One player spent over $150,000 on microtransactions in a Transformers mobile game. This news comes after a long year of controversial payment schemes popping up in video games of all sizes, from AAA titles like Ghost Recon Breakpoint monetizing literally everything in its game to actual slot machines in NBA 2K20. Recently, it was also announced a RuneScape player spent $62,000 on microtransactions, prompting harsh backlash from the game's community.
Although almost universally hated by players, these payments continue to be a pervasive element throughout all avenues of gaming, with exploitative microtransactions even ruining Nintendo titles like Mario Kart Tour on mobile devices. With so many obviously problematic systems being repeatedly inserted into the public eye, it's not surprising one United States senator wants to ban loot boxes and pay-to-win options.
None of those stories, however, compare to the one recently released by Kotaku in which one singular player reportedly spent over $150,000 dollars on Transformers: Earth Wars, a base defense strategy-type game for mobile devices in which players can play as either an Autobot or a Decepticon. This information comes straight from the CEO of the game's developer Yodo1, Henry Fong, who referred to these high spenders as 'whales' during a Game Connect Asia-Pacific conference.
Even more discomforting, Fong spoke of Yodo1 developers working on an AI neural network which would analyse player behaviors, such as actions taken and time played, in order to predict who could possibly become a potential 'whale' with up to eighty-seven percent accuracy. Apparently Yodo1 has been working on the program for over two years, accumulating all of their player's data during that time in order to better suggest how to target the right microtransactions to the right players at the right time.
With so many people already against the idea of forcing additional payments into player's faces, it's stunning to see Henry Fong speaking so brazenly open and happy about the prospect of further manipulating gamer's minds in order to squeeze even more money out of them. While some developers, like Yodo1, are openly trying to push payments onto players, others have begun advertising themselves as loot box-free in order to differentiate their type of microtransactions from everyone else's. These payments have a long history of increasing gambling problems in players who are susceptible to that sort of thing, and as of right now there is still no overarching controlled regulation for how far (and how much) companies can string players along for. One thing is certain, however: no video game, Transformers-themed or not, is worth $150,000.