Microtransactions Here Are (Red) Dead Wrong | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Microtransactions Here Are (Red) Dead Wrong

Comment Editor Alex Cirant-Taljaard gives us his opinion over the controversial inclusion of microtransactions in the highly-anticipated Red Dead Redemption II

I’ve never been one for playing sports, largely due to my natural clumsiness and lack of hand eye coordination. However, I did still have a competitive outlet in the form of video games. Whether it was on the battlegrounds of Super Smash Bros. Brawl or the sweeping maps of Civilization V, I took great pride in my ability to ruthlessly smash my competition. If I lost, it was because my competition was better. And if I won, it was because I had put time and effort into honing the skills I needed to come out on top.

Those days, sadly, are past tense. And I have started falling out of love with the video game world. Because now the most important thing in determining video game dominance isn’t your merit, but how deep your pockets go. The reveal that Red Dead Redemption 2 will be plagued with microtransactions just goes to prove how far the video game industry has fallen. It isn’t about fun anymore, it’s about profit.

It was not until recently that an unfair privilege towards those from higher income backgrounds has been built into the design of games

Don’t get me wrong, I am under no misconception that the world of video games has ever been meritocratic. Those with deeper pockets have always had the upper hand when it comes to competitive gaming; able to buy consoles and games faster, having more free time to spend practicing their skills. I didn’t have to get a job until after I left sixth-form, which meant I could spend an embarrassing amount of time perfecting my build technique on Minecraft. However, it was not until recently that an unfair privilege towards those from higher income backgrounds has been built into the design of games. This usually comes in the form of microtransactions and DLC, concepts dreamt up by the most evil and sadistic suits that EA and Ubisoft could muster. I think it is important to stress that point that it is not game developers cutting massive chunks out of their games and forcing players to buy them back, it’s the corporate machine who hold the purse strings.

DLC as a concept isn’t inherently bad, as long as the content adds more to the game, rather than adding back in content that should have been released on day one. A perfect example is Fallout New Vegas, whose DLC helps to enrich the backstory of the game and adds a hefty amount of play time. Compare this to some of the Fallout 4 DLC, particularly Wasteland Workshop and Contraptions Workshop, which make you pay for what is obviously cut content. While recently day-one DLC has become a bigger and bigger nuisance recently, it is possible to have good DLC. Microtransactions, however, are a different story.Because Red Dead Redemption 2 hasn’t been released yet, it’s difficult to judge the level to which its microtransactions will wreck enjoyment of the game. However, if we look at Rockstar’s most comparable offering, Grand Theft Auto Online, we can start to get a picture of what the future may hold. In Grand Theft Auto Online, no matter how many hours you put into completing missions and winning races, a snot-nosed brat with a few ‘shark cards’ (the in-game microtransaction unit) could easily make the same amount of money in a few seconds. And then use that money to buy a jet. And then use that jet to kill you, and kill you, and kill you, until your only course of action is to find another server, by which point you’re so filled with rage that you can no longer be bothered to play. Besides, it wouldn’t matter if you did find another server anyway because there would be another asshole with a jet waiting to ambush you.

At least there was a chance that with enough practice and effort you could bring down players with Scrooge McDuck-esque coffers

I have absolutely no problem with competition in games. If the jet with which I’m being killed has been earned through hours of hard work, then good on them. It’s when people are able to take shortcuts only available to those with enough capital that I start to despair. I can already picture Red Dead Redemption 2 going down the same route as Grand Theft Auto Online, which is a shame for a sequel to a game which prided itself on a deep and interesting world which rewarded players hard work.

I know that video games won’t ever be perfect, that the big companies have always ended up eating the small and that it has always be unfairly weighted towards those with more money. But at least playing games online used to be fun. At least there was a chance that with enough practice and effort you could bring down players with Scrooge McDuck-esque coffers. At some point, games stopped being about having fun and started being about squeezing every last penny out of players. If we want things to change we have to send a message, to Rockstar, EA, Ubisoft, Bethesda and every other game company that thinks they can get away with this. Don’t buy their games.

2nd Year Social Policy and Political Science student, Olympic pole-vaulting hopeful and massive liar (@alexjtaljaard)


27th February 2018 at 9:00 am

Images from

Hardcore Gamer, Forbes and GTA V Mods