Microtransactions in video games and their implementation might be one of the most controversial topics in all of entertainment today. Nobody is guaranteed to get far in a conversation about gaming and its problems without the mention of any one company’s greed or how predatory the nature of microtransactions ruins one’s goodwill towards a game. However, within the conversation of microtransactions, one variable is seemingly ignored entirely by a majority of people, and that is how content creators often drive the sales of microtransactions.
Of course, it would be dishonest to say that content creators are intentionally fueling microtransactions as some sort of way to ruin gaming.Rather, the truth of the matter is that content creators more often than not incentivize their viewers to buy the cosmetics of the games they play. This kind of relationship is not a new thing within the gaming community. Even when considering the traditional relationship between content creators and game advertising, watching someone who is good at a game or who has dedicated a lot of time to it will naturally get viewers to play said game and devote that kind of time to it. While much of the microtransaction gripe within gaming comes from the idea that games are made nowadays to try and have new players be fed up with a frustrating system so that they turn to real payment as a way to bypass said system. However, it has become more profitable, it seems, to instead try to hook players so that more dedicated ones will stay with the game and in turn continue to spend money as time goes on.
Though that strategy has become much more prevalent, it is often not thought about, even though within a playerbase it is the elusive white whales that all developers look to find while developing a microtransactions system. A white whale in this case being someone who has an excess amount of disposable income and decides to invest it into a game they find themselves playing all the time. There isn’t anything wrong with supporting a game you love, and it’s exactly what developers are looking for: someone who will dump money into their game, for cosmetics or any other things that display prestige or something that can differentiate them from other players. Where content creators come into the mix is how they increase the chances of someone becoming that white whale, and that they don’t bear the effects of spending that kind of money on the game, because it is either their job to play that game, and as such any income going into that game can sometimes come back to them anyways and they made money by spending it. Also, the sponsorships that come from games those streamers play can come with fully-loaded accounts that provide all the stuff that could be bought in the game. This can sometimes fail to be recognized by those that view said content creator, even if there is something notifying them of the fact that a stream or video is sponsored.
This isn’t putting blame on any content creator, but it is to point out that content creators have a role, if passively, in fueling the addiction many have to purchasing things online in their favorite games. Who better to imitate than someone great at a game that you love to play is often the train of thought by those that spend mountains of cash on any given game. Studying this dynamic between influential creators and the games they promote could be an interesting look into how much game developers rely on the press that drives their sales and microtransactions and to what length they may go to getting the word out. Another point to study is how creators and game developers have evolved in their relationship, with their interactions and business becoming more entangled and increasingly beneficial for both sides. When gaming streaming first started it seemed as if most content creators played new games to grow their own audience and in turn the game they were playing would grow. However, it was not due to the developers reaching out to the creator and telling them to play the game most times. Now though, the streamer is paid to make content for them, which in turn brings in players for a game, and makes the streamer money through both the sponsorship and viewers of their content. The presence of content creators within the gaming industry has become far less personal and instead has transitioned into a corporate or businesslike form. The bond between developers and the most popular creators is a more public symbiotic relationship now than it was in the past.
Entertainment and those who market for it have found new avenues of bringing in the money and the popularity through content creators which keep a feeling of personal contact (parasocial-type relationships) while still being for the sole purpose of making money for both parties involved which is the entertainment industry and the creator themselves.