Video game: the madness of virtual currencies

Santa is probably not really used to it yet, but his hood may be well stocked this year with V bucks, Robux and other FUT Credits. Gifts not quite like the others since they are entirely… virtual currencies!

These are in the form of codes to enter online games like Fortnite, Roblox or Fifa. Once entered, these codes will then unlock a certain amount of this virtual “money” which can sometimes be very expensive in real currency.

Pay for another appearance or better items

In recent years, the movement has accelerated at high speed and many titles called “Free to Play” (Editor’s note Free to play) thus allow gamers to download and then play their online game for free, a bit like what is already done on mobile.

Until then, all is well, but then what are these virtual currencies for? Given that in this type of game, each player starts on an equal footing, the publishers have therefore found the rich idea of ​​selling accessories, skins (Editor’s note: outfits or appearance) or even weapons using these virtual currencies . Players will therefore be able to change their appearance as well as offer themselves items that will allow them to level up or progress faster than others in their game.

Fortnite reported 1.6 billion in 2019 to its publisher. © Photo credit: Capture Xbox Series X

Among the youngest, titles like Fortnite (and its Vbucks) or Roblox (and its Robux) are carving out the lion’s share and appearing high on the Santa Claus list. Thanks to this virtual “money”, players will be able to improve their characters and especially to leave the basic free appearance.

The height of the success of this system, the editors outright market a real game box for Switch, Xbox or Playstation. Inside, however, neither cartridge nor disc, but only good old code. One way for publishers to reassure some parents (but also some collectors), often sensitive to the object itself, especially when making Christmas presents.

Fortnite codes can be bought in real game boxes ... without cartridges or discs inside.
Fortnite codes can be bought in real game boxes… without cartridges or discs inside. © Photo credit: KE

This comprehensive strategy is making a lot of money for publishers. In Epic’s case, Fortnite brought them $ 1.6 billion in 2019 and $ 1.8 billion in 2018. Not bad for a free game …

Even virtual footballers buy themselves

Virtual currency systems that are also found in games more intended for adults. This is the case with the Fifa series. The US publisher Electronics Arts offers an online program called FUT. Each player starts with a base team, often bad, and must therefore get better players to hope to win a few games. For this, he must therefore go to the cash register.

There is no question of paying directly the player of his dreams, it would be too simple. No, the publisher rather prefers to set up a system that is similar to a lottery. We can therefore just as easily fall on Kylian Mbappé as on a second zone player, unable to put one foot in front of the other. As the program is well calibrated, we do not fall on the wrath of war every time. And since Electronics Parts Fifa releases a new Fifa every year, the players you get on one version can’t be imported into the next … Note however that a class action is underway in the United States against the system set up by Electronics Arts.

Watch out for possible server shutdowns

Virtual currencies are very numerous today. And if some players manage to play normally without paying a single euro, others invest a lot in it. Be careful, however, since by buying an ax in Fortnite or a few players in Fifa, you are not technically “owner” of it. You only pay yourself the right to use a license. If one day the publisher decides to “unplug” the servers that host a game, you will still have the right, in theory, to use your license, but in practice, if the game stops, you will no longer have zero share where to use them.

It also works with purchases of digital version games. If you can play it carefree today, there’s no telling you that in five, ten, or fifteen years the publishers won’t decide to unplug them. If you no longer have them on your machine, you will no longer be able to play them. at all This is for example what Nintendo did with the Wii servers …

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