A recent retailer column explores the unlikely intersection between Dungeons & Dragons and the world of microtransactions. Microtransactions are one of the most controversial parts of the gaming industry - a model in which players buy virtual goods from an in-game store to help accentuate or boost their gaming experience. Whether its loot boxes that offer a chance at a rare skin or weapon, or buying packs of cards in Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering - Arena, it seems that the majority of games has some sort of microtransaction model meant to either supplement existing revenue streams or serve as the primary way for a game to make money.
Microtransactions in video games are controversial for a number of reasons, to the point where many countries are considering laws regulating their use. And while microtransactions are mostly limited to the world of video games, a recent column on ICv2 notes that some game stores have found a way to include microtransactions in in-store RPG games. Scott Thorne's weekly "Rolling for Initiative" column discussed ways for board game retailers to boost their revenue, whether it's through renting games or via the popular board game/cafe model. Thorne also noted that some stores are exploring the pay-to-roleplay model, in which players pay for a seat at an RPG table. Paying to play a tabletop RPG isn't a new experience (conventions do this all the time), but Thorne notes that some stores are using a microtransaction model to enhance playing experiences. "Other stores with successful pay-to-play programs further monetize the sessions by stocking gumball style machines with plastic capsules containing in-game bonuses such as a +1 to hit, a potion of healing, or a certificate giving the player a rare pet," Thorne notes. "Sometimes these machines clear $50 to $200 per day with huge profit margins."
We'll note that these stores are small businesses and not a video game monolith looking to maximize profit out of a $60 video game. And giving players an extra potion of healing or a rare pet is hardly adding an extra barrier to succeed in a game like Dungeons & Dragons, which has moved away from building min-maxed characters in order to survive a campaign. However, Dungeons & Dragons did test out the microtransaction model with Fortune Cards, a set of collectible cards that players could use in-game during combat. Fortune Cards allowed players to knock targets prone or make free attacks and were meant to be used in official D&D campaigns. So - it's not a surprise that some players reacted negatively to the idea of microtransactions appearing in the context of a D&D game.
It'll be interesting to see if this trend picks up any steam. Making an extra $200 a day simply for having a gumball machine filled with pieces of paper seems like easy money, and RPGs are quickly becoming a major part of a lot of game store experiences. Let us know what you think about the idea of microtransactions in tabletop RPG games in the comment section, or find me on Twitter at @CHofferCBus to chat all things D&D!