Microtransactions, the small in-game payments you make to purchase special equipment or benefits, are becoming a steady source of income for game developers.
The approach to these transactions, however, can create a ripple effect that is tearing apart entire teams of content moderators.
According to GameSpot, developers like Microsoft are doing it right with special Req packs in their Halo 5: Guardians, taking in over $1 million in microtransaction revenue, and keeping their fans in the game with new, DLC-themed content and limited offer bundles.
Payday 2 developers, Overkill, however, have been suffering at the hand of their own business decisions, with their Steam moderation team refusing to work until the two parties sit down and talk through the situation.
Gamespot reports that the uproar was caused by the gaming company going back on their word to never offer microtransactions. To their fans’ surprise, the game’s latest update introduced a slew of in-game perks, with the special mention that only those players who had previously made in-game microtransactions would benefit from them.
The backlash seems to have hit the moderator team members the hardest, with irate gamers going as far as sending them death threats. The developers have recently issued an official apology and are actively seeking ways to reconnect with their community and clear their image in the media, but could all this have been avoided?
When developers launch a game, they enter an intimate relationship with their fan base. The style of communication they choose, the degree of transparency and the smallest (or biggest) business decisions can turn that privileged relationship into something akin to rebellion.
Community moderators are gamers themselves, people dedicated to helping their peers, often on behalf of gaming companies, often without expecting any remuneration for their services. But all their effort is for naught if game developers choose to disregard the voice of the community.
Content moderation continues to be vital in the era of microtransactions. Outsourced or not, it should be supported by gaming communities through honest communication, social listening and customer-centric business decisions. Passion should beget passion, and trust should beget trust. It really is that simple.