Microtransactions Data Before You Buy: Microtransaction.zone

These days it can be harder than ever to know how much a game might cost. The box price doesn’t always let you know what else might be out there, what hidden transactions are laying in wait to snare you and this can make it hard to know if you’re getting your money’s worth.

Of course, where possible, MMOGames will mention what we can, but two industrious people by the names of Simon and Taylor have set out to make it easier still to work out what you might possibly want to know about a game.

Leveraging the Giant Bomb API and some other third party tools, Simon and Taylor have created MICROSTRANSACTION.ZONE for giving people all the microtransaction information they can. Or as the lads themselves put it, “how badly various video games are sticking their dick in it when it comes to monetization.”

Microtransactions Data Before You Buy: Microtransaction.zone

Each game that is on the site comes with a very clear guide beneath showing which of the ten categories they have created apply to a given game.

You get this at-a-glance view telling you what you need to know quickly:

  • Spotless (No Monetized Content)
  • Free to Play (No Cost of Entry)
  • Expansive Expansions (Expansion Packs)
  • Horse Armor (Cosmetic/Frivolous DLC)
  • It’s Not Gambling, We Swear (Loot Boxes & Other Randomized DLC)
  • Infinite Money Hole (No Spending Cap)
  • It’s Not Just Cosmetic (Gameplay-Altering DLC)
  • Time Is Money (Pay-To-Skip)
  • But First, You’ll Need a Contract (Subscriptions)
  • Batteries Not Included
  • Table for One (Standalone Single Player)

Picking a game at random, we’ll go with Guild Wars 2 where they have it tagged for the Free to Play through Time Is Money options, which really does encapsulate Guild Wars 2. There’s no subscription which is the norm in MMOs these days but for a new player it might be nice to know at a glance, and there’s no single player.

The Batteries Not Included category is something you’ll typically see used where games have toy interactions like with the Nintendo Amiibo. Then again, I would gleefully buy any Skritt statues in person that might somehow delete all Quaggan from the world of Tyria but that might not be for everyone.

Taking another MMO, let’s try Black Desert Online.

Horse Armor, It’s Not Gambling, We Swear, Infinite Money Hole, and It’s not Just Cosmetic all apply to Black Desert and the categories fit well. It does beg the question whether their MMO selection would benefit from a buy to play tag for the at a glance viewing, but in reality, no Free to Play tag should tell you that you will need to put money down. Spot an MMO you like without Free to Play or But First, You’ll Need a Contract and you know you have a single purchase game like Black Desert Online on your hands.

If you want a good example of a game that they rate Spotless, i.e. “You buy the game, you own the game—full stop.” You need look no further than Stardew Valley which is everything in one game at one price, including the new multiplayer mode we have reviewed for you.

Personally, I have a lot of time for this tool and the efforts of the MICROTRANSACTIONS.ZONE team. Partially because I love the quick reference guide and efforts that have been put in to make it quick and clear to get a handle on it, and partially because I am amused that it’s always supposed to be referred to in all caps like LEGO. That and it reminds me of the sorts of sites that used to grow up around MMOs with little to no prompting. We have here two people putting their coding skills to use and trying to make other peoples lives just a little easier. In fact, if you are interested in their efforts, they have been laying out things on their blog regarding accessibility, security and the thinking around what tags they do and do not use.

The Game Awards 2016

In an ideal world, this sort of website would not be necessary. As it is, you may see review sites start to work with them or adapt their categories to try and better inform consumers. These days there is a constant issue with DLC making its way into games that should otherwise be complete experiences like with the Star Wars Battlefront 2 debacle or you have other games like Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery going in heavy on microtransactions and handicapping their gameplay in the hopes of getting people to shell out.

If things continue down this line, and to be honest they don’t look like they’re stopping really despite what EA claims about Anthem in our future, MICROTRANSACTION.ZONE and other tools aimed more at consumer advocacy will be invaluable.

Ideally, DLC would only ever be in the Horse Armor category. A nice addition or skin that does nothing but let you look a little different or do something silly. Failing that, it could be like the recent Mercy skin with proceeds going to charity. Ideally, in some gamer utopia, DLC would only ever be a little added spice. Instead, it is now a pervasive part of the gaming landscape, and hugely lucrative at that.

There is, of course, a reason for developers to try and monetize games. Bills sadly do not pay themselves, but there is occasionally a blatant gulf between some developers getting paid for their hard work and some publishers shaking down customers for cash. Until we can find the happy middle ground, a type of game development and game consumption that could almost be called sustainable gaming, we will have to keep on being vigilant.

If you have the money to burn and don’t care, enjoy the fine Infinite Money Holes on offer throughout gaming. If you’re worried about a great title possibly hiding costs behind the glossy case or slick YouTube trailer then, for now, MICROTRANSACTION.ZONE will be invaluable to you. Of course, you could always take some of that money you have saved on an ill-advised purchase and donate to the developers via their page here.

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About Shannon Doyle

Shannon first discovered MMOs in 1999 when she picked up the newly launched Everquest. This started a lifelong love affair with online gaming that has taken her around the world and brought her to MMOGames.com. While she still pines for the streets of Paragon, the City of Heroes, today she spends most of her gaming time walking across Tyria in Guild Wars 2, roleplaying with anyone who says hello.