To fully understand why microtransactions can ruin a game, we must first understand what it is and what it does. Microtransactions (sometimes abbreviated as MTX) is a business model where users can purchase virtual goods or in-game currency to purchase mentioned goods with micropayments or real money. These are often used in free-to-play (F2P) and mobile games to provide a revenue source for its developers and publishers although it isn’t exclusive to the mobile and F2P market space as its often seen nowadays in AAA PC and console titles like EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II or Activision’s Call of Duty franchise. It’s so common in the modern-day game industry that it doesn’t even sound noteworthy what games will have it but which game won’t actually include it.
On the F2P space, it’s a good thing to be able to play the game and entice users to try it out before investing in it. So not only does it increase the player base but it’s also free from the risk of not getting your money’s worth from the non-existential initial purchase. However, as most games of similar business models, it does become a greed-driven practice when games are centred on putting all the unnecessary limitations using timers that hinder progress and whatnot. Often times, users would start by waiting a few seconds or a minute at best to finish up production or construction that would eventually lead to hours or even days before the infrastructure can be completed. And this is just a fraction of the problem.
But how does it relate to Crash Team Racing?
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a $39.99 game. It’s not on the high-end of prices but also not a budget title either. And while it does have a lot of interesting aspects and fun mechanics that the developer Beenox has nailed down to the Baby T, it doesn’t properly hide the fact that it’s a F2P business model in sheep’s clothing.
What do I mean by that? Basically, the game from day one revolves around the idea of microtransactions. But it didn’t have it until a month later, right? Although it technically had no MTX on its release, the idea was already in place. The in-game currency rewards are so drastically low that players would find themselves playing the game for more than two hours simply to unlock a single character skin from the hundreds of items you can purchase. And this is something even Dead or Alive 6 from earlier this year has known all too well but Team Ninja has taken notice and rectified the issue by increasing the rewards for unlocking cosmetic items yet Beenox only “rebalanced” the system making a few tracks offer higher rewards while some of it would offer lower but ultimately changed nothing to the highest coins earned from a single track. It’s balanced but not better.
And yes, there are timed daily and weekend bonuses to increase such rewards tenfold but that’s also part of the issue. While you can unlock a skin or a kart in an hour’s time, it’s simply just for an hour worth of playing online not to mention people that can’t play online are stuck with the ineffectual base rewards. Once your timed multipliers are over, you’re back to earning mediocre amounts of wumpa coins which only leads to more one on one private matches simply to play on the best coin/minute track and getting the most out of your bonuses for that hour.
And in the middle of all that, the experience, as well as the fun, is lost since you’ll be playing the same tracks repetitiously rather than to spend time in a lobby full of people and having fun getting massacred by the huge amount of orbs and clocks coming at you at lightning pace. To me, that’s where the fun lies yet the game’s broken mechanics only drags me back to boring private matches more often than I would’ve wanted. Do kart racers need to be grindy? Do we need to have a reason to stop playing and come back the next day? Or is it simply because MTX is such a blinding ray of light that even when it doesn’t work, they’ll find ways to shove it in people’s mouths.
Seeing the rates of these so-called convenience options, a pack of 10,000 wumpa coins + 1000 bonus WC amounts to $9.99 which is not bad, to be honest, it’s just freaking extortionate! The game itself cost around a quarter of that price, meaning if you bought four of these packs you’ve already spent the same amount to what is translated to nothing in terms of “cosmetic items”. On a single pack, it only amounts to two kart bodies or four legendary skins. Which is something you’d be able to earn in two hours in the span of two days over the weekend bonus.
There’s an unsurmountable amount of cosmetics in the game that 10,000 simply can’t cut it to the point you’d even think the paint jobs are completely redundant and unnecessary while the Grand Prix Limited wheels offer no real worth for the amount you spend on them. Sure they’re cool but at the end of the day, they unnecessarily added different colour variations and resold those for a total of eight times making a 2500 WC purchase seem like a 20,000 WC investment. And you’re kind of force to get them since they’re “limited” and would go away “for a time” yet their worth doesn’t exactly give that much of a lasting impact.
Even if the idea is to earn revenue to keep pushing with new content that is available to all on a monthly basis, there were better and less slimy ways to do this. Take Monster Hunter World as an example, the game had free content all year round. Now, it’s adding a paid expansion and I’m okay with that. Because I know where my money is going, not a cosmetic skin or kart that I’ll probably use for a single day or two but on an actual freaking content that would make me spend even more hours on. I can definitely see CTR expanding with a Crash Nitro Kart adventure mode yet I feel like the game is far from doing just that… and it’s sad.
At the end of the day…
The game’s economy is ruined and the online player base is divided. The things you might want right now is probably not the things you’ll end up getting as there are limited items you could be getting for no real reason and you’re being dragged to private lobbies just to speed up the influx of coins or simply taking advantage of exploits to cut off the time per race, leading to more races and more coins or straight-up leaving the console on for an entire night or while you’re at work or at school to repeatedly grind a crystal challenge to earn a mediocre 15 coins per minute. These are things that people can do and it shouldn’t be something we have to resort to no matter the cause.
“1999’s Crash Team Racing was all about the fun while
2019’s Crash Team Racing ends up being all about the grind.”