The Negative Impact of Monetization on Fighting Games

Overview

  • Monetization has destroyed the fighting game genre, with in-game shops, microtransactions, and paywalls diminishing the overall experience.
  • Fighting games were previously known for their endless replay value and variety of features, but monetization has taken away the natural progression and fulfillment that players enjoyed.
  • Monetization contradicts the essence of fighting games, which are inherently competitive and focused on mastery, rewards, and player progression. It has turned the genre into a chore and hindered its potential.

Excessive Monetization Makes Fighting Games Less Worthwhile

Fighting games occupy an interesting position in today’s landscape. The past few years have paradoxically been both the best and the worst for the genre. On one hand, fighting games have experienced unparalleled success. The genre is more popular than ever, with long-standing titles like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Super Smash Bros., Tekken, and others maintaining their popularity, and even formerly niche games like Guilty Gear breaking through to a wider audience. It’s difficult not to view the period from the 2010s to the 2020s as the Golden Age of Fighting Games. However, the genre has stumbled during this phase of success due to the disruptive influence of monetization in the video game industry.

Monetization is just one of the many misguided and blatantly cynical trends that have negatively impacted the video game industry, as an art form, and as entertainment, but it presents the most significant challenge to fighting games. Even games that previously avoided monetization irked their most devoted fans by replacing beloved features with in-game stores or selling them through microtransactions. Restricting fighters and moves behind paywalls, selling passes to access online play, charging exorbitant prices for digital cosmetics, and worse, unfortunately, became standard practices. The so-called Golden Age of the genre has become a polarizing era that threatens to lead to the slow demise of fighting games.

Monetization originated from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion‘s controversial attempt to sell mods like horse armor and Team Fortress 2’s Mann Co. Store. Despite initial resistance, monetization became increasingly overt and commonplace with the advent of live service games. “Free-to-play” games began to feature so many microtransactions that buying the game outright was cheaper than playing for “free.” The concept was to charge players additional money on top of the base game’s purchase, similar to the model used by mobile games. This was accomplished by gating a game’s most iconic features such as costumes, weapons, maps, moves, or entire characters behind a paywall. This practice became prevalent across a variety of game genres, particularly in free-to-play shooters, starting in the 2010s. Gamers quickly realized in retrospect that, of all genres, fighting games were the most vulnerable to predatory monetization.

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