Gran Turismo has been a favorite series of mine since I bought the first game, at launch, back on the PSone. I’ve bought every GT since then, including the $40 demo that was Prologue. I don’t really consider myself a huge sim-racer fan but there’s something about the GT games that just absolutely hook me. I will admit that even before I knew about the microtransactions in GT6 I was contemplating skipping it and instead waiting on the PS4 version which is surely in the pipeline. Has that weighed on this decision? Surely. I will admit that. But there is a lot more to it.
I understand that “microtransactions are here to stay.” I understand that because it’s something we’ve all given up on. Even on NeoGAF you will see people saying “microtransactions are here to say” over and over and over again. If you say it enough it becomes true. The industry has effectively eased your concerns about microtransactions enough by not increasing the grind (although some reports say Forza 5 does break this rule). It also started out simple… pay $1 for this cool sword that you will unlock later but you can kick ass with now. It was silly, we complained about it, we mentioned how things like this used to be called “cheats” and were free. But we accepted them into our games and now they are becoming a bigger and bigger nuisance.
Shuhei Yoshida says that the grind in GT6 has not been increased to try to pull the player in towards the microtransactions. This is good. I am 100% in favor of microtransactions not hurting gameplay design. To some people, however, this makes microtransactions Ok. It doesn’t to me. There are many different types of microtransactions and I of course own games that use them. Assassin’s Creed IV evidently has a microtransaction to unlock a bunch of stuff instead of grinding your way to buying it with in-game currency. I’m certainly not a fan of this type of microtransaction but it doesn’t b0ther me because it occurs once.
Why is once important? One of the main things I hate about microtransactions, even more than them impeding on gameplay design, is that they are designed to feed on human weakness. Now, for most people, that’s fine. We say “yeah the allure to spend money to unlock this car is there but I’m gonna hold off and grind.” But if you have a mental illness… this isn’t quite so easy. This is the dark secret about the free to play model that almost no one talks about and is truly disgusting. We hear about these “Whales” that make F2P games profitable by spending thousands of dollars per month. Do you think that these people are CEOs that make millions per year and are bored at the office? No. They aren’t. They are people with OCD. They are people who don’t have control over their compulsions like many of us do. This model is designed to play on these people in the same way the a casino and lottery is designed to play on those easily addicted. It’s easy to stand back and laugh and go “what losers, they can’t control themselves, they deserve it!” The thing is… they don’t. I’ve worked in the mental health field for 15 years now and I’ve seen over and over how these types of things prey on the mentally ill. F2P is basically a socialist system where the rich pay the most to support the entire ecosystem but instead of “rich” you can replace it with the word “mentally ill.” One of my best friends growing up makes these types of games for a living and I asked him once how he felt about that. His answer was “I try not to think about it.”
So if a game has a $3 unlock for a sword. Fine. Someone who wants to be overpowered can use it. Someone who has OCD and needs it NOW can purchase it. Not much harm is done. If it’s part of the economy in which you can just keep going back to the well over and over to completely max out everything in the game – that’s where I draw the line. It throws the balance of the game off whether people want to admit it or not (try playing GT6 online in the first week vs people who have spent 100s of dollars). It preys on the mentally ill. And even if it isn’t affecting the game design in GT6 – if it’s successful what’s to stop them from having it affect the game design in GT7?
I’ve played games with microtransactions and I will continue to do so. I may be a hypocrite. There is a line in the sand that I drew where everything on one side I can deal with and everything on the other can go fuck right off. Is it arbitrary? Not to me, no. Will I break my own rules at some point? Probably. I’m weak, I know that. The problem is that so do the people who are making these games.