What are in-game microtransactions?

The microtransaction business model may have begun on the PC, but more and more it's making its way towards console gaming. While PC gamers might be experienced with the way it works, PS4 gamers who are unfamiliar with it should really research how microtransaction business models work before throwing their money at game developers. Especially with many current games like GTA 5 and many upcoming games like Capcom's Deep Down opting to use the microtransaction model.

There are several pros and cons to the business model. Before you decide to invest money for in-game microtransactions you should probably think about whether you're getting your money's worth.

What are microtransactions in basic terms?
But before you can make your decision on whether to use microtransactions in a particular game, you have to understand just what they are. In short, microtransactions are small payments made in games to get premium content in that game. For example, you could buy a special outfit for character in an MMO... or a special gun that you could only get by paying a certain amount of money. This is a microtransaction. Of course, there are plenty more examples of other types of microtransactions (it's not just clothes and weapons players are buying!).

What games feature microtransactions in their business model?
Microtransactions are most common in free to play games. Game developers will lure you in with a 'free to play' tag, but then you'll have to pay small amounts of money for each individual piece of additional content you want. You might not like the sound of that, if so you certainly won't be pleased to hear they're becoming more popular in games with a full retail price now. Grand Theft Auto is probably the most common one that you'll all know. Anyone who has played GTA online will know you can pay various amounts for currency cards that give you in game money. It's certainly not compulsory, but it gives something extra to players who are willing to commit more of their cash to the game.

What are in-game microtransactions?Usually, a game with microtransactions is multiplayer, often an MMO style game. The microtransaction business model is not as common in singleplayer games for sure. Why? Because there's not much point in paying for a special gun or a special outfit if you have nobody to show it off to. That said, there are many exceptions. The RPG 'Game Of Thrones' lets players buy special dogs and weapons for them to use in their journey through the game, despite not having any multiplayer.

Are microtransactions worth it?
Now this is the tricky part, deciding whether you should use microtransactions in a game. There's no 'one' answer to this question, I'm afraid you'll have to use your own judgement for this decision. But here's a list of questions you should ask yourself before you click that dreaded 'buy' button.

1. What are the long term effects of buying this?
How long will I spend using this particular piece of in-game content? Try and think of it in terms of hours. For example, if you're buying a special mission pack for $2, and the missions take approximately 4 hours to complete... you're paying $0.50 for an hour of entertainment. Which isn't really that bad in my opinion - though yours might differ.

2. Can I afford this?
Can I put the money to better use? This should be the obvious one. If you don't have much money to spend on games, then you really shouldn't go around spending it on things that aren't necessary to the game's experience. Unless you really, really, REALLY need to I suppose.

3. Is this going to take me down a road of spending more money?
I can probably answer this one for you: YES. Once you start buying in-game content it's pretty hard to stop. You get bored with one thing, and then seek a similar experience to rekindle your love for a particular game. The only solution is to spend more money. This is pretty vague, but if you're familiar with the microtransaction business model it's likely you understand what I mean. The whole point of microtransactions is that there's a lot of them. You don't just buy one thing and be done with it - game devs sucker you in and make you a regular customer in their virtual store of virtual content.

So, what are your thoughts on microtransactions? Are you happy to spend money or them, or do they put you off certain games?

Article by - Ben Corroon
Insert Date: 1/5/2014

Related Articles:


Depends on the Type

As a rule I don't do micro transactions and a game that makes it more difficult to complete (or less fun) unless you spend extra money does not last long in my library. The exception is the additional levels in some games, the downloadable content in Borderlands for example gives you a completely new set of levels and so that (to me) is worth it.


I cannot stand micro-transactions. Just look at the proliferation of online Glitching on GTA Online to get extra money. And, these glitchers, get soo much of it, that they share hundreds of millions with each player. Why? Because they want to send Rockstar a message. The same goes for Gran Turismo 6. There is a glitch to get over $20 million credits in the game, which allows you to enjoy it more as you can now buy almost any car and complete it faster, versus doing the same race over and over again