Pay to win? Premium battle passes? Game currencies? What the…?
Terminology surrounding gaming expenses is vast and confusing.
How gaming companies make their money ranges from great value, to use of malicious tactics. Being informed will save you thousands and we can help you understand.
Let’s start with a good example:
Pre-ordering a highly-anticipated, big production ‘collectors edition’ game can cost upwards of $250. These are great value if you’re a big fan, they’ll often include the main ‘base’ game, prepays for future ‘downloadable content’, and exclusive items.
The most common purchase however is just the ‘base’ game. Often debuting at $100+, the price will soon decrease. Perhaps on sale due to poor initial demand, over festive seasons, or to promote downloadable content. For example, Call of Duty releases at $110 but in 3 months drop to $65 to promote new multiplayer downloadable content for an additional $20.
Expenses around micro-transactions, in game currency, or ‘freemium’ are where things get murky, and VERY expensive. You’re spending real money towards either improving in-game abilities, various customisation options, or to simply accelerate your game progress. Let’s have a look at how some popular games use different methods to take your money:
- the ‘FIFA’ soccer game costs $110 and the ‘points’ currency is spent towards ‘pay to win’ mechanics. Want to win more games? Just buy a better player!
- Grand Theft Auto 5 online? Level up your cars and weapons right now with the ‘shark card’ currency instead of spending hours completing objectives
- Fortnite is ‘free-to-play’ but you can also purchase ‘v-bucks’ currency to spend on exclusive items and costumes (skins) or towards a ‘premium battle pass’ which makes more of these available as you continue playing.
Even worse is the tiered-approach to currency pricing. Designed in a way to encourage spending, the more you buy at once, the smaller the unit price. For example, in the game Fortnite, you can get 1000 vbucks for $12 or 5000 vbucks for $48. It’s a similar approach across games incorporating currencies.
The above is only a small glimpse into the complex variations of gaming cost. The point is, most parents don’t know the long term financial cost of their kid’s games. There are no warning labels detailing these risks. Additional purchases are made very enticing for players so the initial price of the game is meaningless when you can end up paying more.
So, how do we, as parents, prevent all this?
Never save credit card information to a console or game ‘account’. This prevents use of immediate and reoccurring payment options which often result in small, repetitive, or infrequent charges you’re unaware of or only discover sometime later.
If your child wants money for games, (and you agree to it) go prepaid. You’ll find the pictured vouchers at most stores which credit online stores where they can purchase games and related items.
Remaining value is quickly depleted, and this allows you to get clued onto any spending. When they ask for further credit, query the game title and Google it (or better yet, ask us!) so you remain informed on any monetary risks with these games.
Article by James Evans-McLeod
Posted 16 September, 2021
Published by The Unplugged Psychologist