Take-Two Interactive, the publisher of various games like Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto titles, had its CEO Strauss Zelnick explain the role of microtransactions in video games these days, mainly to make up for lost revenue and prevent financial disasters from complete flops like Gearbox’s hero shooter Battleborn, which released last year.
Battleborn had the extreme misfortune to come out only two weeks before Blizzard’s team-based hero shooter Overwatch, and despite receiving fairly positive reviews quickly fell by the wayside as Overwatch sales rapidly eclipsed it, leaving it to fall into obscurity like a rock full of financial failure.
Zelnick has said that in order to prevent other financial disappointments or outright disasters like Battleborn, publishers need the buffers given by microtransactions as a sort of risk reducer, meaning that if a game fails but makes at least some money off of microtransactions that it’s not as much of a flop.
Despite how many people hate them due to their nickle-and-diming of players in order to get you good gear to make you better at the game faster, the role of microtransactions is significant, and can spell the difference between a financial disaster or just a loss in profits for a small studio, which could end up being shut down if they produce a flop.
Considering how expensive developing games is, having at least some sort of cushion through microtransactions can allow developers to get some sort of return on investment rather than getting a flop and losing all of that developer money for no return.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War, for example, could be used to explain the role of microtransactions. Though the game hasn’t sold as well as its predecessor (physically at least) it did offer some microtransactions mainly in the form of gear and orcs in order to power up players. This had the side effect of making many fans angry, but there’s also the fact that the microtransactions can make up for the sales deficit.