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.
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.