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It's no secret that microtransactions are among the most maligned practices in the gaming industry today. Gamers have long taken issue with what they consider to be an increasingly predatory method of extracting more money from customers, and it's gotten to the point where governments around the world are starting to seriously debate whether they should be doing more to regulate microtransactions.
Just last month, the results of a nine-month parliamentary inquiry here in the UK, were published by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in an effort to determine the extent of the issue, and whether or not the government should be doing more to regulate the practice - especially in games aimed at children.
The inquiry, which included meetings with publishers like EA and Blizzard, resulted in a lengthy 84-page report based on evidence from various developers, academics, and trade bodies, as well as as recommendation from the committee to the UK government that loot boxes be regulated under the gambling act.
One of the most damning findings in the report was the story of a RuneScape player who'd apparently built up debts thought to be in excess of £50,000 through spending on microtransactions in the online fantasy game, which led to "significant financial harm for both the player and his parents."
I was under the impression that this both an awful lot of money, and a very bad thing, but a new report from Kotaku has discovered that one gamer has managed to spend around $150,000 in a mobile Transformers game called Transformers: Earth Wars.
Kotaku reports that Henry Fong, the CEO from mobile publisher and developer Yodo1, spoke during the Game Connect Asia-Pacific conference, where he discussed the best way to design free-to-play games and how to consider the monetisation process from the beginning, rather than including it as an afterthought.
During the talk, Fong brought up the concept of "whales" - high-spending users who are likely to drop large sums on game. In the case of the Yodo1-published Transformers: Earth Wars, he said, there was one whale who spent around $150,000. Kotaku later clarified that this wasn't a projection or exaggeration, but that one player had spent that money on the game.
Unless I'm mistaken, Fong intended this anecdote to be taken as an unequivocal win for the company which, to be fair, it is. For the company. Doubtless, this kind of spending from one player will draw the attention and concern of the same politicians and groups that are attempting to regulate these practices.
It could very well be that this Transformers: Earth Wars player ends up being used in another report months down the line as an argument against microtransactions, though Fong told Kotaku that he thinks regulation is inevitable.
"As gaming becomes a mainstream industry that impacts billions of people, regulation is inevitable and its part of our industry growing up and hitting 'prime time'," he said. "We need to work with the regulators to make sure that they have the full context of the industry and that any regulations work as intended and don't break a bunch of other things by accident."
Featured Image Credit: Yodo1
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