PC Microtransaction Revenue Is on the Rise

(Photo: Electronic Arts/DICE/Disney)

A recent report from SuperData, a games and interactive media research company, states that microtransactions made via PC have doubled in revenue since 2012. Despite recent debates over the legality and fairness of certain microtransactions, it seems that gamers are still willing to spend money on additional content for games, though publishers have a lot to learn when it comes to the fine details of managing microtransactions.

The study singles out the backlash against Electronic Arts' loot boxes in Star Wars: Battlefront II as an example of how not to go about microtransactions, the report goes on to state that service-based microtransactions are on the rise, and that gamers are willing to pay for additional content that enhances their experiences -- rather than ‘play-to-win’ upgrades.

“Walking a fine line between increasing content offerings and engagement (and of course revenue) and alienating gamers, the ongoing experiment of microtransactions has had successes and failures,” the report states. “Add-on content sales are increasingly out-earning the traditional one-time purchase model, and the trend shows no signs of slowing.” The practices may change, but microtransactions as a whole aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, especially with the numbers reported: in 2012, PC free-to-play games resulted in $11 billion in revenue, and as of 2017, that number has doubled for $22 billion, with projections for 2022 hitting $3 billion more.

The report closes with an eye on the horizon, stating that AAA game publishers are hopeful that the entire concept of a $60 game purchase will be soon done away with in favor of what the report calls a product ecosystem, which involves subscription-based payments to access games and monetize in-game purchases. “Publishers are willing to sacrifice the full-game box price because they believe that subscription services can increase player retention and spending by effectively exposing players to other games within a publisher’s portfolio that they would otherwise ignore in today’s market due to the existence of an upfront price tag for games.”

The team at SuperData states that despite the problems between fans and EA regarding Star Wars: Battlefront II, “it’s clear that gamers are continuing to spend on well-executed additional content, and the market presents a massive opportunity for publishers.”