When you think of all the important things US senators could be discussing, generally video games don’t come to mind. After all, there seem to be a lot more pressing issues to take into consideration. Then again, someone has to keep the industry regulated, don’t they? Either way, both Democratic and Republican senators agree on additional government oversight for video games, or more accurately, microtransactions and loot boxes.
You can attempt to find the whole bill online, but we’ll give you the gist of it; the good old government is proposing legislation banning ‘pay-to-win’ microtransactions. Basically, this includes anything that a player could buy to accelerate their progression through a game, give them an edge over other players that don’t buy anything, and things that assist a player in the accomplishment of certain goals and achievements.
The only exclusions to this bill thus far would be cosmetic items and DLC. Now, a lot of players have issues with microtransactions and ‘loot boxes,’ and it is somewhat understandable; if you’re a player that puts time and effort into a game, only for someone to shell out thirty dollars and now be better than you in every conceivable way, it’s very frustrating. Nobody likes a ‘pay-to-win’ setup where the people with the most money are bound to surpass players with greater skill or commitment.
That said, it is extremely likely that the senators trying to pass this bill don’t really understand why microtransactions became so popular for game developers and publishers in the first place. The fact of the matter is microtransactions are one of the only ways for games to be really profitable these days. Ten years ago, a brand new game costed sixty dollars. Today, that is still the cost of a brand new game, not taking special editions into account. However, the cost of making and publishing a game is not the same as it used to be a decade ago. Games are costing way more to produce than they did ten years ago, but game developers aren’t asking for more money when you buy them. So how do they make a good profit on these games?
They have to get people to invest more money in the game after already owning it. Hence, microtransactions. Granted, those microtransactions can be things that don’t help players get ahead, such as cosmetics, but as far as turning a profit goes, cosmetics don’t make as much money as benefits. Take a game such as World of Tanks, which is notorious for microtransactions. If you’re going to spend real money on anything, is it going to be a paint job, or a new tank that will give you an edge in gameplay? What about Apex Legends? Would you rather spend real money on a skin or on a new character with a powerful ability?
It’s also worth noting that the two aforementioned games, and many other games like them, are free-to-play. You didn’t have to spend sixty dollars to play it, so microtransactions are quite literally the only way for the developer to make money. Will this bill cripple the free-to-play game genre? Considering that making money is the prime goal of any company, one could see some seriously negative side effects coming into play if the bill were to pass. For now, all we can do is wait and see what happens.