India has one of the largest youth population across the globe and is gradually becoming one of the leading marketplaces for the gaming industry. Be it mobile gaming, console gaming, or PC gaming, the demand for gaming is completely off the charts.
Any kind of gaming is considered to be a stressbuster but when addicted to them, the same games can cause a lot of unnecessary stress too. Also, games are not cheap as the developers put in a lot of hard work and it takes years to come up with something that is narratively attracting and visually stunning.
So, if you are addicted to gaming, chances are that not only will you be burning a lot of money in the process, it will consume a lot of time and energy as well.
But then you can always play the free games available on various digital stores. But again…
Are free games really free?
May it be any gaming platform, the word ‘free’ gets our attention very fast. But most of these ‘free’ games come with in-app/in-game purchases. These are nothing but microtransactions. There are certain games that you pay to buy, and some are free but microtransactions are associated with almost all games, and definitely with the popular ones.
Types of microtransactions
Let’s understand the concept of microtransactions in a slightly elaborate manner.
- In-game items: A player can buy certain items that give him/her an edge over other online players. These boosts enhance their chances of winning or getting favourable results.
- In-game coins/currency: Most of the popular multiplayer games like FIFA, Clash of Clans, Ghost Recon, Call of Duty, and Pro Evolution Soccer offer additional perks in the form of game currencies when you spend real money on the digital store.
- Special/limited time purchases: Popularly known as crates (regular, bronze, premium, etc.) or loot bags, these items are available for a limited time only and players get tempted to buy them via in-game microtransactions as these packs promise to offer a boost to their overall performance while playing.
Economics of in-game microtransactions
A lot of games built today are designed around the microtransaction model that helps the game developers make huge profits. However, the focus on building an engaging experience is not there anymore. Game developers make some levels so difficult or challenging that it might literally be impossible to pass it without upgrading your virtual gears. In order to free yourself from this frustration of playing a level repeatedly, you might pick the convenient path, shell out some real currency bills, and satisfy your thirst for a virtual win.
Some of the extremely popular games like FIFA come with in-game purchases. If you are a regular FUT (FIFA Ultimate Team) player, you’ll know how important it is to keep your squad updated and build a team with big players. However, buying them for your club is not easy with free tokens that you earn. You will have to purchase FUT currency and unlock gold/premium packs to unlock some of the biggest names in football.
Clearly, just buying a game spending Rs.3,999 isn’t enough anymore. If you want early access or some additional currency right from the start, you will have to pay extra for a deluxe edition.
Similarly, a game like PUBG has cosmetic enhancements that cost a lot. A jacket or a special edition suit might cost you over Rs.1,000. In reality, you can buy a jacket for yourself with that money! A cosmetic change will not even affect your gameplay or skillset. But some gamers still go ahead and make these purchases as they are totally sold on the idea of these random expenditures.
Reaching crown vs Savings drown
Winning a game makes you happy. Your brain releases dopamine (a chemical released by the nerve cells) that enhances your mood after the win. You deserve this fun and entertainment in your life. But at what cost? It is okay to spend money on a few games but constantly splurging for better online ranks makes you an ideal character virtually but a poor financial decisionmaker in reality.
Did you ever consider investing that money? For example, let’s say you spend Rs.5,000 per month on gaming. This could include buying a new title, paying for upgrades, or story expansions via microtransactions, etc. If you invest the same amount for a period of 5 years in an equity mutual fund SIP and say the expected annual return is 12%, you can make more than Rs.4 lakh! If you can invest your time, your money on entertainment, why can’t you invest the same for your future?
Excessive gaming has adverse effects on your health as well. Poor sleep patterns, stress, rage, are all associated with gaming and we often read about these case studies on the internet. Any kind of addiction results in dopamine secretion and then it is a never-ending loop. You keep playing to win – if you win, you get further addicted, and if you lose, you’re frustrated and depressed, and want to leave no stone unturned to be victorious the next time.
As such, it is very important to know where to draw the line, money-wise and health-wise. You cannot just stop thinking about your future and go on indulging yourself in these microtransactions. This addiction might siphon out your entire savings before you know it and then you might end up struggling even to meet your fundamental financial commitments.
Gamers are accustomed to boss-fights. Consider this urge for making in-game purchases as a boss-fight. Fight your temptations. Don’t use up all your stamina at once. That’s never a good strategy, right? The key is to experience and indulge, but in moderation.
The writer is a Content Team Lead with BankBazaar.com