In-app purchases are a thing that you just have to accept these days, and they're not even new when it comes to PC or console games. But in recent times the "loot box" strategy has come under increasing scrutiny.
Nevertheless, let's take a moment to appreciate a game that's both free and has microtransactions but that does it right: Fortnite Battle Royale.
Completely free to play
Part of the rampant success Epic Games has enjoyed with Fortnite is related to the completely-free Battle Royale mode. Fortnite is a paid game, at least for now, but you only have to pay for the Save the World mode.
Fortnite Battle Royale is free, and at least for the foreseeable future that's how it'll stay. Epic Games has a way of monetizing it, but the important factor is that anyone who doesn't want to pay isn't hindered. Nothing anyone can buy will give them a competitive advantage. Whether you spend $0 or $100, what differentiates you is your skill.
Battle Pass and the cosmetics model
Fortnite has "V-Bucks," the in-game currency, and it's these you exchange for the items you want to buy. You can earn V-Bucks by playing, but mostly you'll be handing over your money for them. And if you want the Battle Pass every season, you'll have to use V-Bucks to buy it.
Playing the game on the free tier will still allow you to unlock a selection of new outfits and emotes, XP and maybe more. Buying the Battle Pass significantly increases what you unlock.
Is it worth it for the additional outfits, emotes, bonus XP and V-Bucks? Well, if you're a regular Fortnite player, yes, it is. Don't ask me to explain it, but when those new outfits come out, or there's a new pickaxe design or glider, an "I must have that" mentality comes over you. That's just the way it is.
But they're only cosmetic. You can't glide further with that new design that costs 800 V-Bucks. None of the outfits will give you special armor or abilities. They're all just skins.
It's clearly working
You could say Epic is ripping people off a little since the prices of a lot of the new outfits are pretty high. Higher than the Battle Pass costs for an entire season, in fact.
And yet every time you go into a game, you see endless players with the new stuff equipped. It seems gamers love skins, and I'm almost ashamed to admit that I've spent way too much money in Fortnite already.
But this is the way microtransactions should be done. I'm not at a disadvantage if I don't buy the latest outfit. I just look a little more boring. What screws me over is my (lack of) ability, not the size of my wallet.
Epic Games is making mountains of money on Fortnite Battle Royale. The company is also releasing regular patches, investing development resources in making the game better and more enjoyable for all, and it is interacting with the people who make the game as fun as it is: The players.
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Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine