The boldness of AAA gaming companies in stuffing their big titles with in-game purchases has become extreme. Most recently, Konami decided to sell extra character save slots in Metal Gear Survive for $10 each (but would we expect anything less from those guys?) It’s gotten bad enough that some US Senators are proposing legislation on microtransactions, and some states like Hawaii are considering a statewide ban.
The outrage from gamers, and parents of smaller gamers, has also been heard by the ESRB, who announced today they plan to require a specific label on the package of any game that begs for more money beyond the cost of the game itself. This label will not be part of the content descriptors on the back, where parents could miss it — rather, it’ll be given its own prominent label.
Sounds good at first glance, but when you think about it, this actually solves nothing. The problem is in how vague the term is. “In-game purchases” covers a lot of ground, from psychological gambling tactics to optional alternate clothing to one solitary extra DLC chapter (The Last Of Us could get this label if it were reprinted). There aren’t very many games being sold today that wouldn’t fall under this broad definition, and if every game has that label, people will just ignore it.
So what would really help consumers? Just like people want to know how much coarse content is in a game prior to buying it, they also want to know how bad the microtransactions are in it. So here’s our idea: a series of ratings indicating the level of in-game purchases in order of severity. “This game is rated R for intense money-grubbing,” the box on Metal Gear Survive should say.