Online gaming companies are always trying to come up with new and clever ways to insidiously drain our bank accounts, and while some are more subtle in their attempts than others, there are still times when fans will rise up and shout in unison that enough is enough. One such instance has occurred recently with developer CCP’s sci-fi MMO, EVE Online, where an in-game riot occurred after the release of the game’s latest expansion ‘Incarna.’ Aside from its other features, the expansion introduces a new microtransaction system which allows players to purchase in game items using out of game currency (aka money). The riot consisted of large groups of players declaring war on the game’s most highly populated and profitable trade hubs, such as Jita and Amarr, in an attempt to shut them down entirely, whilst spamming “no forced Incarna!” in local chat.
Not only is this event rather comical in nature, but it also raises questions that stretch beyond the limits of EVE Online, as more and more online games add the option for purchasing virtual items and benefits with cold hard cash. I can personally recall spending more money, within a matter of days, on the Lord of the Rings Online in-game store than I ever would have spent on a monthly subscription, yet I constantly see web banners boasting that it is ‘Free to Play!’ The same story could also be told from countless others with games such as Dungeon Fighter Online or League of Legends, even if some would be less than proud to admit it. But it is hard to deny the fact that if the bastards are clever enough to make a game that can hold your attention for such vast spans of time, coercing you into dishing out seemingly small amounts of cash again and again with the click of the button would seem like a minor feat, at best.
In truth, the real irony of the situation with in-game stores and micro transactions is that most of us are fully aware of the ironclad grip that our favorite online games have upon our souls, yet all we can seem to do is ask for more. But how do you really feel? Do you enjoy the option of purchasing your ‘achievements’ in games with the use of your credit card? After all, gold sellers have been cashing in on this idea for years, why shouldn’t the developers jump on board? There are even rumors that through Activision’s divine influence, Blizzard might be adding a microtransaction store to Star Craft II and their highly anticipated dungeon crawler, Diablo III. But even if Diablo III remains untainted and said rumors prove false, doesn’t the mere possibility stir up a sense of fear and even anger? I personally think I spend enough money on games as it is, and could do without spending even more while I’m actually playing them.