransactions and Persistent Online: Destructive Relationship

We all know that one couple right? The one that always make a get together uncomfortable? They are overzealous with their public affection, they fight constantly and usually ends in the one storming out? You know who I’m talking about… Why, Microtransactions and Persistent Online of course.

Persistent online connectivity really started becoming large about 3 years ago, around the release of Diablo3 and the infamous Error 37. A decidedly single player game tied up nicely with persistent online requirements. To this day gamers still suffer when there are server issues and all they want to do is play the game alone. Thankfully the game is also decidedly without Microtransactions (which really begs the question of when will servers then be shut down?)

That’s the real crux with always online connectivity. To maintain servers, bandwidth, updates to the game clients etc. money is required. Gamers are slowly moving away from the subscription based model while developers and publishers are moving towards socially integrated, always online content for their games. This is when games get both Microtransactions and Persistent Online requirements. This is a very dangerous direction for the industry to be going in to. Effectively microtransactions are going to become a requirement for almost all but the largest publishers and dev houses (Except EA. EA will have Microtransactions. Always) as they will need to keep the servers up and running. If not the servers would have to be shut down once the money runs out.

Microtransactions
Now this is what a microtransaction should look like… They must never create a new micromachines game… oh dear….

This is where things become sticky. We have already been told that we pretty much don’t own any game we purchase. We are effectively “renting out”. With the quick uptake of online persistence for games this has become even more of a reality. We can buy the game now, spend real currency in-game on microtransactions and then have the servers shut down tomorrow. Leaving you with a game that you paid for multiple times and can no longer play.
This exact thing happened just recently… with Dead Island: Epidemic stating they will be shutting down further development of their game. The issue is it was in open Beta and people had spent money on the game already. Now the servers will be shutting down in October and anyone who spent money on microtransactions? Well they’ll just have to suck it up it seems. Now granted, this was in open beta and you need to question the fact that people spent money on something that wasn’t released yet but it still happened and is a perfect example of what can happen as this trend grows. And it will grow.
Our industry is one driven by trends and the always online, socially integrated trend is growing rapidly. Soon we won’t have offline games and we will be at the mercy of the people running the servers and how long they can run them for.

To me, that’s a bleak future for gaming. One I’m not keen on seeing. I dread the day that every single game I have to play will be subject to latency, server hacks, downtime, maintenance, grind or pay for microtransactions and all at the risk of the server being shut down unexpectedly. I thought gaming was for relaxation? Not for stressing over when next I will make a bad buy and lose all the money I spent on the game when its servers shut down.

Published inMicrotransactionsPerma-Online
  • Padda-Wan

    Nice read, one day my toilet paper roll will have to be signed in so that I can wipe my ass

    • Please deposit $2 for an extra sheet

    • Grand Admiral Chief

      LOVE the nick and avatar, EPIC!

  • konfab

    All they need to do is make an end-of-life patch for their games that disables online verification. If a game is at it’s end of life, then surely the developers are not making much money from it anyway.

    The other solution is to tie verification into a service that the player will use(and pay for) for the foreseeable future like PSN or Xbox Live.

    But I agree, a piece of me will die if I turned on my ME trilogy in 10 years and find I cannot play Lair of the Shadow broker.

    • I’ve also often thought about the offline patch for end of life but sadly this is not a reality I think we will ever see. Past experience has shown that something like that won’t happen

      • konfab

        Or maybe we are just being negative.
        Earth 2160 had a nice FAQ on the end of life activation.
        http://www.earth2160.com/en/support_act.php

        Q: In a few years, the support for Earth 2160 could be gone – this would make activation impossible – so how can I keep playing the game then?
        A: If activation isn’t possible from a technical standpoint, or for other reasons in a few years’ time, we’ll make a patch available for you all well before that time comes!

        It would be a massive gesture of goodwill if the big studios would do something like this.

        • Now that I like hey. I just hope the likes of EA, Ubisoft etc. would also play along like that.

  • Ottokie “Yahtzee”

    “We have already been told that we pretty much don’t own any game we purchase. We are effectively “renting out”.”

    Never really thought about it this way. Today’s reality check for me right there 😛

  • Grand Admiral Chief

    tl;dr

    (soz, little late)

    • hehe. That script of yours is failing 😛

      • Grand Admiral Chief

        I blame it on a lack of sleep (check your skype for explanation)