Designer Cliff Bleszinski has shared his thoughts on the microtransactions and the backlash they receive, arguing that game companies exist to make money and if people don't like them or their practices, they can vote with their wallets.
"If you’re currently raging about this on GAF, or on the IGN forums, or on GameSpot, guess what? You’re the vocal minority," he wrote. "Your average guy that buys just Madden and GTA every year doesn’t know, nor does he care. He has no problem throwing a few bucks more at a game because, hey, why not?"
Continuing: "'Free to play' aka 'Free to spend 4 grand on it' is here to stay, like it or not. Everyone gets a Smurfberry! Every single developer out there is trying to solve the mystery of this new model. Every console game MUST have a steady stream of DLC because, otherwise, guess what? It becomes traded in, or it’s just rented. In the console space you need to do anything to make sure that that disc stays in the tray."
Bleszinski has a go at gamers who put up with Valve's business practices yet take seemingly every opportunity to hate on Electronic Arts. He cites that $100 engagement ring in Team Fortress 2, saying: "...as awesome as Valve is they’re also a company that seeks to make as much money as possible. They’re just way better at their image control."
While he's not necessarily wrong that there can exist a disconnect, to say that it's a matter of image control doesn't quite sit right with me. The vocal minority, as he calls it, doesn't look at one individual instance, one specific piece of on-disc DLC or the like -- it follows companies for months, perhaps even years, and forms and reforms an opinion about them based upon the ways in which they balance making money with treating their customers favorably.
And really, I think that's what it comes down to. There are both good and bad ways to go about handling microtransactions; few if any companies have a perfect track record. The ones that can "get away with it," however, realize that not every conceivable opportunity to make money needs to be exploited. Obviously much of the industry exists to earn a profit, but showing a little restraint from time to time wouldn't hurt. Certainly not when looking at the long-term viability of these firms.
Nickels, dimes, and quarters [Clifford Unchained]