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The Changing Tides of the Gaming Industry: From Complete Packages to Freemium Nightmares

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Once upon a time, you could walk into a store, pick up a video game off the shelf, and what you saw was what you got. Ah, those were the days when games were sold as complete packages, spanning from the 80s through to the early 2010s. Fast forward to today, and the landscape has drastically changed, leaving gamers wary and frustrated. Let's explore how the gaming industry's monetization strategies have evolved over the years and why gamers are calling for a re-evaluation of these tactics.

The Golden Era: A Time of Complete Games

Back in the day, purchasing a video game meant that you got the entire experience, no strings attached. From the iconic arcade titles of the 80s to the era of PlayStation and Xbox, a game was a finished product. There were no DLCs (Downloadable Content), no patches, and no updates needed to make it functional. It was a simpler, and arguably better, time in gaming.

Case Study: Super Mario Bros.

Imagine going to a store and picking up a copy of Super Mario Bros. for the NES. You insert the cartridge, and you get the complete game, from start to finish. No additional downloads, no extra levels hidden behind a paywall—just a straightforward, enjoyable experience.

PlayStation is renowned for its exclusive titles, such as God of War, Spider-Man, and Horizon Zero Dawn, which showcase the console's graphics and performance capabilities. Xbox is celebrated for its online services, including Xbox Live and Game Pass that allow users to access a large library of games and engage with others online. Both consoles offer complete games that do not require any additional downloads or purchases to enjoy the full content and story.

The Rise of Microtransactions: A Double-Edged Sword

Then came microtransactions, an initially innocent experiment that turned into a greedy goldmine for game publishers.

One of the most notorious examples is FIFA's Ultimate Team mode. What started as a fun addition quickly morphed into a gambling service accessible to everyone, including underage players. And guess what? These microtransactions proved to be incredibly profitable, tilting the focus of many game developers from gameplay quality to monetization.

Case Study: FIFA's Ultimate Team

FIFA's Ultimate Team mode began as a small fun add-on, where you could purchase virtual packs to improve your squad. However, it turned into a lottery system, with players spending huge amounts of money in the hopes of landing a top-tier player.

Microtransactions have proved to be incredibly profitable, shifting the focus of many game developers from gameplay quality to monetization.

The Freemium Model: A Game-Changer

When Fortnite burst onto the scene, it revolutionized the business model. Here was a high-quality game that was free to play but made its fortune through in-game purchases.

Case Study: Fortnite

Fortnite offered a free-to-play model but generated billions through in-game purchases like skins, emotes, and battle passes. Players didn't have to spend a dime to enjoy the game, but many chose to spend on extras that enhanced their experience.

This approach rapidly permeated the industry. Even when a genuinely complete game like Baldur's Gate 3 comes along, it's met with surprise and relief, highlighting just how much the industry has shifted.

The Age of 'Freemium' and Membership Locks

Today, the majority of games are "freemium", locking the full experience behind a paywall. Even full-priced games often have built-in membership models that demand more money for additional features. Gamers, naturally, are not thrilled with this aggressive monetization, especially when crypto components come into play.

Cryptocurrency: A Thorn in Gamers' Sides

Crypto in gaming has become a serious point of contention. The reason? It monetizes every single aspect of the experience.

Case Study: Axie Infinity

In the popular web3 game: Axie Infinity, players can earn cryptocurrency by participating in the game. However, wealthier players can essentially "hire" players from economically disadvantaged countries to play the game for them, offering only a fraction of the potential earnings. This has led to debates about economic disparity within gaming.

The Risk for AAA Game Companies

High-profile gaming companies are eager to cash in on the financial potential of crypto games. However, this focus on monetisation risks their standing within gaming communities, who are increasingly resistant to blockchain components in games.

What Should Game Companies Do?

It's time for game companies to shift their focus back to what really matters: creating engaging, immersive, and complete experiences for gamers. While monetization is undoubtedly an essential aspect of the industry, it shouldn't overshadow the quality of the game. Companies should work closely with their player communities to develop mutually beneficial features.

So, what's the takeaway? The industry needs to reassess its priorities. While making a profit is inevitable, this shouldn't compromise the essence of what makes gaming enjoyable. A well-crafted, fair, and entertaining game should always be the ultimate goal, as failing to deliver on this front does a disservice to gamers worldwide.

About the Author

Luc Muhizi is a visionary writer and financial analyst who aims to demystify the complex world of Decentralized Finance for everyone. Whether you are a beginner or have some experience, Luc provides the insights to guide you through this financial revolution. Luc is also the Chief Tech Director at HAZEYouth, a nonprofit that champions youth empowerment, encourages creative thinking, and lifelong learning to unlock young people's potential.

29 views3 comments


nsabimana canisius
nsabimana canisius
Nov 09, 2023

This is interesting


Nov 08, 2023

Thank you for sharing.

Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
Nov 08, 2023
Replying to

You're welcome, and thank you for taking the time to read it. Sharing these experiences and knowledge is key to building understanding and compassion in the struggle against addiction. Your engagement is much appreciated!




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