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The WORST Thing Live Service Games Do To Take Your Money

VOICE OVER: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
You want to be careful which video game publishers you give your hard-earned cash to. In this video, we're looking at the worst thing live service games do to take your money. Brand-new games are often pricey, especially if those games are also hotly-anticipated, triple-A releases – some choice next-gen titles are already pushing the base price up to $70. That's why it's pretty outrageous when those same games turn around and try to get even more money out of you post-launch through microtransactions, season passes, DLC, and endless monetization.
Transcript
Script written by Caitlin Johnson

The WORST Thing Live Service Games Do to Take Your Money


Welcome to MojoPlays! Today, we’re looking at the worst thing live service games do to take your money. You want to be careful which publishers you give your hard-earned cash to.

Brand-new games are often pricey, especially if those games are also hotly-anticipated, triple-A releases – some choice next-gen titles are already pushing the base price up to $70. That’s why it’s pretty outrageous when those same games turn around and try to get even more money out of you post-launch through microtransactions, season passes, DLC, and endless monetization. While lots of games do provide generous, additional content after release that can definitely be worth the extra money, those games are few and far between.

Much more common are high upfront costs and then an endless ream of microtransactions trying to get you to pay for in-game items and cosmetics. It wouldn’t be so bad if we knew that the money from microtransactions actually goes to the developers working hard to make the game, but when the CEOs of giant publishers like Activision and EA have been named some of the most overpaid CEOs in the world you know that’s not the case. Players are getting milked for all they’re worth by publishers who want to have their cake and eat it too – by providing not only a high base price for a game but also predatory in-game marketplaces.

And it doesn’t have to be this way at all. Plenty of other live-service games operate on freemium or subscription financial models, either providing players with most of the game for free or for a monthly fee. Both of these models, popular in games like “Destiny 2” or “World of Warcraft” respectively, do contain plenty of microtransactions. The difference is they don’t have huge upfront costs. You can play both games extensively without paying a cent if you want, or you can sink in money to support a game you love and get all the robust, additional content MMOs are known for. And the biggest game in the world, “Fortnite”, is still free-to-play – lots of the skins might be awesome, but you don’t need to buy them to get the same amount of fun from the gameplay.

We can forgive lots of microtransactions in freemium models – as long as they don’t go too far – but not in $60 blockbusters that are going to make millions in profit anyway. Especially when it’s all the biggest publishers who make the most lucrative games pushing more microtransactions on players. It’s more than a little annoying to try to parse your way through monetized menus just to play a game you like, and it’s outright greed from some of the biggest and most profitable companies out there. Worse, publishers know how much better the freemium model is, with Activision-Blizzard releasing “Warzone” for free and maintaining “WoW” for decades - but they want it both ways.

Another way they try to get you is by releasing half a dozen different editions of the same game, throwing in digital content and in-game items that are rarely worth the extra cash. Ubisoft is particularly guilty of that, homogenizing all its games and filling them up with microtransactions. With every passing year, Ubisoft games get more and more similar, not only to other games in the same franchise but to all other games from the same publisher. And if you don’t want to be bombarded by microtransactions, you’re encouraged to pay for pricey ultimate and collector’s editions.

However, other companies in the industry prove that you can still cram a huge amount of content into a $60 release that makes it worth that much money at launch. First-party Nintendo games are especially great for players: they’re incredibly well-made and beloved titles that most people are happy paying full price for, with many boasting exceptional stories and plenty of post-launch content updates players can get completely for free. CD Projekt Red has also shown how much they value the players by creating sprawling, open-world games with dozens of hours of content and outstanding craftsmanship, all for the same price – or less – than flagship EA sports titles that will be outdated in a year.

Publishers can put consumers first and provide players of “Call of Duty” with all of the game’s content as it releases since they already paid so much for it out of pocket, but Activision wants to get as much out of the series’ popularity as possible. And maybe this wouldn’t be so bad if these giant titles were only released every few years, but plenty of franchises – the most mass-produced and expensive – are locked into annual release cycles. You’re not only being pressured into buying, or even pre-ordering, a brand-new game, but also to invest in its digital marketplace, and then drop it for the newest one after just twelve months. You know something’s amiss when “NBA 2K21” retails for a higher price than “Persona 5 Royal”, a game with roughly 130 hours of content and next to no microtransactions.

And to add insult to injury, Activision has been at the center of controversies around its extensive layoffs. Despite the company making such a ludicrous amount of money, those developers who actually do the work to make the game were completely overlooked in early 2019. After record-breaking sales, over 800 hardworking game devs lost their jobs – 8% of Activision’s workforce. And in 2020, a story was broken by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier that Activision-Blizzard employees were being underpaid so severely some couldn’t afford to eat.

Toeing the line between “games as a service” and “games as a product” is bad for players and only hurts the reputations of publishers and studios every time another triple-A game bloated with microtransactions comes out. That’s why charging players full price for live service games is the worst thing they do to take your money.
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