I was browsing over my normal lunch-hour gaming news and blog posts when I came across two that are both so perfectly timed that it can’t be a coincidence AND so completely and totally wrong. There is an article, which originated from a stockholders conference call by Electronic Arts CFO Blake Jorgensen, and an article from outspoken former Epic Games designer CliffyB, both of which are dealing with the subject of “microtransactions”. That term, when referring to video games, are fees that gamers pay for content. I’ll start with the relevant quotes before I tear them a new one…

“The digital business is broken up into a couple of pieces, one is pure digital downloads of full games,” Jorgensen said during an investor conference call last Tuesday. “The next, and much bigger piece is microtransactions within games. So, to the extent that as [EA CTO Rajat Taneja] said, we’re building into all of our games the ability to pay for things along the way, either to get to a higher level, to buy a new character, to buy a truck, a gun; whatever it might be. And consumers are enjoying and embracing that way of the business.”

That was a quote from Jorgensen from Joystiq’s article, taken directly from the conference call itself.

Bleszinski labelled those “currently raging” about micro-transactions on the internet the “vocal minority”. “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?”

From CliffyB’s rant, followed by…

Every game must have a steady stream of DLC, he said, because otherwise it will be traded in or rented. “In the console space you need to do anything to make sure that that disc stays in the tray. I used to be offended by Gamestop’s business practices but let’s be honest… they’re the next Tower Records or Sam Goody. It’s only a matter of time.

So. Here we have a top ranking executive who wants to build micro-transactions into every game his company creates and a (for some reason) quasi-famous game designer who thinks that people with a brain in their head are a “vocal minority” and that every game needs copious amount of DLC and add-on content to stay in peoples consoles, because, you know, trading in a game is BAD.

The reason people like me, the “vocal minority”, are upset and angry over micro transactions is because it’s ruining games. Also, don’t you dare try and categorize us as something other than “average guy” who plays Madden and throws his money away. That’s insulting to the core. Bleszinski caters to that monosyllabic, drooling, Gears of War crowd anyway. He wouldn’t know gaming diversity if it chainsawed him in the face. That’s like asking a car salesman for a haircut.

DLC is fine, micro-transactions are even ok, IF (and this is a huge if) it benefits the game and is above and beyond the 100% already contained within the game.

EA has come in for particularly scathing stick following the release of Dead Space 3 (which includes micro-transactions), Real Racing 3 (a game crippled by in-app purchases)

The reason people are upset is because they paid their $60, started playing the game, and then had to shell out more money to finish it, or to play it at an acceptable level of complete-ability. You can’t just have a game that involves cars and then charge additional REAL MONEY for the car parts! You can’t have a game about shooting aliens in the face and then charge people for guns to shoot said aliens. That’s why people are mad. They’ve paid to play, and you’re nickle and dimming them to death. DLC, when use as an addition to the game, is perfectly acceptable. You finish the game, you enjoyed it, and they have a bonus level for $2. Sure, go for it. It’s not my bag, but you go right ahead. Where people are drawing the line is when basic things are missing, or the game feels incomplete without buying more and more content. It’s the same argument for “on the disk” DLC. People expect that the game is A) complete and the B) everything on the disk (their product) is presented for use.

So, let’s use Cliff’s example about Madden players. He contends that the average Madden player doesn’t care about microtransactions. That’s funny because a quick Google search for the phrase “Madden microtransactions” leads to 1,170,000 results. Most of these are ranting posts in player forums, but some are merely informative as to what these transactions are. They include: SuperStar mode, which allows you player to be elite and reach his full potential. You know, something you’d normally just play the game to achieve. “Dig Deep”, a 10% boost to stats (aka, a cheat code). “Play Through the Pain” – injury recovery for 1 player (aka, a cheat code). And finally, “Elite Status” – Access to exclusive VIP lobbies, leaderboards, and hardcore difficulty level. Wait. What? You have to PAY to unlock the difficulty levels in Madden? WTF? Oh, and the “VIP lobbies” because, you know, us common folk aren’t good enough to mingle with those Madden elites. Please.

I already stopped buying EA games a long time ago. I can’t accept business practices like this and I’m voting with my wallet, the only recourse I have. Their policy of “…please… just $0.99 more!” is so repulsive that it’s a stain on gaming in general. Adding onto a game is fine. If they want to keep the title “in the tray” as Cliffy said, and pump out extra levels and whatnot, that’s awesome. Just make sure it’s EXTRA. It’s 110%, it’s 120% of a game. Don’t sell me 80% and expect me to shell out $10 more to finish it. That’s bullshit.

The other idea in here that’s patently ridiculous is that trading and/or renting a game is somehow bad. The game industry has been fighting that battle for a long long time. For some reason they think they’re special. Books get sold, and borrowed by people. DVDs get sold, get put in a bargain bin, lent to friends. Hell, even power tools get sold and borrowed. You don’t see Sears getting all pissed off that someone borrowed a hammer instead of coming to their store and buying another one. Movie studios don’t get pissed when someone rents a movie instead of buying it. Barnes & Noble doesn’t come after me for lending my book to my co-worker. Game publishers, guess what? You’re not special. You’re an industry based around consumer entertainment. People use you and discard you. The more you try and change that, the more you lock people in with one-time-use codes and game consoles that can’t play borrowed disks, the less and less I buy. Myself and the like-minded individuals out there who enjoy SHARING what we’ve legally purchased will abstain from purchasing something that prevents me from doing just that.

Ultimately, Bleszinski’s point is a simple one: “If you don’t like EA, don’t buy their games.”

“If you don’t like their micro-transactions, don’t spend money on them.

You’re exactly right Cliff. I don’t think I will. Thanks for the tip. Douchebag.