Microtransactions. Everyone in gaming circles has seen this things. You pay a small amount of real life money to get something instantly rather than having to grind for hours and hours to get the same thing. Maybe you are buying something which can only be bought with real money on a free to play game. Maybe you’re getting your significant other that mount on World of Warcraft. Ubisoft in its infinite wisdom (yes, I’m being sarcastic) decided to get in on the action with its open world racing game The Crew. We took a look at these microtransactions and they’re quite heart-stopping viewing.
For those who aren’t aware, here’s a little bit of information. In The Crew you are able to earn a currency known as Bucks to purchase things like cars and visual modifications as well as pay off police fines. It’s a standard in-game currency which barely has any worthwhile reason for being mentioned on its own. When put in cahoots with Crew Credits, however, these Bucks become incredibly important. Crew Credits are The Crew‘s form of premium currency. If you’ve never heard of this, think of it like Disney dollars. You buy them with real money to spend within The Crew in place of spending Bucks. Recent examples include Platinum in Dragon Age: Inquisition and Assassin’s Creed Unity‘s Helix Credits.
Now we’re going to be fair here. Microtransactions do have a purpose. If you spend all day working and don’t have time to go driving around America for hours just to unlock your favorite car then they do become appealing. Hell, I’ll admit right now that I spent more than my fair share on Mass Effect 3‘s microtransaction currency. They also make fine gifts for friends on their birthday or for younger family members to keep them quiet. Sometimes though, it gets shocking.
That’s where The Crew comes in. If you were to go and collate the price of every car in the game , that’s 37 in all, when purchased with Crew Credits, you come to the sum of 2,574,749 Crew Credits. It doesn’t sound like too much to some and yet to others it will be a number of biblical proportions. When you look at how much this actually costs though, there’s every chance the crowd with shocked faces will grow several times larger. To purchase 600,000 Crew Credits you’d have to spend £39.99/$49.99. Before even looking at exchange rates, that’s a lot of money.
It gets worse. To get them all, you’ll have to buy a pack of 600,000 Crew Credits (also known as the Platinum pack) 4 times over and buy at least a Silver Pack which itself costs £15.99/$19.99. That’s £175.95/$219.95 just to get a fast track pass to a game you already paid a fairly substantial amount of money for. You could buy 3 copies of The Crew and still have enough change left over to buy a pretty good indie title on eighth generation consoles for that price. It boggles the mind that this could be the case.
Let’s take it out of the gaming world and out into reality here for a minute. Imagine for a moment you’re holding £175.95 in your hands. You could throw that money onto owning every single car in The Crew. Or, for £129.99, you could buy a day driving around Silverstone in a real Aston Martin V8 Vantage S. This even comes with a pair of tickets to one of the days in the British Formula One Grand Prix event. After all of that you’re still left with enough cash to get liberally plastered at the bar or get into a fairly nice hotel room.
In getting to this frankly astronomical figure some considerations were made. For one it was calculated ignoring the fact that you could actually buy cars with the cash you’ve earned while racing. Having said that, during my play through I was only able to get enough money into the coffers to scrape up a somewhat okay car for each of The Crew‘s 5 specs. It also doesn’t take into the fact that you can take a series of perks which reduces the cost of new cars by 30%. Even in doing that though you’re still left paying over £120/$150 to own every vehicle.
The arguments to be made in favor of this insane cost revolve around reducing the amount of time it takes to obtain a car. Would it really be worthwhile though? The Koenigsegg Agera R in The Crew costs 1,107,000 Bucks or 245,975 Crew Credits. So whichever way you look at it, that one car alone costs the equivalent of £20/$25 before taking anything else into account. To earn it in the game you’d be looking at getting involved in races that last well into an hour of your life at least 18 times. That’s if you come in first place. The Crew has this irritating feature where if you come in a lower position than third in the end-game Faction Missions, you get precisely nothing for that investment of time.
If you feel it’s worth skipping 18 hours of racing in a game about racing to get a car to race in then by all means you take pride in paying that £20/$25 price tag for your shiny collection of pixels. This whole thing brings into the realm of gaming the idea of an opportunity cost. An opportunity cost is the loss of alternatives when another is chosen and is quite an important factor in areas such as financial management and economic study. When you look at it in terms of The Crew, then Ubisoft and Black Tower’s intentions don’t necessarily come off as thinking about the player first.
The Crew is a racing game after all. People, including myself, bought this game to race across America. Why then should we be bombarded with the fact that we can skip out on 10+ hours of bare knuckle racing to get a car that looks pretty but may still not be anywhere near as good as one that’s been upgraded in the most basic of ways. Is anyone going to pay this fairly incredible amount of money for just one car when they could race around the country? Well, those who are money minded may not. There is one demographic that this is probably targeted towards which itself brings up a whole heap of ethical dilemmas – children.
That’s as in the children whose parents may have bought them their Xbox One/ PlayStation 4 as well as a copy of The Crew. These parents are undoubtedly then going to be bombarded with pester power until finally they give in, purchasing enough premium currency to buy The Crew again just to satiate their pride and joy’s need to have a cool car. We are even likely to hear of cases where a parent or guardian has left their credit card details linked to a PSN account only to discover a month later that their younger charge has bought a Laferrari with next month’s pet-food fund.
Microtransactions themselves don’t really bother many people. They are a necessary even of our current economic climate it seems. The people being The Crew however should be somewhat ashamed of themselves for what they have birthed into the world. We pay £54.99/$59.99 to get The Crew on Xbox One only to find the game is trying to make us spend over three times that amount to get cars without any work. It’s a shameful picture being painted of this industries dark future unless it can be changed.
Oh and it should be noted here, that Ubisoft are also guilty of this with Assassin’s Creed Unity. That has a currency pack for Helix which costs £64.99. The game isn’t even working properly yet!