Should You Be Spending Real Money On Virtual Items?
Many of us have spent real money on virtual items in games, whether it be extra pokeballs in Pokemon Go or gems to help us level up in Clash of Clans. While some of us are happy to spend money on these items, others may see it as spending money on nothing. After all, you can’t hold a virtual sword that you’ve bought in a game. What have you really bought with your money?
Of course, you could argue the same about a handbag or an expensive watch. These items may be physical, but they aren’t necessary – and yet some people are willing to spend thousands on them. So why is it not okay to spend a few dollars on a virtual sword?
Adding value to the game
Most of us buy virtual items as a way of enriching the game. When we buy a game, we’re buying into a virtual experience. Paying money for extras is just a way of improving that experience. Of course, certain extras such as extra maps or extra missions are likely to add more value than buying character clothing. However, it’s up to the player to determine that value.
One growing popular reason as to why many players buy virtual items is to save time and energy. Games such as Neopets can require us to put a lot of grind in so that we can accumulate in-game currency. Generating this currency isn’t always particularly fun (and the whole point of a game is to be fun), which is why many people buy Neopoints with real currency. Just as you might outsource a travel company to book a vacation for you, it’s a convenience that allows you to focus on the fun factor.
The danger of pay-to-win games
There are of course games that take advantage of allowing players to buy extra content, making it impossible to complete a game without spending extra money. These are often referred to as ‘pay-to-win’ games.
2014’s MMORPG ArcheAge was a famous example that allowed players to buy extra gear that could not be obtained through actual gameplay. Those that didn’t pay for this extra gear had virtually no chance when up against players that had paid for this gear.
Mobile games can be notorious for this and it’s worth always reading reviews before you get sucked in.
Some people spend ridiculous amounts on virtual items. Keeping a budget and being realistic about the value that these items provide is important.
You should be particularly careful of games that effectively allow you to gamble real money. For instance, many games have loot boxes or mystery boxes that can be purchased with real money – you don’t always have any idea as to what the contents will be, which means you could spend money on a load of useless items.
It’s also important to know exactly how much you’re spending. EVE Online infamously sold a virtual monocle for $60 – however, this wasn’t clear as you had to first convert money into the game’s own digital currency before browsing through items.