In our first Thursday Throwdown we discussed the merits of purchasing a next-generation console on launch day or waiting it out a bit to enjoy the current generation a bit longer. This time around, our Thursday Throwdown subject is the recently discussed microtransactions that are about to hit Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto Online mode of play. In case you’re unaware, Rockstar is making it possible to purchase in-game cash for your real, hard earned money. Some of us are alright with this while others aren’t. It’s a touchy subject for gamers and is often more closely associated with Free-to-Play games than anything else, so we’re hoping this isn’t a trend starting its way towards consoles.
David Wales: I am completely against microtransactions for Grand Theft Auto Online. Honestly, I think the only way I’d be cool with it is if they were for aesthetic changes that had no bearings on gameplay whatsoever. Want to buy something cool for your house or buy officially licensed gear for your character? That’s cool. However, a big component to online worlds is a progression goal that you aim towards. Taking into account the fact that the main part of GTA:O is the ability to buy properties, weapons, vehicles, etc., that means you can essentially just buy whatever it is you’re wanting with real cash and forego the progression goal entirely.
I may be alone in this, but I feel like this limits my desire to play. If I don’t have an end goal in mind or a goal to progress towards, I usually lose interest in a game quickly. I’d much rather be able to get together with my crew of people and chip away at that house I want or that car I want to drive around in rather than send $5 Rockstar’s way in order to just buy it without any real effort at all. I think it’s a cop out. Sure, people have lives, but that just means you’re getting longer value out of your purchase.
Travis Tucker: I guess I am begrudgingly for the GTA Online microtransactions. Anytime there is a massively multiplayer online game (Face it: GTA Online is essentially an action MMO), centered around the idea of co-operative player interaction, there will always be a certain amount of pressure within a group to keep up with everyone else. There are going to be members of a guild — er, crew — that will have more time to invest into the game, meaning they will have the time to earn the necessary cash to purchase the best guns, car mods, houses, and vehicles. However, not everyone has the same luxury. People have jobs, spouses/significant others, kids, or other responsibilities in a complex life. If they want to remain a contributing member of their crew, they may have no other option than to buy a little extra in-game currency from Rockstar to get that big weapon to help with the latest heist.
I think I would be against the microtransactions if they were game breaking. If a player could shell out $50 to Rockstar right at the start and decimate all with the best weapons and mods, then I would understand any outrage sent Rockstar’s way. Players still have to level up and work towards being able to purchase the best weapons and mods; players still have to EARN what they can buy. The micro-transactions just help buy it when it is needed.
Joe Garcia: I was on the fence when I first heard about the microtransactions in Grand Theft Auto Online, and I’ve yet to be swayed either way.
On the one hand, the idea of being able to buy your way to the top of an online game — after an initial $60 purchase, to boot — has always rubbed me the wrong way. Knowing that countless players will dutifully grind away for hours and days at a time to upgrade their character, only to be surpassed by someone with more money than sense, is an irritating notion. Whether or not they participated, Diablo 3’s real money Auction House on PC ruined the game for a lot of people, and it’s no surprise that it’s being phased out early next year.
Then again, there are people that would love nothing more than to pour dozens of hours into GTA Online to upgrade and customize their characters just so, but that’s not a possibility for everyone. Hell, I bought GTA V at a midnight launch last week and have barely hit the ten-hour mark. I get it. And unlike the Diablo 3 Auction House, anything and everything that people decide to pay for will be sold by Rockstar, and not some price gouging farmer lacking the real world skills to get a real job. Don’t forget the astronomical cost of maintaining a game of GTA’s scale and player base online — $1 billion or not, it’s not cheap.
The purist in me would rather not see them at all, but I can’t begrudge Rockstar for including the microtransactions or anyone who buys into them.