Published on September 29th, 2011 | by Tatterr
Community Beat #5: Did We Dodge the P2P Bullet?
A microtransaction, or micro payment is defined by Wikipedia as:
A micropayment is a financial transaction involving a very small sum of money and usually one that occurs online. PayPal defines a micropayment as a transaction of less than 12 USD while Visa prefers transactions under 20 Australian dollars, and though micropayments were originally envisioned to involve much smaller sums of money, practical systems to allow transactions of less than 1 USD have seen little success.
While the terms micropayment, microtransactions, or P2P, have been the buzz this past couple years. This theorem, or wet dream is far from new and contrary to popular belief was not completely contrived by Activision CEO Bobby Kotick. In fact it has been around since the 1990’s. It was long hoped that this could replace ad revenues, and was actual once attempted to be pr0grammed into HTTP error codes. However this idea was abandoned due to no cost effective way to process such small transactions effectively.
With the panic that washed across the interwebz with the announcement of the Call of Duty Elite service and the P2P service being released in China. I pictured a reenactment of a Modern Warfare “Black Friday” with gamers running around frantically screaming “Pay to PLAAAAAAY!!!” As they threw themselves out of windows, etc. Fortunately it was never escalated to that extent but there were some strongly pointed blog entries that vented their disgust of the corporate money making machine dipping its grubby mits into our beloved Call of Duty franchise. Activision, Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer, and of course Beachhead Studios were all quick to re-assure us that this was in no way a P2P service for Call of Duty.
So far they are correct it isn’t. It is a purely optional service that requires you to only pay for “premium” content, including monthly DLC. I have stated before that the Elite service was the Facebook for Call of Duty fans. It is, and so much more. At the Call of Duty XP event they rolled out some of their ideas for the premium content. Services to help make you a better player as well as premium content web series like shows with celebrity guest hosts, etc. All to be viewed, shared, tweeted, and even “liked” to their Facebook accounts most likely. No need for microtransactions with all the ad revenue they will generate from this sites traffic. That’s not the end though. They took it one step further. Now you can literally eat and drink your way to success in Call of Duty. With Mountain Dew, and Doritos double XP codes.
Don’t take this the wrong way. I am not opposed to innovation. Neither am I opposed to a business finding a creative way to capitalize on something that no one else has thought of, or been successful at. Now similar models to this has been tried with limited success. One that I personally remember was Skannerz. A game like Pokemon, but you scanned UPC codes off of boxes and other items. This unlocked a creature that you could use in a battle, or could store and train. You also unlocked armor, items, and potions to heal your character or help them in battle. Now Skannerz was an amazing concept, especially for it’s time, I believe it surfaced around 1993. However, it never really took off or made millions. One flaw was there was no real incentive for a company to work with them. All one had to do was scan the product, not actually purchase it. This of course led to people scouring aisles in grocery markets scanning items on the shelves and then putting them back. A nuisance for the stock boy, but no real way for Post or General Mills, etc. to profit from it.
The Doritos and Mountain Dew will work, and it will probably do quite well. People that already drink soda will now probably purchase that specific Mountain Dew if it’s available. Those who are like me and only drink soda on a rare occasion will still most likely buy that specific Mountain Dew, or those chips. Why? Because Call of Duty gave it value to me. It lets me feel like I’m being rewarded for my purchase with something I enjoy, something I care about, something I will use. That is why we haven’t escaped the microtransaction model completely. However, I believe this model to be better as it gives you an actual tangible thing, that you were probably going to buy anyway, except now you get an added value from it.
I believe this is the tip of the iceberg for similar models. I don’t think there is need to panic, or swear off the franchise, or franchises. I think it’s another way for these publishing companies to recoup money lost in hours upon hours on online play instead of buying new titles. I see it a way of video game culture being brought into mainstream culture. I see this as a way for our love for multiplayer to continue with hopefully no added cost to us the consumer except that which we were going to spend anyways. The only hope I have for models like this, is that they eventually put codes in some bottled water, or juvenile diabetes is going to go through the roof.