In gaming, microtransactions are a revenue-generation model that allows gamers to purchase virtual items with digital payments.

These items are typically cosmetic, allowing players to customize their character or weaponry. In many multiplayer games, like Fortnite or Call of Duty, these small purchases are superficial and have little impact on the gaming experience.

However, gamers take umbrage when developers needlessly push these small add-ons in single-player experiences. And these adverse reactions can hurt the reputation of a game. Just look at Dragon’s Dogma 2.

Take up arms, newly Arisen, against microtransactions

Released to glowing reviews in March, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is the long-awaited sequel to Capcom’s 2012 cult original. But despite its critical acclaim, the game launched to “Mostly Negative” user reviews on the PC distribution service Steam (it has risen to “Mixed” in the weeks since its release). The prime reason for this was the ridiculous amount of microtransactions that greeted players upon booting up the game.

Though many of these add-ons are being sold for under a dollar, it is understandable that many gamers felt a little ripped off after paying $70 for a game only to be bombarded with offers to buy extra content on the day of launch.

Crucially, Dragon’s Dogma 2 is an entirely single-player game. The microtransactions on offer are there to make the game easier. Mostly, they allow players to access certain items sooner or gain more rare items.

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However, players were understandably unaware of the rarity of in-game items when starting the game. So many felt annoyed when they were given the option to buy the in-game item “The Art of Metamorphosis” for example, which allows players to edit their character’s appearance. Many people assumed this was the only way to alter a character’s appearance, typically a standard feature of any role-playing game (RPG), and assumed Capcom was charging extra for standard features.

In fact, this item is not difficult to obtain in the game, being available from in-game vendors early on. The ready availability of these items in-game makes the microtransactions even more baffling. Who, exactly, are they for?

The joy of inconvenience

In Dragon’s Dogma 2, things are meant to be inconvenient. The game is supposed to be challenging. For example, the original game prided itself on its lack of fast travel, meaning players had to walk everywhere. And with a map that is at least four times as big, the sequel expands on that.

The game can be unwaveringly difficult, especially in the first few hours. But many of these microtransactions aim to make the game much easier, such as the ‘Portcrystal’ add-on (another item easily found in-game), which helps eliminate a lot of the tedious walking. But that’s the point of the game, and it begs the question of prospective microtransaction buyers: Why are you playing this game anyway?

Bad reputations

Microtransactions have always had a bad reputation among gamers. But if you bought armour for your horse in Oblivion in 2006, that was your decision. Your friends would probably laugh at you if they found out, but you weren’t tampering with the basic makeup of the game.

Taking the challenge out of a game renowned for its challenge is bewildering. They don’t fit the world the developers have strived to build. In the case of Dragon’s Dogma 2, the purchases are likely to be something forced on developers by the publisher. Unsurprisingly, other Capcom games also feature long lists of microtransactions—both Monster Hunter Rise and 2023’s Resident Evil 4 remake had them in abundance—suggesting that this might be company policy.

The customer is always right about microtransactions

Since the backlash, other developers have pledged their commitment to keeping microtransactions out of their single-player games. In an interview with (translated), CD Projekt RED’s chief financial officer Piotr Nielubowicz stated, “We do not see a place for microtransactions in the case of single-player games.” As a company that felt the wrath of consumers following its disastrous launch and subsequent redemption of Cyberpunk 2077, it is understandable that CD Projekt Red is firmly putting its foot down.

Ultimately, this is perhaps all for naught. The deluge of microtransactions may have threatened the reputation of this highly awaited game, but it has already sold 2.5 million copies, something it took the first game two years to achieve.

Capcom has since addressed the microtransaction concerns, stating that these items are all obtainable in-game, but has shown no sign of altering its long-term plans regarding paid downloadable content (DLC) items. So, what’s the lesson for developers and publishers? That online backlashes don’t affect sales? Or have paid microtransactions simply become an accepted part of the gaming landscape? Only time will tell.

However, with microtransactions already causing a backlash for another of 2024’s big releases, gaming publishers might decide to err on the side of caution and dial things back.