The Daily Grind: When are ‘microtransactions’ too much in MMOs?


Two money-related topics crossed my desk the last couple of weeks. The first was a Reddit topic complaining about microtransactions in MMOs – not the fact that they exist but the fact that they’re not “micro” in any sense of the term. When the idea of microtransactions first rolled around, we assumed it’d be measured in pennies, and there were a handful of titles – City of Heroes comes to mind – that did charge tiny fees. But of course, we also had $25 sparkleponies pretty early on, and now that’s blossomed into tens, hundreds, and even thousands of dollars. “Don’t downplay the seriousness or impact of these negative behaviors by giving them diminutive and deceptive names,” the OP wrote, and I completely agree with him, which is precisely why I don’t call gambleboxes or lockboxes the publisher-preferred “lootboxes.”

The second is the case in point to the second: An Elder Scrolls Online influencer took to Twitter to criticize the game’s Crown Store, specifically how recent mounts – that would have cost closer to $40 in currency before, which is already exorbitant – are now being placed behind gambling paywalls that could take hundreds to get through the system meant to make gambling less gross. The whole thing is maddening.

What are your thoughts on the current state of “microtransactions” in MMOs? When are they just plain too much?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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when they are > 0


Depends how much game I’m getting. I was able to look past a lot of BDO’s microtransactions and various pay4convienence, “unpleasant design” schemes because there’s a hell of a lot of game for BDO and they’re expanding upon it constantly.

However that doesn’t mean tolerance or patience with that is infinite. Broken cash shop mechanics that steal my money (skill transfers) or putting direct chances for power gains in the cash shop (costume melting) turned the money spigot off for me.


Their mere existence is too much for me.

If you need them to fund your game, then imo you havent built a good enough game. If you don’t need them to fund your game, then you’re just being greedy.

All that said, if you absolutely insist on putting MTX in your game, then £1 max is where I draw the line. I’ve never spent a single penny on a microtransaction because I’ve yet to see a single one that is worth the price being asked. But, if I started seeing outfits for 50p, or an epic mount of £1, even I might be convinced to make a purchase.

Bryan Correll

I’m usually pretty lenient on PoE since you really can actually play the game for free. Inventory management will get ugly and you will always look like a hobo or, at best, someone who doesn’t know how to put an outfit together (some unique items do have really nice basic skins but you’ll never get a whole outfit that matches.)
I don’t consider the special/extra inventory stash tabs too bad, you can get all but the what most packrattish of players would need for about the base price of a base AAA game if you buy when they go on sale once a month.
But many of the cosmetic items are ridiculously overpriced.* The Apollyon Armor pack, for example:

That set (head, body, hand, and foot pieces) is going to set you back $84. And that’s at a discount. If you bought the four individual separately it would be an $108. And there’s an alternate head piece that’s not part of the pack for $20. I’m glad I personally think this ensemble with a Mysterio helmet looks terrible.
Would like to add the the matching wings?

That’s going to cost you $64. Just for the wings. On your character that will never be able to fly.**
Now there aren’t sets that cost more than that***, but there are others that cost just as much.
And their lockboxes at $30 a pop are a bad deal even among lockboxes. That’s because unlike most games you have no way to trade away any duplicates. Buy a pile of the current Midnight Pact boxes and end up with four scavenger bat pets? Hope you like scavenger bats cause you’re stuck with em. At least pets can be used as hideout decorations. If you’ve got your heart set on something that’s in a lockbox just be patient. A month after they retire the box everything in it will be available as individual items. Seriously, never buy PoE lockboxes. If they run a “get free lockbox with purchase” special you can have one then. If there’s nothing else on sale at the time that you want you can just grab one of those $5 pet wetas.

* Prices are listed assuming full price is paid for points and that the item is not on sale. But don’t ever buy points at full price (buy supporter packs that include limited time cosmetics with the points) or buy anything from the cash shop that isn’t on sale.
** Someone out there likes non-functional wings a lot more than I do or there wouldn’t be so many of them available.
*** Of individual armor sets, at least. You can pay $91 to get four different colored versions of this same set:

Um, /rantoff


Too pricey for me. But I like cosmetic wings… ( T-T )

I’ve probably spent stupid amounts of money on them in the games I do play. And in this context, yes, I’ll admit that I think “$5.99 for an account unlock” is probably still stupid expensive for an imaginary thing that doesn’t even do imaginary things, it’s just a pointy cape.


If it’s behind a lockbox, it’s too expensive. That’s a system designed to randomize the cost and heavily biased towards the ones who can both set the odds and even dynamically shift them (but they totally promise not to make it less likely to win the grand prize if a known whale is playing… honest.) The only items that have gotten my money are the ones where the price is clearly listed, and preferably in real money. (And not the in-game funny money which is almost always sold in blocks designed so that you always have either way too much or not enough, and at weird conversion rates to make it really hard to hold in your head how much real money each coil/token is worth.)

I’m not in a position right now to buy much of anything. I’m much less likely to buy anything in general if the price isn’t listed up front, in real money.


I Have subbed yearly since offered in eso, I also purchase the largest crown pack when its on sale at the end of the year. I prefer buying stuff directly however I always purchase some crown crates with the left overs……. sometimes I get something I didnt know I wanted.

Reginald Atkins

when you have to pay to hide a helm… (yes I’m looking at you SWTOR)

Any and every gacha game that has ever existed or will exist.


The “Nickel and Dime” approach to basic features is definitely one way they can end up being “too much” in an MMO. Hiding helm? Hotbar access? Hell, you have to pay a couple bucks to be able to display titles on characters on your account. That’s just egregious.


I hate loot boxes, let me pay for things I want directly. I also hate temporary items like mounts or skins. I stated in another article that I would prefer to use real currency to buy things rather than premium currency packs but that’s a pipe dream.

I’ve had to realize that the AAA studios aren’t going to change so either I don’t play the game and for the most part I don’t, or I deal with the microtransactions. That’s all you can do. If I feel pressured too much or my purchasing anxiety creeps in I just have to stop playing. Genshin Impact is one where I enjoyed the game but I just couldn’t deal with the Gacha stuff so I had to quit.

IronSalamander8 .

I don’t like them at all. It’s sickening how they’ve become the norm, and one of my complaints that I will direct even at games I like, such as FF14 and Garden Warfare 2. I can tolerate them to a point, especially in a ‘free’ game, but it always rankles and the number one reason I stopped playing PvZ2 is how insanely monetized it became.

I have bought some, despite my own dislike of the practice. That’s how ubiquitous they’ve become in the modern video game market.


When I tried to play it, Plants vs Zombies 2 also made a couple of other subtle changes that made it almost mandatory to buy buy buy to even finish most of the levels. A big one is that they shaved a couple of squares off the lanes. I forget the exact count, but in the first game lanes were a certain length, giving you lots of lawn to defend and then a couple of “unbuildable” squares for the zombies to spawn in and shuffle forward. PvZ2 quietly chopped about two squares of lawn, which made it MUCH harder to defend. (Less room to place defenses, and less time to recover when something did break through.) But they sell a consumable that damage every zombie on the map for the low low price of (random number) ZomBucks, or whatever nonsense their currency was called.

I tried to play without spending anything, and it became *really* obvious that the later levels were tuned with the expectation of using multiple boosts and consumable to finish, and were increasingly trending towards “I don’t think this is even possible” just using the non-paid mechanics.

Ben Stone

For me its when it crosses over into gameplay. I don’t want to be nickled and dimed for character progression or things that are essential to enjoy the game. I just won’t play unless the game is enjoyable without microtransactions. Happy to buy mounts skins, cosmetics etc. But why would I bother unless I am enjoying myself in the game already?

ESO never really got the store prices right. I think they would make way more money if they made skins / costumes / mounts around the $10 mark max. But to the games credit, if you subscribe you never really feel like you ‘need’ anything from the store.