Microtransactions, bugs and crunch: Will things change?

It’s 1997 and I start up Goldeneye 64. I’m excited to play the game. What turned out to be one of the best games ever made – was released and completed. Sure some funny bugs and glitches may have came to light, but nothing game breaking or serious, and in fact I struggle to think of any.

This wasn’t just Goldeneye 64 but most games in the 90s while I was growing up. Games would have thorough testing as once they were released on cartridge or CD, that was it, they’re out in the wild. No online updates, no Day 1 patches.

Times change, and with this comes new ways of presenting content and how that content progresses through its life cycle. Having updates and patches is a great thing, as feedback from the online communities can be embraced and changes made. Trouble is, are some games companies abusing this? 

I think there’s plenty of evidence to suggest the answer is yes. Any regular gamer knows about the issues with microtransactions, and over the years, some of the most famous culprits included EA (Star Wars Battlefront, Fifa) and 2K games (NBA series). However the list could go on and on. They are still present in many different forms, with a thin line between what you get for £50 and what extras you need to buy to complete your game. As an example, buying an add-on season pass for content that you haven’t been told about yet. 

This brings me to something that sports games fans will not want to hear…

EA will soon likely make their top sports titles online subscription based. This is fuelled by comments from Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA in 2017.

EA CEO Thinks Cloud Gaming And Subscription Services Will Lower Barrier For Gaming

This would provide EA with a constant revenue stream whilst providing updates each year as they have done or perhaps more frequently. There could be positives from this however that would depend on the price for gamers. 

For anyone who only buys physical copies of games, their time may be limited. I predict this may happen with the new generation of consoles (PS5, Xbox Series X) as this would likely be a logical time to introduce this new style of gaming.

Now onto something that should never happen in the games industry – releasing an incomplete game. But in today’s world, this does happen and it’s a travesty. An idea and concept that seems to be ‘release now, update later’. There have been many triple-A games released over the last few years with severe issues on launch, only to be patched later on. One of the worst examples being Assassins Creed Unity.

Ubisoft apologises for Assassin’s Creed Unity bugs

Rockstar Games have had delays in the past the most recent being Red Dead Redemption 2. But this is a developer who are consistent with high quality releases. That actually goes back many years, even as far as the 90s with the early GTA releases. We can put GTA Online microtransactions to one side here, as in my opinion there’s so much free content released and such a high quality single player experience was provided at launch for the GTA series and RDR2.

With that positivity unfortunately there comes another negative – crunch. The act of forcing staff into working extra hours for a long period of time to get a game finished. There has been plenty of coverage in the news and developers have had to respond. In some ways, you can understand working extra hours up to a point. That is something that will likely happen in other industries too, but it seems that some developers went too far.

Inside Rockstar Games’ Culture Of Crunch

There are a lot of developers and publishers who do things the right way, but these issues are worth continuing to be highlighted and debated, otherwise we may never see any change.  

With all these points in mind gamers are still paying and for as long as that happens, a lot of what I’ve said may not go away. Should we stop paying in protest? No! I don’t think so – but hopefully some of the worst culprits are listening to their online communities. 

There is plenty of good in games and plenty of great things that are happening, but I sure hope the state of some of these issues doesn’t get worse.

Do you have an opinion on any of this article? Would you pay a subscription for an EA title? React below.