Microtransactions Are Rampant & Insidious—Here’s How To Avoid Overspending On Them

I’m sure you’ve heard stories of microtransactions before,
with some even making it into the news: How someone spent their
life savings on a game; how someone lost thousands from gambling at
in-game casinos, and so on.

Even if it has yet to affect you, it should be an issue worth
your attention and action since your loved ones might not be as
cautious of microtransactions as they should be.

With more companies slowly veering towards creating games with
microtransactions, one of the easiest actions we can take to combat
that is through parental controls, particularly for people with
children who game.

It’s A Pretty Serious Problem


Senators
in the US are already pushing for microtransactions to
be banned in games. Laws were passed in Belgium to prohibit
loot boxes in games.

Dictionary Time: A loot box is an in-game
purchase consisting of a virtual container that awards players with
items and modifications based on chance. Lootboxes are considered
to be a type of microtransaction.

WhatIs.com

Lootboxes, in general, aren’t evil. However, the problem lies
with the many companies who are trying to shove it down the throats
of their users incessantly.

Some games even make it harder for you to progress if you
don’t make purchases on certain packages meant to “help” you.
Imagine needing to pay RM200 for a game and then being pestered to
fork over an additional RM50 to speed up your progress.

While more responsible and older gamers may think before they
spend, the same can’t be said for the younger gamers, or even
those who are prone to gambling.

In July, 4 siblings spent nearly
£550
(that’s about RM2,770!) buying player packs in FIFA
Ultimate Team to try and get their favourite player, Lionel
Messi.

Getting the players you
want is pretty rare. / Image Credit: Gamepur

In FIFA Ultimate Team, players are obtained by buying player
packs. The chances of getting your favourite footballer are slim,
so you’re encouraged to spend to increase your chances.

The parents weren’t even aware that their kids were spending
money in the game until their card was declined.

Another family had their 22-year old disabled son clear out his life savings of £3160
while playing a game called Hidden Artifacts.

The takeaway of these 2 examples is that microtransactions can
be carried out way too easily by anyone, and the most common people
who fall victim to them are kids or gamers with gambling
tendencies.

To make things worse, UK officials don’t classify loot boxes
as gambling, as there is “no official way to monetise
them”.

Kerry Hopkins, the vice president of legal and government
affairs of EA even appeared before a House of Commons committee in
the UK said that the company (EA) prefers to call loot boxes
“surprise mechanics”.

Of course, this angered the gaming community and memes spawned
left and right.

How Can We Curb Microtransactions?

It seems that microtransactions are here to stay and while there
isn’t much we can do to stop them from steam-rolling, there are
parental controls on 5 online game stores to prevent your loved
ones or yourself (if you’re prone to gambling) from overspending
on microtransactions.

1. Google Play

Google Play should have
more settings for microtransactions

Google Play isn’t very flexible in terms of preventing in-app
transactions.

One of the ways we can keep our kids from accidentally spending
is via an option called “Require authentication for purchases”
and set it to all purchases.

If they were to buy something in-game, they will need a password
set by the owner of the Google Play account (usually the parent).
However, if they have the password, there’s another step that can
be enabled called Fingerprint Recognition.

This means that purchases are done through a fingerprint
scanner. My imaginary kids could technically still use my
fingerprint when I’m sleeping to buy their Fortnite skins, but
it’s gonna be a tad difficult.

2. Apple App Store

You can completely
disable in-app purchases

Apple is a little bit more useful when it comes to in-app
purchases. Trying it out on my iPad, I went to the settings, and
under “screen time”, found an option for me to disable in-app
purchases with just a toggle of a button.

To me, this is more useful than what Google Play offers. It was
a little disappointing to me knowing that Google didn’t put much
effort into tackling this issue.

3. Nintendo Switch

After you create a child
account, you can completely disable purchases on the eShop.

One of the main consoles of the year, the Switch does pretty
decently when it comes to preventing unauthorised purchases.

This only works if the child is on a family group account,
however. To do so, all I have to do is go to the Nintendo account
website, create an account for my kid and disable
spending/purchases on Nintendo Switch eShop.

If they know the password for your main account, then you might
just be out of luck.

4. PlayStation Network

Setting monthly spending
limits is quite useful if you don’t want to be too controlling

The PlayStation 4 is one of the best-selling consoles of the
year and possibly the decade.

Editing or adding Parental Controls isn’t too difficult. All I
had to do was go to the Sony Entertainment Network website and all
the options were laid out there.

Once I keyed in all the necessary details for a child account, I
could then set content blocking depending on age, the use of
Browser or VR on the console, as well as one that I find fairly
unique—the ability to set a monthly spending limit.

This will allow my kids to still spend some on games, but only
within the limit that I’ve set.

5. Microsoft Store

Microsoft allows you to set
the option of purchase approval by parents. / Image Credit:
Microsoft Support

While Xbox is not a particularly popular store here in Malaysia,
they do have a parental control that allows you to block off
purchases from your kid’s account.

A unique feature that I’ve not seen from other stores is the
option to disable purchases until said kid has a parent’s
permission.

If I don’t want to be super controlling, I can enable the
option of Microsoft emailing me after a purchase is made so I’m
at least aware of how much is being spent and how often it
happens.

Final Words

As someone who might have kids in the future, I have to be more
proactive if I want to prevent my kids from overspending on all
these microtransactions that are constantly in all the games we
play.

Having parental controls in games is just one way of
prevention.

However, if I want changes in the way the gaming market works, I
have to vote with my wallet and hit the developers where it hurts
the most.

This means that microtransactions in the games I play won’t be
getting a single cent out of me.

You can read about the stance of Malaysian mobile game
makers on freemium versus premium models
here
.



Also Read Is Sharing Really Caring? We Investigate By Asking 5
Young Couples.

The post
Microtransactions Are Rampant & Insidious—Here’s How To
Avoid Overspending On Them
appeared first on Vulcan Post.

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