The Division Won’t Have Microtransactions, Depending On Your Definition

What defines a microtransaction? How micro is “micro”, and does the name refer to the size of those payments, the location you make them from, or the nature of the goods you’re buying? That’s the quandary raised by Ubisoft. A community manager tweeted that “There will be no microtransactions, and definitely no P2W” in their new online shooter, The Division. This was simply repeating an answer given in interviews back in January, but the catch is that the game will have DLC, and that DLC will include “vanity items”, which are the kind of thing normally sold via microtransactions.

So RPS asks you: what is a microtransaction?

Here’s the recent tweet from the Ubisoft community manager:

And here’s a story from Eurogamer in January, which quotes The Division’s creative director Magnus Jansen acknowledging the unclear definition:

“I don’t know if there’s a globally agreed definition of the word microtransactions, but you don’t pay to win or advance or anything like that. We have DLC plans – which we’re not talking about now – and obviously you’ll pay for that, but in addition to that there’s no microtransactions, as I define them.”

An Ubisoft representative later clarified that “Magnus’s statement is correct, there will be no microtransactions at all. Not even for vanity items. Vanity items will be sold as DLC, through the regular first-party stores.​”

Personally, I like vanity items, and the freedom microtransactions afford me to buy them individually rather than as part of a set, which DLC normally tends to offer. Other people hate them and feel that they are universally a case of developers nickel-and-diming players for items that ought to have been in the base game to start with. But however you feel, this seems like bad news: if you dislike these items, it’s bad news because the game is going to have them; if you like these items, it’s bad news because you might not be able to buy them in the way you’d prefer.

I dislike pay-to-win obviously, and haven’t seen any evidence of that in The Division via the betas. I’ve yet to hear a game developer admit that their game is pay-to-win pre-release, though.

The Division is an interesting game, so I’m curious what you think. Bonus points if your comments include suggestions for what we should call “DLC” and “Microtransactions” instead.

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43 Comments

  1. FurryLippedSquid says:

    I’d pay money for one of your awesome Paint hats.

  2. Cinek says:

    Well, a line between DLC and microtransaction is rather blurry, eg. cosmetic DLCs sold for Europa Universalis IV in every way are a microtransactions (no effect on gameplay, low price, alters the looks of units – which is something many companies sell as a microtransactions, though obviously there are dozens that do sell things like weapons or combat units), but in the end it’s mostly up companies selling them to market items in this or the other way around (at the moment it’s mostly a matter of which one got a worse PR in this month).

  3. SanguineAngel says:

    I’d say a micro-transaction is a transaction to purchase additional content, above the base purchase price (whether that is free or not) for your existing base game. The nature of the content (utility or vanity or whatever) doesn’t isn’t reference and so doesn’t seem relevant to me.

    The reason for me being simply that the term micro transaction implies that I am buying small parts of a whole.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      But by that definition, Shivering Isles was an Oblivion microtransaction.

      I would add two caveats to your definition:

      1. Scale. A micro-transaction tends to be an exchange of money for a single item or feature. Item packs are the exception rather than the rule.

      2. Digital exchange. No physical item ever changes hands.

  4. Gus the Crocodile says:

    Yeah I prefer not to use the term “microtransaction”, mainly because there’s nothing “micro” about most of them. When I buy a coffee for $3.50 or whatever, I don’t call that a microtransaction, and many game items are well beyond that price range. Now of course, etymology is not meaning, and it’s not necessarily any kind of problem for a word to be used in ways other than what some literal breakdown of its parts might indicate. But when it’s a word being used as marketing, I’m inherently less comfortable excusing it on such grounds, because I’m inherently less comfortable excusing marketing for anything. When you’re using the language to sell things, I can’t shake the view that you chose the term because you think the “micro” part helps do that.

    So personally I tend to call them in-game transactions…or, you know, just transactions. Apple’s (or, you know, whoever came up with it) “IAP” is fine too.

    That difference Ubi are drawing, “no microtransactions, we’re selling stuff as DLC”, is, well, “odd” if I’m being charitable. In different circumstances it would sound cynical, but I don’t hold Ubisoft responsible for how these terms have evolved. It’s just that the only difference between the two here is how the payment is processed, and that seems a weird line for us to have drawn as a community.

    Perhaps we can just lump the various terms into one big label on reviews and store pages etc:
    TRIES TO SELL YOU SHIT: YES/NO

  5. samsharp99 says:

    I’m trying to think of examples from games I’ve played of ‘microtransactions’. I was going to out on a limb and say ‘any transaction that doesn’t have an impact on gameplay’. I don’t think the value/cost really comes into play (e.g. buying a skin pack could cost as much as the game!).

    – Buying levels / expansions: DLC
    – Buying skins / cosmetics: Microtransations
    – Buying levelling (e.g. Experience Boosts)/ weapons / units: P2W Microtransactions?

    I wonder if some companies think that the distinction is between whether or not it is in-game (e.g. built-in store) or through steam (which calls everything ‘DLC’).

    • Holden McGroin says:

      i dont think that an experience booster should be counted as pay2win.
      you still have to get exp somehow. it’s just, “hey, now your work means more”
      buying powerful items or highlevel characters is more pay to in, in some circumstances. I dont know if i dislike the WoW character booster.

      • snv says:

        That depends on the game. If you are just playing along besides each other then an xp boost only stinks because you know they have improved the grind to sell their boosters.
        If the game is competitive than an xp booster gives a player an edge compared to the others and i would tend to view it as p2w

  6. Seafort says:

    Isn’t microtransactions just lower cost DLC?

    Ubisoft can word it however they want but it’s the customers who define what it is and if they will buy it.

    To me it’s microtransactions and that will not go over well with the vast majority of gamers who want a cost free game once they’ve paid their £40-60.

  7. blightor says:

    Seriously, who really cares if they want to sell you one hat in game, or a pack of hats out of game.

    Does it really matter so much that we debate the meaning of a microtransation? Surely the important thing is just that its hats only.

    The official meaning are virtual items less than 1USD. Not that it matters, but I think the term is used for just about any in game purchases, even though a lot of the time its not accurate.

    DLC packs of hats sold outside the game are probably fair to call DLC.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Cross says:

    To my mind, microtransactions sell content already present in the game. Whether it is unlockable through normal play or not is not consequential, but it is content that you can play the game and see used (often by other players), but not have access to yourself.
    DLC however adds whole new content to the game, which you are unable to see without either owning yourself, or in some charitable cases piggybacking on a friend’s purchase.
    You might argue that this rather contradicts the term “On Disc DLC”, but yes, those are microtransactions, and deplorable ones too.

    Under no circumstances are microtransactions acceptable in a premium game.

  9. Colthor says:

    As the smallest transaction is one penny, a microtransaction must be anything measured in millionths of a penny. Thousandths of a penny is a millitransaction, and so on.

    (In GBP, adjust to local currency as necessary.)

  10. grundus says:

    While “transactions” aren’t an S.I. unit I’d still expect a microtransaction to be transaction*10^-6, so if The Division is bought for £49.99, they’re only microtransactions if they cost £0.00004999. I’d accept as much as £0.0004999 though, I guess.

  11. Little_Crow says:

    It definitely sounds like Ubisoft have realised that microtransactions is considered a ‘bad’ word outside of mobile gaming. So now they’re trying to finish off the job on DLC that Bethesda started with the Oblivion horse armour.

    Additional playable content – Content Pack
    Skins, hats, etc – Cosmetic Pack
    P2W stuff – Booster Pack

  12. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I think it’s a better way to look at these things as a maximum and minimum cost to play. If it’s 0-∞ you’re probably being exploitative, the narrower the gap, the less so.

  13. Unsheep says:

    The funny thing about microtransactions is that people rarely complain about them when its for games they really like, like Hearthstone, yet there’s so much drama when other games have them.

    To me the main difference between a DLC and a ‘microtransaction item’ is that a DLC generally contains more and bigger stuff, like extra missions or a collection of weapons and gear. A DLC that only offers a single item (like a specific weapon or car) is the exact same as a ‘microtransaction item’.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cross says:

      Hearthstone is helped a LOT by being Free to Play in this regard, mate.

    • Jac says:

      DLC is downloadable content, which covers everything including expansions by definition.

      CD Projekt are about the only company who have done things the right way in my eyes i.e. only charging for expansions, which i am happy to pay for. As Cross points out your hearthstone example is flawed given it’s a free game. If it cost £40 then it would be a different story.

  14. Premium User Badge

    StevenP says:

    Am I the only one to whom that sounds like “You won’t call them microtransactions if you see the price”?

  15. Jac says:

    Urban Dictionary defines it simply as “The cancer of modern gaming”. I believe this to be the correct meaning.

    I can accept buying vanity items in free games as a concept to support the developers but in a paid game it is not ever acceptable.

    • funderbolt says:

      I agree, just as it is totally outrageous for pizza shops to charge money for extra toppings. Those rich bakers are only entitled to a certain amount of money, as determined by me.

      • aircool says:

        That’s fine, as long as they don’t sell you the pizza then expect you to pay extra for the sauce and cheese that should have been part of the pizza in the first place.

        • funderbolt says:

          I think most people would define a “pizza” as nothing less than dough, sauce and cheese, and you wouldn’t buy something called a pizza with anything less than that, just as you wouldn’t buy a game that is only wireframe models, with no control scheme and no finished levels, because that isn’t a game. The Division is a finished product; whether you choose to pay extra for things that “nice it up” for you is a personal decision, but acting like it’s some sort of crime or a violation of someone’s rights is as absurd as demanding free toppings or demanding first-class seats just because you got on the airplane.

          • Jac says:

            I should have ended my final sentence “never acceptable to me”. If you’re happy paying for vanity items in a full priced game then that is of course your prerogative.

            Your pizza example doesn’t work either. Extra toppings would equate to extra gameplay, which i’m perfectly fine with. Paying extra for my pizza to be delivered in a glitter covered box isn’t something for me.

          • lglethal says:

            Um you guys realise that usually pizzas DO cost more if you add extra toppings – a meat lovers deluxe pizza always costs more then a margherita pizza.

            So your example really doesnt work. Mind you if your local offers all pizzas at the same price then you are very lucky and definitely have a meat lovers deluxe for me! ;)

          • Jac says:

            Of course, just like games cost different prices. We’re talking about once you’ve bought your pizza with toppings of choice. Like I said I’d happily pay for another slice, not a fancier box for it to be delivered in :)

          • Butts says:

            Speak for yourself, buddy. I could get on pretty well with an all wireframe, level-free game.

            The lack of a control system, obviously, would complicate things a bit. But still, 2 out of 3 are fine with me.

          • Voidlight says:

            If you want a game that is that unfinished (wireframe models, no levels) but still good, try Overgrowth from Wolfire Games. They make some pretty interesting stuff…

      • SanguineAngel says:

        These apples don’t taste like oranges AT ALL!

  16. Premium User Badge

    daktaklakpak says:

    I think the difference really only exists in the mind of a marketing department. Microtransactions are trying to sell you something. DLC is giving you an opportunity to buy!

  17. LegendaryTeeth says:

    No game has micrtransactions. The term, as originally created, was about charging people fractions of a penny (ie, less than an actual transaction) to view content. This was designed to solve the “everything on the Internet is free” problem. So RPS might have set things up such that each article cost you 0.01 pennies to view. Insignificant for you, but it adds up for the content producer.

    Charging $10 for a hat is absolutely just a regular transaction.

  18. aircool says:

    Eh?

    What are they on about. No micro-transactions but DLC when DLC can be a micro-transaction and micro-transactions are used to purchase DLC.

    Sounds like someone in marketing just researched whether punters are more likely to favour the world ‘DLC’ over ‘micro-transaction’.

  19. LimaBravo says:

    DLC is for additional content, content being defined as additional play time & objectives. So Witcher 3’s Hearts of Stone new quests, new armour sets, things which have a direct effect on the games play or its length of play. A dollar value is acceptable for this.

    Microtransactions are things which only have a cosmetic effect. Alternative outfits for Yennefer, Triss, Ciri. New finisher animations. Effectively aesthetic options. Penny value options.

  20. CidL says:

    Doesn’t sound much different to Rocket League making you cough for a Delorian or Batmobile or whatever, and I couldn’t give a monkeys about that, or what you call that type of transaction.

  21. fish99 says:

    If they’re selling vanity items for money, or for some in-game currency which you can buy with money, then that’s microtransactions in my book.

  22. Derpinator9000 says:

    Considering i pre-ordered the game i would be pissed if they added microtransactions after i bought it…
    I’m all in for people who like to buy visual items for money as long as it has little to nothing stats or is at least beginner level stuff

    To be quite fair i wouldn’t expect anything but microtransactions from Ubisoft however i expect they would let people know and since they haven’t yet i’m fine with it…

  23. mpk says:

    I prefer to think them as a Play Tax.

    No wait, hear me out.

    For games where your experience is going to be limited because you haven’t bought the DLC and can’t play the new maps; can’t access the new weapons or upgrades; can’t play the new in-canon missions/quests set halfway through the storyline – basically anything that locks content behind a paywall is a Play Tax.

    You want the “complete experience”? Pay the Play Tax.

    That said, I’m far happier with DLC/content items that are totally cosmetic, or don’t alter/add to the pre-existing storyline of a game. Mass Effect 3’s Citadel addon is one of the single best DLCs I’ve ever had the pleasure to repeatedly playthrough just to hear all the new dialogue, but it’s fair to say that I could have lived without it; XCOM’s Enemy Within DLC felt like a proper, old fashioned expansion pack; and Payday 2 lets you play heists you don’t own the DLC for, but you can’t host them. So it’s not all bad.

  24. minijedimaster says:

    Ubisoft is trash

  25. Premium User Badge

    Marclev says:

    So, what you’re saying is there are no micro transactions, but there will be paid for DLC, like just about any other major game released on the PC in the last few years.

    I don’t see any ambiguity or controversy at all, unless I’m missing something.

    Click bait article?

  26. vasdrakken says:

    hummm so aren’t microtransations those nickle and dimey things where it’s like 20 cents and later a few dollars for ten of this or five of that then it’s like one of this and two of that…
    DLC seem to require that there is enough content to justify taking out the wallet. No more stupid sales of buy now for half off, it a week before the end of the month to use up your budget for what ever other game is coming out, when most people have already spent that money. lol. DLC seems to be priced then it stays up there.
    so maybe microtransactions are the stim pack you buy ten times instead of earning in game… and dlc is new content you get to hang onto…

  27. Anti-Skub says:

    “Personally, I like vanity items, and the freedom microtransactions afford me”

    I cannot get my head around that attitude. How is paying an extra £5 for a hat “freedom”? Surely freedom is having all the hats available without the excessive price tag? Having to pay extra for every cosmetic you choose is the opposite of freedom, it’s a restriction.

  28. DoxAnomaly says:

    I would say the difference between the two (DLC and Micro-transaction) is very very small. DLC is when you have to actually Download the content separately from the base game, i.e. you will not see it in-game without the DLC.
    Where as a Micro-transaction is included in the game (you have the information downloaded), you might see it on other people and you can buy it for yourself without having to download anything additional.

    Some companies even do some free DLC’s (not many). There really is no such thing as a free micro-transaction.