The Microtransaction Plague

The Microtransaction Plague

Video game and app developers are adding microtransactions to their products - and it's starting to affect the market.
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Microtransactions. The word itself causes gamers to shiver and point out their favorite (read: most despised) ones. A microtransaction is a small amount of money that a game either requires or highly recommends to keep playing or to enhance the game. For example, Candy Crush is free but you can buy tokens to get a hint. In general, microtransactions are found in freeware games, but some have notably made their way to actual video games made by well-known developers. Games already aren't cheap, but charging the customer even more after the fact is just going to cause issues, and it already has. From once anticipated triple-A video games to apps you can download on your iPhone, microtransactions and paid lootboxes have become a point of concern in the video game industry.

It was major news when EA/DICE's 2017 game Star Wars: Battlefront II was released. Not because of it being a major success or helping to expand the story after the Original Trilogy, but it was because of the microtransactions that effectively turned the game into a pay-to-win moneymaking scheme. Even though the consumer paid sixty dollars, maybe more if they bought the “deluxe edition” or even a full console that it came bundled with, they still could not access characters like Darth Vader, Rey, or Luke Skywalker out of the box. The intention was that players would have to earn these characters for online play, which is fair I guess. But the token system wasn't just increased by playing the game, rather you could buy “lootboxes” that would give you items such as tokens and “Star Cards,” which were power-ups you can use both online and in local gameplay. The cost of Darth Vader was so high, it would take a player 40+ hours to gain enough coins to purchase the Lord of the Sith – or, they could buy some lootboxes and get the coins that way, thus increasing the amount of abilities they have in-game. A complaint was made on Reddit, and EA's response (which was basically saying “well that's how we designed the game just deal with it and pay up”) became the most downvoted comment in the site's history. The game, which launched in November 2017, was still fully stocked around Christmas – which was also right around the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. EA took a massive hit, and Disney lawyers even got involved after rumors started up of a possible class-action lawsuit for purposely overcharging players in order to play the game to the fullest extent. At first, EA lowered the point cost to buy the playable movie characters and removed coins and cards from lootboxes, but by 2018, the entire cost/lootbox system was gone, and if you buy the game now, you'll be able to jump right online and play as Rey in a battle. This was such a major controversy that it even prompted some countries to investigate whether or not lootboxes were considered gambling, and Belgium recently declared them as such.

Free apps are notorious for these. There are countless stories of kids racking up a few thousand dollar bill on apps because the game pops up with saying “pay x dollars to get 20 more gems or wait two hours” and they just click to go ahead, there's no passcode to prevent this. The new Harry Potter game, Hogwarts Mystery, is pretty much just a series of microtransactions. While the game is technically free, you still need “energy” to do tasks like rest and talk to characters – but that's nothing, you also need energy to progress through the levels. Yes, you can wait three hours after playing fifteen minutes just to take a short rest before needing to wait another three hours, or you can pay a few dollars every few minutes to keep on going. It's like EA gave them pointers on how to get nerds to pay more than what they should for a game. Pokemon Go (yes I still play it) is the opposite however. You don't need to pay anything to enjoy the game. Yeah you're limited to 250 Pokemon, but by the time you get there, you might want to pay for an additional one hundred or so. Unlike Hogwarts Mystery, you can play it perfectly fine, it doesn't limit your catches or amount of items. Countless games are like this, supposedly being free but requiring payment to get items for use in-game, and developers know this. They want people to be paying extra so they make money, hence why “freemium” software exists. Say it's free, which isn't a lie – but to really get what it's designed to do, be prepared to buy a lot more items and spend money to play a game you thought wouldn't cost you a cent.

Back to major AAA games, you have ones like Fortnite. This is a game that has two different modes, one that costs and one that's free but does include optional microtransactions. The free version, Battle Royale, is an online third-person shooter wherein 100 players fight each other to be the last man standing. The paid version has local multiplayer and a story mode, but isn't required to play Battle Royale. While there are cosmetic items you can earn and buy for the free game, they don't increase your abilities in-game, and you can play as many rounds as you want without having to pay a single cent. Even the “Infinity Gauntlet” mode, a limited-time promotion for Avengers: Infinity War, every player has the chance to get the Gauntlet and play as Thanos – doesn't charge you at all, only thing it costs is your patience and skill at trying to get the item in the first place. Many online games are free but include a paid aspect – Blizzard's World of Warcraft is free until level 20, but it's not like it stops you from playing, you just can't level up after. Yeah it's not perfect, but still. League of Legends is the same way. Both games have microtransactions to get more in-game currency or items, but in theory one could play without paying anything.

Sometimes though, a lootbox isn't a bad thing. In Overwatch, the boxes contain primarily cosmetic items. You pay for the game, you get your game and don't have to pay any more unless you want to get extra things like new DLC, which again, isn't required for play. Or PokeStops in Pokemon Go, where you can stock up on Pokeballs and other gear. But you do not have to put any more money in, because in the end, it doesn't make you any better of a player. But at the same time, there's games like Battlefront II that would have kept at the lootbox pay-to-win concept, but somebody stepped in and made it very clear this is not how the industry should work. Instead of charging players for something they thought was free, just make it an option and allow them to earn the same thing by playing the game, as well as just keeping lootboxes containing skins and other minor items that don't effect gameplay. Microtransactions aren't going anywhere, but after everything that's gone on since EA had to completely revamp their system, the industry should look at whether or not they actually help the game or hinder the players. Because playing for fifteen minutes then having to wait three hours to get enough energy to open a book isn't a game, it's just making people pay more than the program is worth.

Cover Image Credit: Electronic Arts

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When God Gives A Girl A Brother

He gives her a best friend.
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My brother is only 18 months younger than I am, but he's also at least a foot taller than me. Growing up with someone so close to my age has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. Yes, there was a time when I thought every single little thing he did was annoying and his feelings towards me were mutual. Yes, we still get into arguments and disagreements. But for the most part, we enjoy each others company. When God gives a girl a brother, He gives her...

1. A listener

I always have someone to talk to. No matter what, when, or where. Some of my favorite moments are spent chatting my brother's ears off while he absent-mindedly nods and continues to play x-box. Sometimes he just listens and doesn't say anything. Sometimes he gives me long replies. He always knows just how to react to what I am saying to him, which is why I tell him almost everything.

2. A protector

When I think about the man that my brother has become, it seriously brings tears to my eyes. He's so big!! How did this happen? I can remember when I was little and could boss him around and he would actually do whatever I said. Now I'm scared that if he hugs me too hard, I might break in half. My brother cares about me, and lets me know it. I'm so thankful to know that he is there for me no matter what and would do anything to keep me from harm.

3. A dance partner

Another favorite memory is dancing to Juju on that beat in the kitchen while mom is cooking dinner (or dancing with us). Or any other time any other song is on... in any other place... LOL. My brother and I are different in a lot of ways, but we both have no problem busting a move together.

4. A Sonic date

"Hey, wanna go get a sonic drink?" "Yeah, if you're buying!" This is a typical conversation for us, and he actually really does usually buy my food! (With mom's credit card sometimes, does that still count?)

5. An example

Being the older sister, I sometimes feel like I have let my brother down in a lot of ways in that he is probably an example to me more than I am to him. He is incredibly smart, talented, and hard working. Kids FLOCK to this guy, and he has the most creative mind ever. Seriously, I'm so nervous that my future kids are going to like their funny uncle more than me. He's way cooler than I am, and I want to be just like him when I grow up.

6. Comic relief

If you've never heard a "Lane Prevett story," pull up a chair. I will be glad to make you cry from laughing so hard. There's no way you can spend time with him and not laugh. And that, to me, is the best kind of person to be.

7. A best friend

My brother is a lot of things, but my favorite thing about him is that he is my best friend. Yes, we aggravate each other. Sometimes he plays his music too loud, and sometimes I take up all the internet so that he can't play video games. But I know that he would do anything for me, and he knows the same goes for him.

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Sorry, Bella Thorne, But Whoopi Goldberg Has A Point

Nude photos leaked, a scandal on the rise

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It all started with nude photos. Bella Thorne decided to release photos of herself naked after revealing that someone had hacked her things and was threatening to post them. She took it upon herself and said "It's MY DECISION NOW U DON'T GET TO TAKE YET ANOTHER THING FROM ME. I can sleep tonight better, knowing that I took my power back."

Let me make this clear from the very beginning. Bella has taken private, nude photos of herself for a reason we don't know (Probably to send to her boyfriend). She then gets hacked and threatened but decides to show photos anyway of herself naked to show that she has control over the hacker. Phew, I'm already not understand this choice.

Many celebrities and other women have praised her decision to do so, but I'm not one of them, and neither is Whoopi Goldberg from The View. While talking about the situation on the show, she was quoted saying, "Listen, if you're famous, I don't care how old you are, you don't take nude pictures of yourself. When they're hacking you, they're hacking all of your stuff. So, whether it's one picture or a million pictures, once you take that picture, it goes into the cloud, and it's available to any hacker who wants it. If you don't know that in 2019, that this is an issue ... you don't get to do that."

Now correct me if I'm wrong but isn't she making a valid point? Technology now has the ability to do whatever it wants, and hackers can get a hold of anything and everything. Whatever photos you take and send through text or even Snapchat can and will be saved to phones or shared among other people. How many celebrities getting texts, photos, or even calls leaked to the media?

In response to Whoopi, Bella is stating that she should be ashamed of her views, that she is putting the blame on girls for taking photos and is sick and disgusting. Can I make this clear again, she is not shaming you! She is simply saying that people (Not just girls, guys as well) should be smarter with what photos they take, who they send them to and know where they could possibly end up. It's not shaming; it's not a lie; it is the exact truth.

In one of her quotes, Bella says, "So what a girl can't send her boyfriend that she misses photos of her that are sexy? Things he's already seen?". I'm sorry, but I find this sentence very problematic. No one is saying that you can't be sexy for your boyfriend, just be smart about it. Sure, he's seen you naked, sure you've had sex, but the rest of the world hasn't. Just because one person gets the right to see it doesn't mean everyone else does as well. Hackers are out there, they are real, and they are real for celebrities and Hollywood.

Now yet again, Bella is twisting this story into something that it isn't. Now in videos that she has made explaining her view, she suggests that Whoopi is victim-blaming and would say the same thing to someone who survived sexual assault. On Instagram, she said, "So, if I go out to a party drinking and I wanna dance on the dance floor, do I deserve to be raped too?". Now I'm sorry yet again, don't start going on a parade by throwing this into the mix.

You got hacked and someone was going to leak naked photos of you. You decide to leak them yourself because you are not letting a man control your life. Then you compared it to drinking at a party, wanting to dance and asking if you deserved to be raped by doing that? Okay, how are these two even being compared? I'm not going to get too into this but think about it. Taking private photos are risky now with hackers, anyone can get into it without a problem. It's 2019, this has been going on for years. You say a man can't control your life so you release them anyway. A woman being raped at a party where she has no control is different. You chose to take pictures with the risk of them being leaked. A woman does not chose to be raped just because she is dancing at a party. Sorry, there's a difference.

Sorry Bella Thorne, but Whoopi Goldberg is not shaming you, she is not victim blaming. She is simply saying the truth.

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