It’s a move that should surprise absolutely no one who (like me) has a perverse fascination in watching this industry crumble in on itself. CEO Strauss Zelnick of Take-Two Interactive confirmed to his company’s investors last night that – as recent events have shown – Microtransactions are rapidly reaching the tipping point where they become worth more than the game they’re bolted onto.
“That’s a sea change in our business. Recurrent consumer spending is 42 percent of our net bookings in the quarter. It’s been transformative for us.” Sources report Zelnick saying in the conference call, happily dressing up gating content behind (often randomly-distributed, amirite?) Microtransactions as ‘recurrent customer spending’. It’s a pleasant-enough title that does little to detract from the reality of the situation; regardless of the specifics, it often feels as if we are getting less game for our money nowadays. For all the talk of Microtransactions being purely ‘optional’, they certainly don’t seem optional to an industry that admits it’s relying on them more and more to make back the vast investments they pour into games.
This will be my last article on Microtransactions for at least a few weeks, I promise. As much as schadenfraude is a very real thing, I want to talk about good developments too now and again. But it’s when we stop talking about these things that companies like Take-Two Interactive get what they want. We saw the first signs of this last year with the company slowly realising the power of free-to-play games. Like many other ‘major’ game publishers, it seems the allure these business models exude was too strong to resist for Zelnick and his organization.
(As you can probably tell, the above picture wasn’t selected for no reason.)
What does this mean practically when it comes to the future of Take-Two Interactive and its games? For starters, I would be very surprised if we see a substantial GTA release soon, if ever; “It may not always be an online model, it probably won’t always be a virtual currency model, but there will be some ability to engage in an ongoing basis with our titles after release across the board,” the CEO said, but with the numbers GTA Online is continuing to pull in they have little reason to abandon the online market for any sort of self-contained single player experience. Fear too for the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2 – will cowboy hats be locked in randomized loot-boxes? Will you have to purchase premium ammunition for better models of six-shooter revolvers – don’t worry though, it’s all to increase player choice, after all.
Strategy games, particularly the Sid Meir’s Civilization series under Take-Two Interactive’s subsidiary 2K Games could well suffer; while Civilization does not strike one immediately as ‘e-sport’ material due to its typically slow rate of play and options for doing things aside from fighting, the increasing popularity of the medium could well see core aspects of the game shifting towards pleasing the e-sport crowd rather than long-term fans.
Now we risk toppling over into doom saying and fear mongering, so I will stop myself here in an effort to be responsible. If these sorts of changes don’t appeal to you however, it’s up to you to stay informed; if you want to avoid repeats of events such as the NBA 2k18 debacle, consider voting with your wallet. It may not make much of a difference over all. It may not stop companies increasingly investing into effectively spying on and psychologically profiling its customers as they play, or prevent the ‘whales’ dumping thousands into loot-boxes for a chance at getting a single skin. But even so, I’ll leave you with one last supposed quote from Take-Two Interactive’s conference call to dwell on;
“One of the things we’ve learned is if we create a robust opportunity, and a robust world, in which people can play delightfully in a bigger and bigger way, that they will keep coming back. They will engage. And there is an opportunity to monetize that engagement…there’s a lot of room for growth. This is just the beginning.”
At age seven, Jordan wanted to be a paleontologist. That went well. He now fills the void by writing on all manner of mildly-interesting topics - when he finds time in between complaining how everything was better in the 'good old days', that is.