Behold the natural evolution of “in-game purchases” for video games: instead of “pay to win,” this new system is “pay to lose” or “pay to not be able to play at all.”
The financial model of the video game industry now makes heavy use of in-game purchases (“microtransactions” / “DLC” (downloadable content) / “loot boxes”). These supplementary purchases frequently bring in more revenue than traditional sales.
Most transactions fall into these categories:
- Pay for additional content: the “expansion pack” model. This is old-fashioned, but still exists.
- Pay for cosmetic items (e.g. “pay 5 dollars and you get a helmet shaped like a giant bird”)
- Pay to skip the grind (e.g. “pay 10 dollars to get to level 100 and be able to use the best sword, rather than playing the game for 100 hours).
- Pay to win (for multiplayer games, e.g. “pay 5 dollars, and in the next 5 matches, your tanks will reload twice as fast”). Frequently seen in mobile games.
Conspicuously absent from these models are “pay to stop being addicted to the game” and “pay to force myself to become a more responsible adult.”
Below are a few proposed new categories of in-game purchase wherein a user would pay in order to play less of the game (Figure 1):
- Pay to cause the game to automatically quit if you’ve been playing for more than an hour.
- Pay to prevent the game from running at all until after your taxes are filed.
- Pay to prevent playing the game after 11:00 PM on a work night / school night.
PROS: Increases civic virtue and personal responsibility.
CONS: May reduce overall game revenue, since this process would tend to kick out the bigger spenders.