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Gamers were livid with Forza Motorsport 5, the exclusive Xbox One racer that managed to become the system's top-tier, top-rated launch title due to a thin set of software offerings for Microsoft's third generation console. Why were gamers livid? Because of microtransactions. Forza 5 was turned into a free-to-play style grind to influence the purchase of microtransactions, and that, my friends, is a cardinal sin for a $60 premium game. Jim Sterling has labeled scenarios like this as fee-to-play games.
Well, the reviews are in for Gran Turismo 6, another premium racer laced with microtransactions. We recently reported that Eurogamer would be keeping a close eye on the game's cash shop and report whether or not it affected the overall gameplay in their review. So how well did gaming media and the rest of the Doritocracy do with appropriately measuring the content versus the cash shop mechanisms? It depends on what you're looking for out of a review.
With the exception of a few websites like Giant Bomb covering Forza Motorsport 5's microtransactions, gamers noticed that reviewers have been failing to mention how big a role cash shops play in premium $60 games. Such as reviewers not mentioning anything about the pervasive grind in games like 2K Sports' NBA 2K14, where microtransactions were once again front and center as a game-currency modifier.
For Gran Turismo 6, gamers were exceptionally keen to keep the issue of microtransactions at the forefront of the discussion. Despite some graphics discrepancies between Gran Turismo 5 and Gran Turismo 6, the important thing on the mind of gamers relates wholly and totally with whether Polyphony's latest is a wallet-ravaging beast or if it keeps the cash shop monster in place.
Well, the Metacritic score evens out at 79 out of 100, as of the writing of this article, with a wildly fluctuating user rating of 6.5, with plenty of 0 and 1 point reviews lamenting microtransactions.
For professional gaming media, the lower score has more to do with game mechanic consistency (or the lack thereof) more than it has to do with the cash shop. Thankfully, though, sites like Eurogamer kept to their word. They made mention of the microtransactions in their review and had this to say about them...
“Gran Turismo 6 is next-gen in other ways, too, with the spectre of microtransactions lingering near. Polyphony's at least been wise to partition them away from the game - if you weren't aware of their inclusion beforehand, you wouldn't know they're there at all. The economy is, to all intents and purposes, identical to Gran Turismo 5's - prize cars aren't handed out quite so generously, but payouts are on a similar scale while car prices likewise remain frozen.“
Eurogamer's Martin Robinson goes on to say that despite the cash shop goods not imposing on the gameplay in any way, it's still a dangerous precedent being set by including such a feature in a premium game.
US Gamer doesn't connote any dangers to microtransactions, but they do point out that it's something you can overlook in the game, as Gran Turismo 6 hasn't altered its gameplay to suit the grind usually associated with persuading gamers to use the cash shop, writing...
“What is different this time around is that you earn fewer cars through racing, but for the most part, it seems Gran Turismo’s microtransactions really are what Sony boss Shuhei Yoshida said they are: the means for someone who can’t play the game much to buy their way through it. That's fine by me: GT6 can have as many microtransactions as it wants as long as it doesn’t feel like the game is being fixed to milk cash out of me like Forza 5 does.”
PlayStation Lifestyle mentions that credits can be tough to come by early in the game – which isn't any different from any other previous Gran Turismo title – but the payout is consistent enough that the game doesn't delve too far into grind-like-a-Chinese-gold-farmer-territory...
“Credits are the in-game currency that you’ll need to purchase and upgrade your cars. Early on these credits can be hard to come by and you may have to grind out a few races to get that car ready for the next step up in competition. Once you make it to the International B level, races earn you considerably more for a first place and will start to add up in a hurry.”
If you think this makes the Doritocracy look good, you may be thinking too positively too soon. The largest gaming site out there, IGN, completely forgoes the mention of microtransactions altogether in their review.
This is one of the more disheartening revelations given that it would take several Metacritic reviews from other large and mid-tier sites combined to make up for the amount of pagehits that an IGN review will garner, even more-so for a high-profile title like Gran Turismo 6. Yet, unfortunately, gamers reading IGN's review won't receive much info as to whether or not cash shop pervasiveness is an issue in Gran Turismo 6, much like many gamers weren't made aware that the microtransactions played such a prominent role in NBA 2K14.
Thankfully, IGN's fumble was recovered by Gamespot's save. An article was posted about Gran Turismo 6's review still being in progress, and writer Joseph Barron makes it abundantly clear that they will address the microtransactions in the final review. Thank you, Gamespot.
It looks like the Doritocracy are willing to share the nachos with the community this time around.
Keep in mind, though, that this is not a brand thing; it's not platform partisanship; this is not console bias dictating the decision to leave out important pro-consumer issues. This is an industry thing.
Hopefully we'll see more reviews along the lines of the ones popping up for Gran Turismo 6, where reviewers are honestly taking into account the important issues that gamers feel need to be addressed, before said gamers commit to that $60 first-week purchase publishers worship oh so much.