A Discussion of PoE Microtransactions
For years now, many gamers have been decrying the steadily increasing presence of microtransactions in video games. I can still remember the original introduction of downloadable content (DLC). I can also still recall my very mixed feelings about being asked to pay above and beyond the purchase price of a game in order to experience all of its content. On the one hand, it really is nice when developers continue to improve and expand their game, so most of us are willing to pay to support those improvements. Other times, though, it feels like incomplete games are sold at full price with the rest of the gameplay held ransom for even more money.
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In 2017, this latter species of microtransaction became the center of a major controversy thanks to the loot box fiasco in EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront II. But what about the former type of microtransaction? Are there still games that actually feel like a finished project when you first download them, and for which the DLC adds to the base game, rather than finishing it after the fact? Yes, there are! One such game is Path of Exile, which offers purely cosmetic and convenience-based PoE Microtransactions that don’t break the actual gameplay experience.
PoE’s Stance Against the Pay-to-Win Model
To a certain extent, PoE needs microtransactions to exist. Because it is a free-to-play game, PoE’s developers do not have a steady stream of subscription income to rely on for producing content and implementing patches. Instead, microtransactions keep the lights on at Grinding Gear Games, while players enjoy one free content expansion after another.
And yet, PoE has not succumbed to the vices of other free-to-play games. Some other titles, known derisively among gamers as “pay-to-win” games, allow players to purchase game-changing (and sometimes game-breaking) content that can elevate them above other players irrespective of skill or time invested. I won’t call out any games specifically, but some general examples of pay-to-win microtransactions are the purchase of bonus experience, allowing players to buy some of the game’s most powerful weapons with real-world currency, and putting the most powerful characters and classes behind a paywall.
PoE has nothing of the sort. Instead, Grinding Gear Games has explicitly avoided releasing any microtransaction content that would give the player an unfair gameplay advantage. This is laudable, as allowing certain players to have a superior in-game experience simply because they have slightly deeper pockets is in decidedly poor taste. Instead, PoE features several cosmetic and quality of life microtransactions that allow players with a little extra cash have a slightly glitzier PoE experience without actually changing the way the experience gameplay itself.
Examples of Microtransactions in PoE
You’re probably curious what sort of microtransactions are available in PoE, if not pay-to-win content. As touched on above, PoE contains a litany of cosmetic and quality of life content that allows you to customize your experience in the game to your liking, without actually making it easier or harder than anyone else’s time on Wraeclast. Below is a brief overview of the categories of PoE microtransactions:
- Account Features: this category includes quality of life options such as additional stash tabs, stash tab customization options, and additional character slots.
- Alternate Skill Effects: this purchases simply reskins existing spell effects so you can make your frostbolts look like black holes, or turn your raised zombies into mummies.
- Character Effects: this category includes cool aura effects that surround your character, as well as impressive portal customizations.
- Item Effects: these allow you to really add a personal touch to your character by providing various glow effects to your weapons; allowing you to attach horns, halos, and glowing eyes to your headgear; making your boots leave various footprint effects; and providing a host of back attachments such as capes, wings, and standards.
- Item Skins: like many other games, PoE gives players the options to purchase reskins for in-game armor and weapons. This is a nice option for players who aren’t necessarily fond of the look of some of the best items in the game because it allows them to make their gear look as cool and unique as they like without having any effect on its stats.
- Hideout Decorations: there’s supposed to be no place like home, so make your hideout feel like your place and nobody else’s by adding special ambient effects, thrones, and other furnishings.
- Pets: it gets lonely being an exile, so in PoE you’re given the option to choose from a huge selection of pets. There are plenty of familiar members of the animal kingdom to bring with you on your travels, as well as some more exotic and mythological creatures. All of the pets are strictly non-combat so they won’t be helping you clear enemies, but they can provide some welcome companionship.
- Animation: this category provides a bit of levity to the grim-darkness of Wraeclast. If killing and being killed has got you down, relieve some tension with a bit of dancing or a fireworks display, because… why not?
The Effects of Microtransactions in PoE
As already mentioned, all of the above categories of microtransactions are exclusively cosmetic and convenience-based and have absolutely no effect on gameplay. They are simply a way for players who have some extra cash to customize their UI and their character’s appearance, should they wish to do so.
This approach to microtransactions avoids turning PoE into a broken, pay-to-win mess, and instead allows loyal players to support the game they love while making themselves look cool. In turn, Grind Gear Games is able to use the money from these cosmetic microtransactions to continue putting out massive, free expansions. Where other developers seem to nickel and dime you by selling you their game in overpriced pieces, Grinding Gear Games almost seems to be giving away too much for free in PoE.
In closing, if you want a free game, which constant free updates and expansions, with absolutely no pay-to-win transactions, check out PoE. If you end up liking the game and want to customize your character to fit your personality, then be sure to check out playerauctions.com, your one-stop, player-to-player PoE item trading destination.