In App Purchases: Why I Have No Problem With Them

We live in a different gaming industry compared to what we had  many, many years ago. Back in the day, there was no such thing as “downloadable content,” there were expansion packs that you bought at the store. There also was nothing that you could buy to supplement your gameplay experience, but there were cheat codes.

Nowadays, extra content and supplements are usually found in the form of in app purchases in games. Many developers, notably Zygna, noticed the power of IAP’s early on with their Facebook and mobile games, and many other developers have followed suit and have added them in their games. While they typically are a huge success for developers, many gamers find them insulting and have thoughts against the in app purchases. Personally, I have no problems with them.

However, I am not everyone. As one person, I do not represent the entire gaming community. I looked at and thought of a handful of reasons why gamers may be against in app purchases, and while I see what they’re saying, for the most part I completely disagree.

IAP’s Create a “Pay to Win” Environment

When reading a thread on Reddit, I saw a few gamers complain about GTA: Online possibly having micro-transactions. They said they made the online experience a “pay-to-win” environment. While I understand their thoughts, I do not think they understand the other side of the argument.

Many gamers, like myself, have jobs, go to classes, etc. After all that is said and done, I have … a few hours to play online games. On the flip-side, I have friends who would be playing all day and night online ranking up. By the time I hop on, I’ll already be a few ranks behind them and not have anywhere as much cash or experience as they would. A small micro-transaction would help me get up to their level and have the same gear so I can be on the same playing field as my friends.

Sure, this does allow people to quickly progress through the game and shorten their experience. But that may be just what they want. They may not have the time to play through an entire game, but want the same amount of fun as their friends.

IAP’s Force You to Pay More to Experience the Game

Another common comment I hear about in app purchases is that the player is never receiving the complete game experience from the start, and they must pay to keep playing. With many games that offer these micro-transactions, this is completely false.

Let’s use Jetpack Joyride as an example. This is one of my favorite games on my iPhone, and I have the option to unlock and experience everything in the game, without even paying a dime. However, they offer the option to purchase coins in the game to unlock features, abilities, and costumes early. This in no way impedes the player from playing, it just gives them the option to experience new game content, sooner.

This also leads back to the GTA: Online rumor I mentioned above. Buying money in game for GTA: Online doesn’t restrict the other players at all. It just allows others to buy cars, houses, guns, etc. at a quicker pace.

IAP’s “Milk the Player” for More Money

One final common comment I have read online is that micro-transactions are just a way for developers to milk the players for more and more money. This is probably the most controversial reason, and I think I have found some truth to it.

I realized that this comment comes from a misconception that all developers seem to operate their in app purchases like Zygna and King with things like energy systems that force players to keep paying more and more to keep playing their game. These companies also like to reinforce their in app purchases over everything else in the game, especially the core game mechanics.

However, many other developers don’t build their games around energy systems, or force IAP’s upon their players. Games mentioned above like GTA: Online and Jetpack Joyride aren’t games that’d do this. Instead they’d just offer the option for players to buy additional content or supplements for their game.

“I Still Don’t Like IAP’s!”

Even after hearing my reasons, every time I explain why I believe IAP’s are okay, people still disagree. That’s perfectly fine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Micro-transactions are a very new business model in the current state of the gaming industry and are still being investigated and researched by developers and publishers every single day.

At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is for developers to make a game that people find enjoyable and fun, while being able to afford to either create more content for that game, work on a sequel, or even a brand new game.

If you have an opinion against how in app purchases are being used in a game, don’t rage about it, but instead question it. Message the developer, express your concerns. You’d be surprised how much constructive criticism helps developers when making their games. Beyond that, I can always reinforce one thing, and that’s that you can “speak with your wallet” and just not purchase any micro-transactions.

Now that I’ve shared my opinion, I’d like to know yours. What do you think of micro-transactions? Do you support them in games and purchase them, do you ignore them, or do you dislike them? Let me know in the comment section below!


Nick is a games industry professional with several years experience publishing across AAA and Indie. His recent work has been on the blockbuster music game franchises Rock Band and Dance Central.

He also is an avid gamer, tech enthusiast, and mozzarella stick critic.

About Nick

Nick is a games industry professional with several years experience publishing across AAA and Indie. His recent work has been on the blockbuster music game franchises Rock Band and Dance Central.

He also is an avid gamer, tech enthusiast, and mozzarella stick critic.

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