Recently, I’ve been playing a few puzzles games on my iPod and I can’t help but notice that every time I play a round, there is an advert for the game’s “currency” or “power-ups” that help you get ahead with your progress. Usually, I tend to focus away from these adverts and click away but I decided to actually take a look at these for once. I was surprised at what I was looking at. From $3 – $15, there was a lot of options to get ahead for this supposed “free to play” game and to make things worse, I know that people actually purchase these things in the first place otherwise they wouldn’t even be there.

I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone that purchases these “power ups” to win the game and it felt sad that someone felt the need to part from their hard-earned cash just to get ahead. Who are they in competition with? Does the desire to pay to win come from the natural instinct to win and succeed? What’s the point? “It’s not the destination but the journey that counts.” You’re missing out on the journey and the reward is less satisfying if you pay to get there. Similar to opening your presents before Christmas or your birthday.

It just ruins the satisfaction.

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“Why would anyone try to ruin the delight on his face?”

Pay to win for single player games is something I’ll never understand. Imagine there was a special rifle for The Last Of Us that let Joel one-shot any clicker. Wouldn’t that ruin the level of fear and tension most players get when they hear that dreaded clicking noise? Would the ability to kill the clickers instantaneously ruin the tension and enjoyment you get out of the game? I may not understand it but I do accept that it does happen in the games industry these days. But who is it there for? Who benefits from paying to complete a game?

I can understand that some gamers just don’t have the time to play games as normally intended. They have responsibilities so free time is not as available to them as before. A slight-edge to help them get through the game at a faster pace would suit them perfectly. Yet is it fair on other gamers? We don’t get 100% access to everything the game has to offer because we don’t pay an extra $30/$50 dollars for special editions and that can bother a lot of people.

Pre-orders and exclusive items based on where the game is bought can be a real kick in the teeth for players who want everything in the game. It’s unfair. Every retailer should offer the same pre-order deals or none at all. Let’s take a look at Fallout: New Vegas. The game had exclusive items based on where you bought the game – Gamestop, Walmart and so on. It wasn’t until a year later that a Gun Runner’s Arsenal DLC was released that gave you all the exclusive items when most people were done with the main game. You can have all your “exclusive” items even if you are finished with the quest. So what is the point of them if not to just get more money? In another case, you could pre-order Borderlands 2 and receive exclusive access to golden guns and a key to unlock a rare item. So basically, you get a powerful weapon immediately and the flow/balance of the game is already broken for the first part of the game. When you progress and unlock new weapons, they’ll most likely be weaker than the “exclusive” weapons you already have so what’s the point in playing? You have an overpowered gun in a game where unlocking weapons is half the fun.

Is it fun to be too powerful straight away or do I just not understand the appeal?

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“Does this pre-order bonus ruin the difficulty curve for the game?”

Unfortunately, micro-transactions/pre-order bonuses/special and bonus editions of games will not go away any time soon. Like any good business, retailers and publishers want to maximise the amount of profits received for their product. There will always be players who want to pay extra to get an advantage and developers will willingly find a way for them to part with their money. While it’s easy to criticise games for having micro-transactions, players also have to also realise that the cost of making a game has risen exponentially. To make a highly profitable game requires either a huge amount of sales or increased profit gained from DLC/transactions on top of the original sales. It’s necessary for some games to implement transactions to guarantee they break even.

So what can we do? Unfortunately, pretty much nothing. Transactions/bonuses in games won’t be stopping any time soon and it has become the norm in the industry. If you don’t like the idea of it, don’t invest. Don’t purchase special editions if you think it ruins the experience. Don’t spend $15 on coins for Temple Run if you think that it makes the game pointless. Don’t let the bonuses from pre-ordering a game convince you that you’re missing out if you don’t pre-order. Most of the time, they just make the game easier than was intended and I believe that you should just play the game the way it was meant to be played – without any bonuses or power ups to help you complete it. Games should reward you based on your skills, not how much cash is on your credit card.

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