The free to play game League of Legends made over 1.75 billion US dollars in revenue in 2020. How does a “free” game make that much money? Microtransactions.
With the pandemic forcing teens to stay home, 80% of teens are spending even more time playing games. A survey of twenty British Columbia teenagers found that 79% of them have spent over $100 dollars in microtransactions on a single game, with a couple of students spending around $600.
Microtransactions are a business model where the user spends small amounts of money to purchase virtual items. Microtransactions are appearing in every game, from $80-titles like Call of Duty, FIFA, and NBA2K, to free titles like League of Legends, Valorant, and Apex Legends. Professionals believe that microtransactions might negatively affect the child’s spending habits and lead them into debt.
Many young gamers who spoke to 8forty see the appeal of buying an in-game cosmetic to either look cool or distinguish themselves from basic beginning players.
Only 33% of survey participants believed their spending habits were unhealthy, but 44% of survey participants said they are impulsive buyers.
“The money I spent on Valorant slowly built up as more skins were released,” 15-year-old Ray Lam said. The 10th grade student at Vantech High School says his spending habits often lead to regret. “Realistically I think to myself wow that’s a nice skin I’m going to buy it, then maybe a day after I think to myself why did I buy this.”
As of today, Lam has spent around $1200 on Valorant.
Lam explained that his spending streak started with the “small purchase of the battle pass.” Overtime he “started buying more expensive items” like item bundles which go for around $140. This was when Lam realized he was broke so he started “spending from his savings.”
Lam doesn’t feel positive about spending so much money on a single game. “I feel very very depressed, and I wish I can go back and stop myself.”
Edwin a 10th-grade student of Vantech couldn’t name a price when asked how much he spent because “spent too much money on games.”
Like Lam, his purchases often leave him feeling regretful. “I feel satisfied for a minute” but afterwards, he says, “I feel in pain from spending so much on Valorant that I could had spent on food.”
Despite those feelings, Edwin’s behaviour hasn’t changed. “I’m probably going to buy another skin when the shop resets later today.”
We asked Aaron, a 10th grade student of a Burnaby school about why he decided to buy a $30 Pathfinder skin. He responded with “because I am a Pathfinder main, and I had to get the limited time event skin.”
Aaron says his purchases often make him feel good.
“When I’m interested in a game and I find a cool skin that I like, I tend to spend money and buy the skin. I end up spending a lot of money on the game and I feel like this is the best investment that I ever made. I feel like I’m better then everyone and cooler than everyone else. I still feel good but once I lose interest in the game, I start to regret my decision on buying the skins that I can’t use anymore,” Aaron said.
Cover Image: Pxfuel
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