Pay-To-Win: Worse Than Being Tinder Matched With Your Sister

I'm not a huge mobile gamer. I normally stick to Sudoku, Solitaire and Minesweeper, y'know, the traditional, basic fodder to kill time while I'm sitting on the toilet with my feet going numb. But every now and again, I'll download a recent Crush clone or something similar, play it for a while, then promptly delete it when I hit the frustration wall, that level that refuses to be beaten without one or several purchasable power-ups, because I'll be damned if I'll ever spend real money to buy fake currencies to overcome manufactured difficulty spikes.

Then I downloaded Mini Golf King. It ticks a lot of the 'risk vs reward' boxes that like to tickle the pleasure centers of the brain: earn coins, collect gems, earn various treasure chests with random booty inside, use in-game currencies to upgrade equipment, etc. I'm used to that, hence my affinity for the occasional Crush clone, but this one is multiplayer, so every match is head to head with another player somewhere in the world who's subjected to the exact same obstacles and opportunities as you on each hole; when you lose, it's not because the game is unfair, it's either because you underperformed, your opponent had slightly better gear than you, or a combination of the two. And you're always SOOOO close!!!

I'd be lying if I said, after losing a few matches in a row and watching my coins dwindle too low to pay the entry fee for another match, that I didn't BRIEFLY think about dropping the cash. $1.99? $5.99? Maybe $9.99?? It's just a few bucks, right? It was that moment when I dramatically took my (sun)glasses off, looked up slowly, and, mouth agape, sheepishly whispered the words: "oh my god." THIS is the diabolically evil genius of the current state of the pay-to-win cancer that has perverted mobile gaming and is more recently seeping into PC/console gaming. I'd heard of it, thought I knew it, but I'd never personally seen it; it's horrifying. I pride myself on being pretty strong-willed, able to sniff out bullshit and knowing when I'm being had; I've never once been tempted to buy shit in a free-to-play game, so for Mini Golf King to make me, even for a flash, think about falling into the P2W trap, was a come to Jebus moment; they're finding ways to reach us all. These games are being designed from the ground up to whittle down the strong, prey upon the weak and suck the marrow from the bones of the kill after they're dead. It's EVIL!! They've got a package of gold bars (the most valuable in-game currency) for $99.99!!! A HUNDRED dollars to buy shit in a free game; the phone I'm playing it on is barely worth $100; WTF?!?

I know none of this is news to most if not all of you; neither is it to me, but it was really jarring being "in the know," and still almost willingly falling for the long con. Similar to how I used to look at people strung out on drugs and wonder how in the hell they ever made the choice to use the first time? Not that those gravities are synonymous, but the point is, "the first time" is "only once" and never the worst idea at the time; it's the inevitable accumulation of times that add up to a life (money) wasted. I still plan on playing Mini Golf King, it's still a fun game, but I'm aware of my own potential for weakness and have reinforced my mental armor.

Keep in mind its not just about mental armor. These companies are insidious. They use psychologists and big data analytics to craft the perfect equation of microtransactions.
These games are designed to be easy and fun to start with to trigger chemical reactions in your brain, creating feelings of enjoyment and accomplishment. Then slowly, very slowly, lowering those chemical levels with reduced rewards until you're basically edging your own brain for happiness, and you can either walk away with brain blue balls, or give in for one, tiny, minuscule $.99 transaction.
One transaction becomes two, three, four, and at your fifth, well...maybe the $1.99 option, now that you've leveled up your city or base or dragon or whatever.

Its as insidious as putting nicotine in the water of an addiction clinic, and all the people looking to get clean really really like your water for some reason. And every month is seems to go up in price.

Silentpony:
Keep in mind its not just about mental armor. These companies are insidious. They use psychologists and big data analytics to craft the perfect equation of microtransactions.
These games are designed to be easy and fun to start with to trigger chemical reactions in your brain, creating feelings of enjoyment and accomplishment. Then slowly, very slowly, lowering those chemical levels with reduced rewards until you're basically edging your own brain for happiness, and you can either walk away with brain blue balls, or give in for one, tiny, minuscule $.99 transaction.
One transaction becomes two, three, four, and at your fifth, well...maybe the $1.99 option, now that you've leveled up your city or base or dragon or whatever.

Its as insidious as putting nicotine in the water of an addiction clinic, and all the people looking to get clean really really like your water for some reason. And every month is seems to go up in price.

I'd like to preface everything I'm about to say with overt self-awareness and state that I understand my next statements are textbook "addict" denials, lol.

I seriously don't have an addictive personality, so I'm not worried about ever cracking under pressure for superficial fun and spending ANY amount of money to succeed at a game I thoroughly enjoyed [to that point] for free. Ask any of a +dozen Crush clones I've uninstalled into the ether.

The specifics of my one moment of apparent weakness with Mini Golf King: after every match you win, you earn a treasure chest, either wood, bronze, silver, gold or diamond, common to super rare respectively. Well, you only have four slots to hold chests you've won, can't discard them, and each doesn't open immediately; you have to wait a certain amount of time: wood takes 30 minutes, Bronze takes 2 hours, Silver takes 4 hours, etc., and you can only open one chest at a time... see where they're going with this? You can keep playing the game as much as you like, but while you've got four full chest slots, even if a chest is on the clock to open, any chests you win you either lose, or have the "convenient" option to open immediately for an amount of gold bars (rarest in-game currency) equivalent to the chest's rarity, of course. It just so happens, I had four full slots, won a match, and got a diamond chest; never seen one before or since. My choice was to let the super rare, ultra-coveted diamond chest go, or pony up what I believe to be around $10 in real monies to open it then and there. "You'll spend more than $10 at lunch today, so it's not a lot of money," I said to myself directly before slapping the taste out of my own mouth and making the clear choice to let the Diamond Chest go to hell.

But you're absolutely right; the wickedly shrewd mechanics behind games such as these are damn-nigh unto criminal with their vicious, malicious intent. "The first one is always free," said every drug dealer ever; then you make them wait. Then you make them pay. Them you make them pay again, and again, and again. No, I'm too smart for that cycle; I'd not be able to live with myself if I fell for their shenanigans.

Oh, and just learned this little tidbit: Mini Golf King was developed by Bluehole PNIX, having some affiliation with the Bluehole of Player Unknown Battleground (PUBG) fame...

If you get Tinder matched with your sister, that means you swiped her to the right, you pervert.

Potjeslatinist:
If you get Tinder matched with your sister, that means you swiped her to the right, you pervert.

Because everyone on Tinder is exactly who their pic purports them to be? Hence my choice of thread title, deceptive and devastating on a deeply, emotionally/mentally scarring level. I've never used Tinder myself, but my buddy back home in Ohio has a couple of horror stories.

Potjeslatinist:
If you get Tinder matched with your sister, that means you swiped her to the right, you pervert.

On topic, I have never bought a loot box, in fact the only games I play with loot boxes are Overwatch and Rocket League. When I first started I had one look at the store, thought for a few seconds and then went "nah, not worth it". But I can see the attraction of them when there is a limited time event happening and you want to get all the available bits, I still don't care enough to buy them though.

Rocket League's lootboxes are a little more insidious. That game actually gives you a loot box and goes, "look, it could have all this stuff in it, just buy a key to find out what you get" and that method of loot box can frankly go fuck itself as I actually thought for a moment about buying one of their keys.

I have actively boycotted recent games with loot boxes in them, I don't think they deserve my money, the greedy fucking assholes. I'm glad that people are looking into this loot box craze at the moment before it got too far and I had to stop buying games full stop.

Catfood220:
SNIP

I'll admit to purchasing more than a few loot boxes in the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, but I maintain it was the best way to do lootboxes.
First off you could unlock lootboxes with in game currency you get from playing the multiplayer for free, and it wasn't hard to get the credits.
Second it wasn't just cosmetic, it was extra guns, abilities, classes and races, and you couldn't get doubles.
Third it wasn't vs, it was co-op, so me having extra supplies never negatively effected my team mates. If anything it made me more deadly, which meant I could play in harder matches.
And fourth, and to me most critical, the multiplayer directly effected the single player campaign. The galaxy ready map needed to get a good ending was improved by region the more you played the multiplayer. You could play a few matches, then return to the single player, and your game is improved slightly.

Outside of an equation like that, I can't support lootboxes. Never for competitive matches, never for only cosmetics, and never for a game that has no other in-game currency for lootboxes.

Well, after my recent brush with the state of things (i.e.: I got a Platinum chest this afternoon; the 12 hour wait for it to open began around noon,) I'm convinced there's no way to implement loot boxes that I won't immediately suspect of treachery and/or laziness. I understand they can be implemented in better or worse ways, but to me, I now see it as either a callous cash grab or poor design, the latter meaning games found ways to implement power-ups, bonuses and in-game rewards systems without such flat and blatant immersion-breaking store fronts long before the Fat Cat Moneybags in corporate whereversville decided games fashioned into siphons to tap into the user base's wallets for a source of perpetual income should be a thing.

It's funny how they want to cite increased development costs as a reason for loot boxes and microtransactions when you think of all the extra effort AND MONEY they're putting into studying exactly how best they can incorporate manipulation into their game design to elicit more money. Are we stuck in a causal loop? Are we paying more because it costs additional money for them to design games that cause us to pay more?

In my lifetime I have paid an approximate total of $25 towards three different F2P games. I consider the money paid to be what I estimate my enjoyment of the game to be worth. I mean, people did program these games and keep making updates for them, so I feel it is only fair that their effort be rewarded somehow if I continue to play the game. But I always give myself a hard limit.

One game has received $15 from me, and that's all it is ever going to get out of me because I feel the entertainment value the game provides is no greater than that. Meanwhile, someone else in that game just announced today that they dropped yet another $100 and still didn't get the thing they were hoping to get. That is just insane to me! $100 in the hopes of getting an in-game only item, I mean it's just gambling at this point, isn't it?

COMaestro:
In my lifetime I have paid an approximate total of $25 towards three different F2P games. I consider the money paid to be what I estimate my enjoyment of the game to be worth. I mean, people did program these games and keep making updates for them, so I feel it is only fair that their effort be rewarded somehow if I continue to play the game. But I always give myself a hard limit.

One game has received $15 from me, and that's all it is ever going to get out of me because I feel the entertainment value the game provides is no greater than that. Meanwhile, someone else in that game just announced today that they dropped yet another $100 and still didn't get the thing they were hoping to get. That is just insane to me! $100 in the hopes of getting an in-game only item, I mean it's just gambling at this point, isn't it?

And therein lies the rub. I've no problem investing in a game I like IF I know what I'm getting, but the randomness of loot boxes is where devs show their purely evil and selfish face. If I pay $100 towards something in a game, "hope" and "luck" had best be the last two nouns on the long list of all of them defining what my expectations should rest on. I wouldn't go to a car dealership with cold, hard cash enough to buy the exact car I want in the "hopes" I'm "lucky" enough that said car is what the benevolent car dealership pulls out the garage. I wouldn't go to a 5-star restaurant in the "hopes" I'm "lucky" enough the $60 I'm paying for a 5-star steak doesn't net me eight 2-star cheeseburgers and a small fry. It's bull shittery of the highest order; it's textbook gambling; it's paying for a chance which, if I walk into a casino, that's what I expect; that's on me. But when I buy a game, I'm not paying for a chance to enjoy it fully let alone am I willing to pay MORE for MORE chances.

There is only ONE game that I support microtransactions on and that is Guild Wars 2. You know why? BECAUSE IT EARNS IT. They provide a superior true-online gaming service for a one-time fee. No monthly subs whatsoever. That is the only game.

After watching Game Grumps play Runescape, it occured to me that it was Runescape that planted the seed of hate I have for "F2P" games, since I wanted to like it, but all this stuff was hidden behind a paywall. Constantly finding something cool and it going "Members only" or whatever at me infuriated me.

Arnoxthe1:
There is only ONE game that I support microtransactions on and that is Guild Wars 2. You know why? BECAUSE IT EARNS IT. They provide a superior true-online gaming service for a one-time fee. No monthly subs whatsoever. That is the only game.

I liked it when it was buy it to play. Plus you could use in game currency to buy gems, though it was pretty inflated when I was neck deep in it, but I bought 7 extra character slots, 2 or 3 bank upgrades, and some other stuff, without spending a single penny beyond the game disc.

Cant imagine how inflated gold to gems are now though.

Now I stick to ESO...much for the same reasons I used to love Guild Wars 2. I have bought crowns but thats cause thats how you buy most of the DLC. (And I only ever bought crowns on sale)

I refuse to buy those dumb crates though. I'll take all the free ones, but fuck that gambling BS.

Silentpony:

And fourth, and to me most critical, the multiplayer directly effected the single player campaign. The galaxy ready map needed to get a good ending was improved by region the more you played the multiplayer. You could play a few matches, then return to the single player, and your game is improved slightly.

Wait, What?!?! The living fuck!?

I would've had to get an X-box Gold account and actually play the multiplayer just to do the single player properly? Now I'm glad I never bothered finishing the third game, would've never got the "good" ending anyway.

pro tip: i find being poor relatively quite challenged in the financial department helps strengthen resistance to these sneaky business practices

Catfood220:

On topic, I have never bought a loot box, in fact the only games I play with loot boxes are Overwatch and Rocket League. When I first started I had one look at the store, thought for a few seconds and then went "nah, not worth it". But I can see the attraction of them when there is a limited time event happening and you want to get all the available bits, I still don't care enough to buy them though.

Rocket League's lootboxes are a little more insidious. That game actually gives you a loot box and goes, "look, it could have all this stuff in it, just buy a key to find out what you get" and that method of loot box can frankly go fuck itself as I actually thought for a moment about buying one of their keys.

I have actively boycotted recent games with loot boxes in them, I don't think they deserve my money, the greedy fucking assholes. I'm glad that people are looking into this loot box craze at the moment before it got too far and I had to stop buying games full stop.

oh, shit, yeah I booted that game up for the first time in ages recently only to find how they 'enhanced' the options and could only let out a heavy, weary sigh before giving up all hope for its' future and haven't felt any desire to go back to it since

 

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