From the latest pay-to-win microtransaction ‘scandal’ that came alongside the release of Star Wars: Battlefront II, some people are quick to blame the mobile games industry for dragging console gaming down to the dirt. I’m here to tell you that they’re quite wrong. In fact, this Polygon article seems to suggest that the problem within the mobile gaming industry is the player, for example: using ratings as a threat to get what they want from developers. But with that said, I believe the problem with console games, really, is within the industry itself. Recently, gamers have felt that some new titles have been made for the profitability rather than our entertainment and to be honest, I do believe that nowadays this is a very real but hushed reality. Don’t get me wrong, some new titles have been really fun to play and with no extra cost to us like Super Mario: Odyssey (though let’s be honest, Nintendo would never do that to us).
For ease of heart, I’m going to group Playstation, Xbox, and PC games together under the same ‘console’ banner since a lot of triple-A game titles nowadays are playable across all platforms with some of the same systems.
You find daily rewards in almost any mobile game, and this system has found its way into console games too. Honestly, I think this is probably the best system of this list though I’m not entirely sure which industry had introduced it to us. If a game’s story or exploring a game’s massive open world isn’t enough, another replayability factor is in the daily login rewards. No microtransactions required here, which is the cherry on the cake.
Obsidian and Paradox’s role-playing, choose your own adventure game Tyranny had this system in it but only for those who are logged into their Paradox accounts while playing the game. This was a nice way for players to randomly get items that would help them on their virtual-quest to destroy the rebel scum.
Battlefront II has their ‘Daily Login Crates’ even though I’m sure kicking butt on online multiplayer is enough to bring one back into the game. I believe one of the Metal Gear Solid games had implemented this system too, though I’m failing to remember which one it was as I’m a big fan of the MGS series but I do remember a number of players complaining about how buggy the system was.
While the mobile gaming industry had brought the rise in popularity of free-to-play (f2p) games, it wasn’t where the trend started. It was popularised thanks to Facebook. Remember when you kept getting those annoying notifications from that one friend you haven’t met in years, requesting for some sort of assistance in Candy Crush? Oh how I don’t miss those days. I would dare say that’s where in-game microtransactions really took off. *shudder*
Though it should be known that this system has actually helped a number of games increase player numbers. One such game is Team Fortress 2, which shifted from pay-once to free-to-play and Valve had reported that its player base increased 12 fold after they made the move. This is the same with Bioware/EA’s Star Wars: The Old Republic (SW:TOR) MMO, which saw player numbers rise after switching over their game to f2p, but they also have a premium/subscription service which gives players things like the full spectrum of expansions, character species and unlimited access to PVP arenas.
Free-to-play games (or versions of games, like with World of Warcraft’s ‘starter edition’) allow players to have a taste of the ins and outs of a title and leave it completely up to them to either pay to continue or just dump the game altogether and move on to another. I doubt this would actually work with non-MMO games but hey, a lady can dream!
After the transition of Team Fortress 2 to f2p, Valve introduced loot boxes into the game, allowing players to collect various hats for their characters. Well, they had to earn profits somehow, right? Don’t think a lot of people would appreciate having adverts pop up randomly in-game, like they do in mobile games. Virtual loot boxes, as far as we know, were actually first introduced in the Chinese free-to-play MMO, ZhengTu. Many would say that TF2 was the pioneer of in-game loot boxes of the Western gaming world and its introduction has spawned a nice community of collectors and traders.
Blizzard also carries this system in their various franchises. In f2p game Hearthstone (which is also available on mobile, just saying), players can either collect coins through quests or pay real money in order to buy card packs and solo ‘adventures’. In Overwatch, which costs you money to play the game (though for a really good reason), you also are able to buy loot boxes which would give you various character skins, emotes etc.
None of the above compares to the big mistake EA made by allowing players on Battlefront II to what we gamers like to call ‘pay to win’. Though the system has now been retracted, here is a quick run-down of what you were allowed to do: rather than players grind hours into the game in order to get enough in-game credits to obtain special characters, one could simply pay real money to get someone like Emperor Palpatine off the bat and destroy all the noobs. Now if that doesn’t reek of money grabbing-ness, I don’t know what does.
So long story short: no, I don’t think mobile gaming has anything to do with the apparent downfall of console gaming. Each industry has their own sets of individual problems and games from both industries can benefit greatly with some of the systems I mentioned above. There is a lot of room for improvement developer-side in creating games that feel like were made for us gamers, their customers, to enjoy rather than simply to put more money into their pockets. Don’t get me started on DLCs or the trend of repeat titles.