When it comes to microtransactions, “you should pay for good work”

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Microtransactions are not a thing that most gamers are particularly fond of – especially when they appear in full-priced, retail games. For publishers and developers, there are good reasons for them to exist – and though words like “player engagement” are bandied about, they’re ultimately there to make money.

Now I don’t inherently mind microtransactions when they’re done well, offer expansive new content or are aesthetic, with no real effect on gameplay. I’d happily pay for something like The Witcher 3’s Hearts of Stone campaign, for example – but I’d be less inclined to pay for in-game credits to help my characters level up faster, or buy more cars.

Former Naughty Dog community Strategist Eric Monacelli, now director of communications at Infinity Ward, says people should pay for good work.

“Microtransactions tend to get a sort of negative connotation in the games industry,” he explained. “If you remember back in the day, people bristled when they sold horse armour [for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion]. It’s something that has always happened.

“But if it’s good enough content and you want to pay for it, why not pay for it? That’s what it comes down to.”

Monacelli has first-hand knowledge of the backlash that Naughty Dog saw after introducing paid-for guns to The Last of US’ multiplayer.

“A lot of times I’ll hear people say: ‘That’s just something they cut from the game so you can pay for it.’ No, often it’s not,” he retorted.

“A clear-cut example of that is the burst rifle in The Last of Us. A lot of people thought ‘Why are they charging for guns?’ We did the research and noticed that a lot of players were having trouble jumping into the game for the first time, so we wanted to give people a weapon that was easily accessible and would give them a bit of a leg-up.

There were other weapons if they were a more experienced player that they could buy – it’s up to them. If you’re already kicking ass, you probably don’t need these, but if you want ’em, have ’em. It’s just a matter of personal preference.”

New guns and the like – ones that actually have an effect on core gameplay – are the sort of DLC that I’m not particularly fond of. The Left behind DLC campaign though? That was stellar, and I’d happily shell out money for that.

“There are hot debates around this all the time in the office, because everybody’s got their own opinion. For me, the more thought that’s put into DLC, the more you should be able to charge for it, because it’s one of those things where you’re creating another game unto itself – The Last of Us: Left Behind was another game. It’s essentially the second Last of Us game, right?

“It’s work, and you should pay for good work.”

Last Updated: November 19, 2015

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