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Editorial

How Microtransactions are Invading Single-Player Games

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As online multiplayer games have grown in popularity, so too have their unique monetisation schemes that push players to spend real money on in-game content such as items or cosmetics. They seem harmless, but as the FTC investigates loot boxes for potentially being unregulated gambling, microtransactions have proven to be dangerously anti-consumer — and they are making their way into single-player games.

Until fairly recently, companies have not been bold enough to implement microtransactions into anything but mobile and multiplayer games because they are specifically designed for these experiences: players can easily be incentivised to buy a small item to speed up gameplay in Candy Crush or free-to-play MOBAs like League of Legends, but single-player games and fully priced multiplayer titles have traditionally lacked such features. Instead, they received DLCs which were generally received well by players, providing them with hours of additional content.

However, as consumers have slowly come to push back against more recent DLC which often offers too little for too much and divides player bases, companies such as EA have been forced to phase out its infamous season passes and content packs in order to at least appear pro-consumer. In their place now are even worse business practices: loot boxes, pay-to-win gameplay systems, and content that is locked behind expensive paywalls, all easy to implement and extremely profitable long-term.

As with DLC, consumers eventually came to recognise that microtransactions were bad for them and the industry, but by then the time had already passed. They had become the norm for most big $60 releases, and even great scandals as with Battlefront II did little to prevent future use of the practice.

Now, as companies have realised the enormous potential of microtransactions to make additional profit, the real threat presented by them is the one they pose to single-player experiences. As mentioned before, microtransactions are specifically designed for multiplayer and free-to-play mobile games which feature gameplay that encourages small purchases — lacking such features, the only valid way to implement microtransactions into single-player games is to force them at the expense of their overall quality.

For example, while games once allowed players to unlock content by completing challenges and mastering their gameplay, the process is now simply a matter of players collecting enough virtual currency to buy a loot box and hope it has the item they want; in the case of games such as Middle Earth: Shadow of War, engaging gameplay and earned rewards are replaced by repetitive, random slot machines that sacrifice the consumer’s fun for the publisher’s profit.

Alternatively, even basic progression systems in RPGs such as the recent Assassin’s Creed games have clearly been intentionally throttled, allowing players only a few hours of natural, satisfying progress before they are forced to grind for experience just to complete the next level — making a few quick purchases all the more attractive.

This worrying, Irrational design philosophy, in which money takes precedence over gameplay, threatens the future of gaming as a whole, and despite enormous backlash and various boycotts of publishers, microtransactions are not going anywhere. One can only hope respected developers such as Naughty Dog and CD Projekt Red will continue with their explicitly pro-consumer practices and that proper legislation will reign in those that do not.

For more coverage on your favorite single player games, as well as new and exciting upcoming releases, stay connected with OnlySP on Facebook and Twitter!

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Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in May 2019

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May

May offers no respite from the big, bold games that have released so far in 2019, bringing with it a host of games almost certain to appeal to gamers of every stripe.

Close to the Sun

Release Date: May 2, 2019
Platforms: PC, consoles later in the year

May’s first major release may also be its most intriguing. Close to the Sun has regularly attracted comparisons to BioShock for its art style and premise, though the relationship between the two titles is, at best, spiritual.

Players take the role of journalist Rose Archer as she steps aboard Nikola Tesla’s ship, the Helios in 1897. Like Andrew Ryan before him (or after him, depending on perspective), Tesla has created a microcosm in which scientific freedom is unrestricted, with disastrous outcomes. Rose’s first impression is of a quarantine sign at the entrance to a still, dead ship, but she presses on regardless in search of her lost sister.

With Close to the Sun, developer Storm in a Teacup aims to provide an intense horror experience. The Helios holds none of BioShock’s shotguns or Plasmids. Instead, players have no means to defend themselves, with gameplay focusing on hiding from and escaping the threats on board.

Check out OnlySP’s final review of the game here.

RAGE 2

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

For anyone to whom the slow, meditative approach does not appeal, Bethesda is busting out the big guns with the long-awaited, little-expected sequel, RAGE 2.

This time around, id Software has tapped Just Cause and Mad Max developer Avalanche Studios for assistance in developing an open-world game. The result, if the trailers are any indication, is a breakneck, neon-fuelled experience that focuses on insanity and ramps up all the unique aspects of the earlier game.

One focal point of development has been ensuring the interconnectedness of the game’s structure, and the teams have promised a greater focus on narrative this time around. Perhaps in keeping with that, RAGE 2 is being distanced from its predecessor, taking place 30 years later with a new protagonist and a whole new story, though some callbacks will be present.

Although id’s legendary first-person gunplay is a driving force throughout the game, it will be supplemented by some light RPG elements, robust vehicular combat, and post launch challenges and support (though the developers deny that RAGE 2 is designed with a games-as-a-service model in mind).

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Out on the same day as RAGE 2 is the vastly different A Plague Tale: Innocence. A historical adventure, the game challenges players with overcoming obstacles with brains rather than brawn.

Players become Amicia, an orphan girl struggling to survive in a plague-infested medieval France while also keeping her younger brother safe. With the landscape rife with rats and members of The Inquisition, one of the core tenets of gameplay is reportedly the need to use these threats against each other. As such, though Amicia has a sling to use, the gameplay is designed more as survival puzzles than combat ones.

Developer Asobo Studio is not a household name, though it has a lengthy history of adaptations and support on major titles, including Quantum Break and The Crew 2. Furthermore, even though A Plague Tale is yet to release, publisher Focus Home Interactive has displayed remarkable confidence in the project by extending its partnership with Asobo.

Honourable Mentions

Although RAGE 2 is the incontestable action-blockbuster of the month, gamers in search of another kind of frenetic may want to wait until May 21, when Curve Digital drops American Fugitive, which has a more than passing resemblance to the earliest Grand Theft Auto games. Alternatively, PlayStation VR owners may want to look into Blood and Truth come May 28.

Sega also shines this month, dropping Team Sonic Racing on May 21 and Total War: Three Kingdoms two days later.

Anyone looking for an RPG has indie’s answer to The Outer Worlds, Within the Cosmos, to look out for on May 30, while those looking for slower stories get the latest episode of Life is Strange 2 on May 9, Observation on May 21, and the fjord-noir Draugen at a yet unspecified date.

Have we forgotten anything that you’re excited for? Let us know down below or on our Discord server.

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