Can I even start a topic to talk about this? I thought about posting it in the Overwatch topic, but I'd rather get a wide variety of discussion on this topic, rather than limit it to just those of us playing Overwatch.
So, let's talk about microtransactions. Necessary evil? Evil? Good thing?
This came up today while I was listening to the Co-Optional Podcast on my way to work. They were talking about Overwatch, and how there is rage against the microtransaction system in place in the game. If you don't know, you can buy Overwatch for $40 on PC, and $60 on console (with some skin bonuses). Buying the 40 dollar box gets you everything from a gameplay perspective. All the heroes, all the stages, all the game modes. Let's not argue about whether that's worth it or not--let's just say for argument that you get everything gameplay-wise. Now, there is a progression system in which you gain experience points after every match. Every time you get an arbitrary number of experience points, you get a loot box. These loot boxes contain cosmetic things only--things like skins, in-game currency to buy things, voice lines, etc.
You can also pay real money to get more of these loot boxes, at about a dollar a pop. Pay more, get loot boxes for "Free." These do not guarantee you certain items, and you are able to get repeat unlocks. Repeats turn into in-game currency at a fairly low amount that you can eventually use to "buy" the things you actually want.
As of right now, Blizzard says that they won't be charging gamers who buy Overwatch for additional maps, characters, etc that come out down the line. That will be free updates. While I can't say for the future, this is their plan for now.
At first, my knee-jerk reaction to this is "MICROTRANSACTIONS ARE ALWAYS BAD FOREVER." Especially in games that have an upfront cost. If I pay 60 dollars, I want every magic item in the box. I don't want to be nickel and dimed for additional content.
However. The fact of the matter is that supporting a game like Overwatch requires money. Yes, Blizzard made BANK on this game at launch. But. New characters and stages do cost money. Keeping the servers up and running maintenance does cost money. A not-small amount of money either. If you imagine a single Blizzard employee making 60,000 a year, and multiply that by how many employees work on Overwatch, you need to make a good chunk of change. And you need to do that over time, simply because Overwatch is meant to be played over time.
Now, they could have made the game "Free" to play and have you unlock heroes with real money, allowing you to pick only the ones you want. But, in Overwatch's case, that could wreck the game balance, as the game is designed around switching heroes for different situations. If your team needed a sniper and none of the players have unlocked the sniper, you're screwed.
So, Blizzard's solution was to charge up front for the game and add cosmetic microtransactions to support the game long term. In this case, I am okay with the microtransactions. They are effectively optional content that does not affect the main game in any way. They are fun unlocks that I technically can get (with much work) through gameplay anyway, because there needed to be some kind of progression system these days or no one would bother.
I dislike microtransactions that affect gameplay. Buying a gun that is 1.x times better than a different gun is BS in a shooter. Buying story content at launch for a single player game is BS. Buying cheat codes is BS.
But, buying cosmetics to support a long-term game updates is okay, I think. I'm not thrilled about it, but I think it's one of those necessary evils.
Thoughts? I'd love to hear them.