What are Microtransactions?

What are microtransactions and what are the issues with them?

In my house, I am frequently hearing, “Mom, can I buy a skin?” “Mom, can I buy more turns?” “Mom, can I buy…?” It goes on and on and seems like there are endless things to buy when my kids are gaming.

What are Microtransactions?

In gaming, microtransactions are any purchase made in the game. Typically, these purchases are made for virtual items for a small fee in games that free-to-play. Players download and play the game for free however, if they want to get to a new level, get a new skin or get additional added bonuses, they must be purchased.

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The Issue with Microtransactions

There are many issues with microtransactions. For gaming companies, microtransactions earn them huge amounts of money. Last year, Fortnite brought in $1.8 billion from microtransactions alone. What is considered a “micro”, also known as small amount, adds up quickly when they have 350 million users.

One of the problem with microtransactions is that it changes the playing field. What should be a multiplayer game to win based on skill, turns into a multiplayer game to win based on how much you buy. It creates an un-level playing field leaving players with a bad taste in their mouth.

Remember in Super Mario Bros. 3 on Nintendo when you went into the mushroom that let you select a random tunnel to win a prize? There was no cost associated with it, but you had to get through the levels to earn the chance. Now, players can buy a similar “chance to win” where they have no idea what they will end up with. Sometimes, they will end up with something rare and amazing while other times, they end up with items they don’t really need to win. When players “earn” a rare prize through these purchases, they are left with the urge to try again and again to continue trying for more rare items, which results in many microtransactions.

On the flip side, players who end up with nothing “special” feel the urge to continue trying because the “next one” will be THE one. The spending may continue in a fast and furious pace resulting in a lot of money spent.

Numerous games have their own currency that are used for microtransactions. If your child plays Fortnite, then you are likely familiar with “V bucks”. Or, if your child plays Roblox, then you have probably heard them asking for “Robucks”. By buying Robucks or V bucks, parents can put limits on the amount of money that is being spent. Gift cards have become a very popular gift for kids for this reason.

It is important for parents to be aware of what their children are spending on these games.