PlayStation Universe

Gran Turismo 6 and microtransactions: helpful inclusion or derision of a PlayStation staple?

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on 5 December 2013

Fresh from the news of Polyphony Digital’s planned microtransaction pricing; PSU takes a look to see if it will be to the detriment of the series’ charm.

It’s the eve of the much-anticipated release of the next addition to one of PlayStation’s seminal series’, Gran Turismo, and while the game will rightfully gain all the plaudits undoubtedly levelled its way, gaming outlets are abuzz for an entirely different reason. Back in November, we reported that Polyphony Digital was to include a microtransactions system in the next iteration of Gran Turismo – a monetization policy where players can buy in-game currency through the PlayStation Network using real money in order to purchase any car or car part the game has to offer, without having to earn it through the series’ infamously laborious gameplay.

Microtransactions aren’t some new trend making its way around gaming; it’s been around for a number of years and has mostly been attached to free-to-play multiplayer titles such as League of Legends, and Tribes: Ascend - and with absolutely enormous success. Players can purchase skins, weapons, armour and even gain early access to characters. In these cases, microtransactions are a genuine and mostly accepted form of gaming monetization, simply because the base product is free and most items can also be earned through gameplay. The problem therein lies when consumers are presented with microtransactions and bypass systems after they've already shelled out full price for a primarily single-player-based game.

And this is where PS3’s newest racer, Gran Turismo 6, comes into focus. Since the series’ inception in 1997, Gran Turismo has steadily risen to the upper echelons of PlayStation adulation; a perch exclusively reserved for only the Grand Theft Autos and Metal Gear Solids of the gaming world. For over 15 years, the series has prided itself on its interminably robust demeanour; after all, completing a Gran Turismo 100% can take diehard’s literally months to achieve - plus the will to live.

One of the more memorable and important points of previous Gran Turismo titles was that initial leap of faith players made when entering the dreaded GT arena; (GT’s expansive career mode) with hardly any credits of real substance and unable to buy any of the shiny, new motors on show players were forced to trawl through the second-hand car market, trying to find that one car that managed to fit their liking, and most importantly their budget. When that arduous practice was completed it was then up to your meager motor to take on the professional leagues. This entire process was one of endearment, something that to many, is at the heart of Gran Turismo; selecting that banged-up motor from the droves of second-hand scrap metal and pitting it against world’s best in their class, just hoping to get those vital first few wins under your belt. Of course you’ll trade up as you progress through your career, but that initial bond remains unaltered. And that bond is something that is at the core of the Gran Turismo experience.

In light of the game’s anticipated release tomorrow, Polyphony Digital yesterday announced the pricing for its microtransactions: 500,000 in-game credits will cost £3.99; 1 million credits will set you back £7.99; 2,500,000 will be £15.99 and finally, 7 million in-game credits will amount to £39.99. To put these figures into some sort of perspective, to purchase one of the game’s more expensive cars by way of this system, the Jaguar XJ13 (20,000,000 in-game credits), players would have to fork out a staggering £119.95 just to get such a privilege – an incredibly excessive price for just one car. Unfortunately to change that, it would require an entire overhaul of both the policy and the credit system as a whole, and by doing so it would destroy the GT mode that’s known and loved. Atop of this, Gran Turismo 6’s career mode follows the trend of previous games in the franchise, meaning that the whole career is rendered meaningless if someone were to technically abuse its credit structure.

In essence, by adding a microtransactions policy, Polyphony Digital has disrupted the ethos of Gran Turismo; that relationship between car and owner is dishevelled. The temptation has been planted and in that sense the ‘’don’t like it, don't buy it’’ mantra becomes nothing more than a redundant contention. Besides, ten years ago, a simple bash of several key buttons would unlock whatever gaming content you desired – ‘EELNATS’, anyone? The only thing that’s changed is that increased internet connectivity has allowed publishers to monetize this mechanism. Perhaps core GT players won’t take much notice - they may just go about the game as they always have. But this newly-implemented system may well deter newer players from experiencing Gran Turismo in its purest form – from banged-up scrap metal to earning that European super car. And that’s where the biggest issue lies. By having access to some of the best cars from the get-go you leave all manner of competition in the dust, the grit and hard-earned win is gone, entirely. Every race becomes a foregone monotony.

We oftentimes get caught up and forget that gaming is a money-making business, first and foremost; an expansive multi-tiered system of developers, publishers, financial backers, advertisers etc. And now with the focus firmly shifted to the PlayStation 4, Polyphony Digital may have implemented microtransactions to recoup much of its budget. But what developers and publishers alike need to realise is that gamers will more often than not part with their hard-earned money for a game that is complete, balanced, and fair.

When everything is thoroughly considered it simply boils down what the gamer wants. Microtransactions in this generation of console games are in their infancy - and the consumer dictates the run of play. They do have a valid place, certainly, but that place should remain in the F2P model and not in the fully-priced retail game. If you, the gamer, are displeased by the increasingly monetized way of retail games then simply vote with your wallet and hope for the best – that way we can change the industry for the better.

Do you agree or disagree with the above piece? Sound off in the comments below.