This 19-year old spent $13,500 on microtransactions | PCGamesN

This 19-year old spent $13,500 on microtransactions

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A 19-year old Redditor named Kensgold has said he feels unable to buy EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront II because of his susceptibility to gambling, which has caused him to spend thousands of dollars on chance-based microtransactions.

Kensgold posted his story on Reddit about two weeks ago, after which Kotaku got in touch. Though Kensgold's habits emerged at 13, they escalated dramatically in the past three years - Kotaku say he showed them bank statements proving that he's spent $13,500 on microtransactions in that period. 

The chief culprits were free-to-play mobile games such as Clash of Clans, Age of Warring Empire, and The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-Earth, wherein he estimates the players at the top of the leaderboard were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to stay there.

Those would be the 'whales' - the term for players who contribute a disproportionate quantity of the revenue of any game that offers in-app purchases. Ideally, a whale is a cash-rich, time-poor player who is just paying for a little boost to skip the grind. But Kensgold shows this isn't always the case: he is a cash-poor player with an addictive personality - he wiped out his savings, spent about 90% of his minimum wage paycheck on in-app purchases, and fell out with his family. Ultimately, he had to seek therapy to overcome his addiction.

“I had to get up the nerve to ask for help,” Kensgold tells Kotaku. “To get a therapist to lay it out for me, like ‘This is what you’re doing, this is how you can help yourself, here are the tools to help you.’”

He now avoids games with microtransactions, which is why he doesn't feel able to try Battlefront II, though he wants to.

“The majority of the reason that I made my post was not really to slam EA or any of the companies that do this, but to share my story and to show that these transactions are not as innocent as they really appear to be,” Kensgold said. “They can lead you down a path. It’s not like buying a stick of gum at the store.”

The recent furore around Battlefront II's loot boxes ignited a debate that's now spreading across the games industry, but it was prompted by the length of the grind and a seeming lack of competitiveness in multiplayer if you didn't pay for loot boxes. The damage that chance-based microtransactions can do to a vulnerable minority is another issue, and one worth remembering as the industry re-examines the model.

Kotaku’s story is well worth a read in full, so check it out here. Kensgold’s original Reddit post is here.

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madphantompixels avatarBraneman avatarpanbient avatarQDP2 avatar
madphantompixels Avatar
11
4 Months ago

People like this are why companies like EA are a bunch of shits. They know for a fact they are targeting and exploiting vulnerable people with their psychological manipulative bull shit and do they give two fucks? Nope as long as the cash keeps flowing.

6
panbient Avatar
242
4 Months ago

People like this are why addiction rehabilitation is an actual thing.

EA didn't make him into an addict and nothing about loot boxes specifically targets or exploits individuals considering they're offered to the full audience. This just happens to be what he got hooked on. If loot boxes in video games didn't exist he would have gotten hooked on one of a whole number of other things.

Or do you really believe that no one under a certain age can get their hands on scratch lottery tickets or alcohol or tobacco or weed or whatever? Do you blame the blinking lights of a casino for the broke gambling addict? And if he started at 13 as he said... where are his parents and why aren't they getting any of your fury?

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QDP2 Avatar
961
4 Months ago

Having been hooked on loot boxes in the past (and have friends who are still hooked on loot boxes) I can say this is not the case. Sure, they can drain money; but that doesn't make them an exclusive drain to many people my age. Many will get hooked onto more than 1 medium, especially those with poor resistances.

EA isn't directly targeting people like Kensgold (no company/analyst expected this level of investment from people when loot boxes began to exist), but they are still happily benefiting from it. They can see the stats and know people are still falling down this pit, yet they continue to set the traps. From an addicts perspective, micro-transactions in games only makes it harder to resist. The more temptations being offered, the more likely you are to succumb to something. The publics decided to draw the line with money, saying that there should be a cap for how much someone can spend on a title. I think everyone here can agree that is a fair argument.

Nobody wants to question the other side of the addiction coin though; time. Games want to drain your time just as much as your money; be it through mobile pop-ups, game content delays, daily rewards, time-restricted content, grinding paths, and so on. From the 70's 'just 1 more level' to the modern 'got to win a round today', games have always wanted to hook you. The more time spent in 1 game, the less time you spend in others. Time invested gives players an increased sense of value to that specific game. With larger time investments the games rewards feel like greater achievements.

This is how companies improve your perception of their titles, so you'll more likely buy the DLC and sequels. It may not be as large a problem as gambling (there's a limit to how much you can spend on DLC) but the core philosophy is the same. An influence we've grown to expect in all titles. Gaming companies are built on shady experiences, but the truth remains: they're supplying something we want. We wouldn't invest if we didn't want their content. I too am avoiding SW:BF2 on the basis that I'll either get annoyed at the imbalanced P2W cards or I'll spend more money than I should on the game. Micro-transactions have become yet another price we've got to consider nowadays when it comes to the cost of a game.

EA have become a target with their stupidity, but this extreme example shouldn't hide the corruption around it. We shouldn't ignore all the tossed rocks from other companies just because EA decided to try and commit a daylight homicide.

2
panbient Avatar
242
4 Months ago

I agree with most of what you said.

But in my experience the 'other side' of the addiction coin that few people want to address is the fact that most addicts are compensating for something they feel they're lacking internally by latching onto something externally. Especially when what they latch onto isn't even a physical thing, it's not like getting hooked on a drug that causes physical withdrawals when you try to stop. This is literally collecting the most sophisticated flashing lights.

Is that really about saving time? Or more about having a flashier light than the next gamer and the anxiety some might feel if they appear inferior in an environment where a few extra dollars can make them superior?

2
QDP2 Avatar
961
QDP2 replied to panbient
4 Months ago

In games like LoL, DotA, CS:GO or Overwatch you're entirely right, there is no benefit to paying/gambling for the virtual bling they offer, be it looked at inside or outside the game. Also as you say, there's no negative symptoms for stopping video-game investments (unlike drugs). I'm definitely not trying to argue a gaming addiction is anywhere near as bad as drugs, only that it won't stop a gaming addict from also falling down that trap too.

Sense of value is definitely a problem with influences for younger generations right now. Games ask for large constant investments of time to be able to earn/maintain rankings desired by the players. Leaderboards and rankings ask for players to invest as much as possible to do as well as possible and show off their achievements to other players. It's a very easy trap for people to fall into, deciding they'd rather invest their time into games than work.

The micro-transaction-riddled mobile games, MMOs and EA-titles do try to offer you cuts in the menial tasks lengths. 'Pay for this and you'll be able to get to the content you want sooner!' is the argument they keep ringing, and it inevitably works for many who don't have the time or control.

I suppose procrastination isn't a problem to dwell on nowadays though; people who want to delay work will find a way whether or not the games tempt them into investing time on them instead. Be it in games or books, on Facebook or YouTube, distractions are in abundance either way.

1
madphantompixels Avatar
11
4 Months ago

I'm sure heroin dealers would probably use that to argue their case as well. Just because they aren't there pushing the needle in doesn't make them less culpable. But I guess it's ok to sell smack to people because rehab is a thing right.

0
Braneman Avatar
131
4 Months ago

A lot of people don't know what a "whale" is in this sort of context, they don't mean somebody who spends 50$ a month on microtransactions. THIS is about the level of spending you can get out of whales, I've even heard of larger numbers upwards of 50,000$.

5
QDP2 Avatar
961
4 Months ago

Depressing to admit I have friends stuck in this cycle (1 I can say for certain spends £5,000+ per month, though his Family is wealthy enough to support his addiction without problems).

The point of the term is that their investment is not only ginormous from our perspective, but also from the developers perspective (being the 0.01% that make up 10%+ of a titles profits).

1