Editor's Note: This post comes to us from guest writer, Allyson. If you missed her initial thoughts on the Nintendo Switch Lite last week, you can read that here.
Crash Team Racing has been nostalgia-filled fun since I purchased my copy nearly two months ago at launch. I played the initial game as a kid and was excited to get to replay the game. It was even more amazing to hear that the game would be receiving a few upgrades, including more customizations to the characters and karts. I’ve always enjoyed changing up my characters every few days in games that will allow it.
When initial reviews came out near launch, I was relieved and rather happy to hear that there were no microtransactions. I agreed strongly with the GameSpace review which wrote,
“It’s a sad state of affairs that this itself is newsworthy in the games industry today. We shouldn’t be celebrating receiving content in exchange for our hard-earned money, but that’s the gAAAmes industry today.”
I paid my money for the game and that would be the end of it — I could earn my cosmetic upgrades/changes through time spent in-game, and not by opening my wallet.
We’re now coming up on the second Grand Prix event within the game. However, this time, it has an unwanted addition. In a blog post introducing the event, Activision writes:
“As always, the Pit Stop will be stocked with new and returning characters and cosmetic items, which players can unlock using Wumpa Coins*. With all this content available, there will also now be a way for players to fast-track their Wumpa Coin collection if they like. Starting in early August, players will have the option to purchase Wumpa Coin bundles from their game console stores to supplement the Coins they earn by playing. This option won’t change the game’s core mechanics – players will still earn Wumpa Coins by playing the game in any mode, just as before. They will just able to purchase additional coins if they choose.”
This is concerning. I typically find that I’m pretty good at avoiding microtransactions in whatever game I’m playing. However, I distinctly remember thinking to myself that I was glad microtransactions weren’t offered or I would be really tempted to give in.
The customizations aren’t “cheap” in the Pit Stop, Crash Team Racing’s internal store. When looking at characters or karts, they’ll typically cost you 1500 Wumpa Coins or higher. To provide some perspective, when playing in adventure mode or single player arcade, I earn double digit Wumpa Coins per race. This lower payout in comparison to online play causes me to play online with random individuals as there tend to be daily and weekend bonuses surrounding the online mode. When doing this, I can earn substantially more Wumpa Coins — usually around six to ten times more than when not in online mode.
As much as I wish I were an amazing player that always earned top three in online races, I’m not. In fact, I usually finish in the bottom three. At times, this feels extremely discouraging, and I want nothing more than to go back to racing against the NPCs which I know how to beat. I only continue playing online to get the Wumpa Coins so I can unlock additional customizations.
This leads me to the kids currently playing Crash Team Racing. Although all of us who grew up playing the original CTR as kids feel that this remake was entirely for us, kids today play this modern CTR as well. Kids may not be okay playing online if they’re losing repeatedly just to gain a larger sum of Wumpa Coins. Some adults might not be either. It’s going to be so much easier for them to just spend a couple of dollars here and there to purchase the Wumpa Coins to unlock their favorite character. Over time, those “couple of dollars” add up and suddenly isn’t such a small amount. It’s easy to fall into the microtransaction trap that has become way too familiar through other games including fellow Activision Blizzard games Call of Duty and Overwatch.
I’ve mentioned previously that I don’t usually get sucked into microtransactions. You may not either and might be thinking, “it’s not a problem because it doesn’t affect me.” This is where I ask that you open your eyes. Look around you — you’re bound to know someone who is susceptible to the temptation of microtransactions. These microtransactions are destroying the industry because suddenly, instead of paying upfront and receiving your complete game, you have to continue paying to receive the remaining pieces.
Even though the microtransactions for Wumpa Coins in Crash Team Racing can only be used to purchase “cosmetic” items, and the ability to earn Wumpa Coins in-game exists, this still promotes dangerous habits in the industry. The argument, “you don’t need to spend the cash so why does it matter,” is simply turning a blind eye to the dangerous spending habits that fellow gamers might get sucked into without even recognizing the extent.
Additionally, each unlockable character has their own performance statistics for speed, turns, and acceleration. This now makes it a pay-to-win model, as exchanging real cash can help give players a gameplay advantage. The “it’s only cosmetic” thinking allows publishers to think that adding microtransactions is okay when it should never be.
Additionally, Activision has been rather sneaky with their implementation. The vast majority of reviews for the game have been written and published some time ago when no microtransactions existed. Some reviewers even praised the game for the lack of microtransactions, as I mentioned earlier. Activision waited until enough players had purchased the game and participated in the first Grand Prix event before deciding to flip the switch.
By now, players such as myself are hooked on the game and enjoy playing and participating in the Grand Prix to unlock additional items. However, this time, microtransactions will be there to tempt everyone. It is essential to send the message not just to Activision but all publishers that microtransactions are not acceptable by not handing over our hard-earned money.