I Hate Cash Shops

I’ve tried tolerating them. I’ve tried rationalizing them, and I’ve tried to ignore them. You know what though? I just plain hate cash shops in full-priced video games. I hate the effect the presence of those shops tend to have on the games that employ them, and I hate the lie that supposedly justifies their presence. Cash shops just plain stink!

I hope you’ll pardon my bluntness, but I’ve been playing Anthem lately and I’m getting very tired of seeing games like it hampered by their cash shops. People seem to think that these shops exist in a kind of bubble within their games, but that’s absolutely not the case. Games must be designed in a way that supports a cash shop. Some do it better than others, but there’s no getting around this. They have to have systems in place to both support the shop and encourage players to engage with it. Anthem is a great example of this. Actually, it’s a perfect example.

In Anthem, the only way to get new cosmetic items for one’s mech suit (called a “Javelin” in-game), is to visit the cash shop and spend some money. That money can either be the standard “coin” currency or the premium “shards” currency. No matter what one chooses to spend though there are problems. Stock is limited to 6 items at any given time; those items are priced in a way that makes them unappealing, and those items are often uninteresting to begin with. It’s a cruddy system that makes the already underwhelming loot game that much worse. This is all beside the larger issue though: Anthem had to be designed in a way that makes this type of shop possible.

Consider this: EA/BioWare came out a year or so ago and said that all items in the shop would only be cosmetic. That’s fine (I guess), but they also touted that players would have a lot of freedom to customize their Javelins. This created a problem of what exactly they could sell in that shop. They couldn’t sell color schemes like Destiny does since that would impede player’s ability to customize freely. They couldn’t just limit the store to dances, emotes, and graphics either since most players wouldn’t care about them. They couldn’t even sell weapon skins since their loot doesn’t support that (really, it doesn’t). So what do they do? They put all the armor pieces in the shop, and make it so almost nothing else has a cosmetic effect on one’s Javelin.

This choice had two consequences. The first is that they couldn’t make armor pieces tactically interesting to players (cosmetic-only, remember?) , and the second is that players would never be able to find anything cool as a loot drop. Considering that half of the fun of a looter-shooter comes from finding cool gear and seeing the gear of others, this was an awful decision. One can change the color scheme of their suit all they want, but that’ll only suffice for so long. Changing an upgrading one’s appearance is essential in this kind of game, and they crippled player’s ability to do it for the sake of their otherwise useless cash shop.

Then there are games like Destiny 2 and Call of Duty Black Ops 4. Both games implemented cash shops in the name of supporting the developers and keeping DLC free. That’s not what happened though. In Destiny 2’s case, players still have to pay for a season pass (now called an “annual pass”) if they want to keep up with all the new content. As for Black Ops 4, the DLC may be free, but players are still asked to pay through the nose for everything, even something as simple as a dot for their weapon’s scope. There’s no “supporting the devs” here. Both of these shops were their to pad the profit margins of Activision. This might not be the case with Destiny anymore (we’ll see in the coming months), but it is definitely true of Black Ops 4. And what was the result of all the millions poured into those shops? Massive layoffs at Activision and an excessive sign-on bonus for a new executive. Cash shops in “AAA” games are not there to support the developers or continued development of the game (at least not in most cases).

So yeah, I hate cash shops. They compromise the design of the games that host them, and they’re often implemented under false pretenses. Gaming as a whole would be much better-off without them.


What’s your take on cash shops? Are there any redeeming qualities to them?

Lede image captured by Hatmonster

4 Comments

  1. Interesting post.

    I get where you’re coming from.

    I think the Mictrotranaction System aka Cash Shop is meant to keep the servers up.

    You need people to do it and they need to get paid to keep it going.

    You can always choose to ignore that part of the game and still play.

    Maybe someday BioWare and EA will make the game’s cash shop less painful for you.

    We’ll see what this game is in store for us in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      I have heard that said, but the thing is that we’ve had online games in the past that had no problem staying online without the cash shop keeping them going.

      As for just ignoring it, I don’t see it as a solution to the problem. I already don’t engage with these shops, but the overall experience is still affected by them. The games are designed to accommodate them and encourage them, which means that instead of developing interesting gameplay that rewards players with unlocks, we get shallower, grindy gameplay that encourages going to the shop. That’s what I want to see go away.

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