If you had to ask me which single mechanic defined gaming last decade, Microtransactions would easily take the spot, and not in a positive way.
It’s a system that is now omnipresent in 99% of modern games in some form or another. The concept is simple: you pay a relatively small amount of money in exchange for some benefits in-game. It can take various forms: from cosmetics, to mini-DLCs, to premium currency in Free2Play games (F2P). The system saw a massive surge in popularity in the last four years, after developers took note of the profits that companies such as EA and Activision Blizzard were making.
While the core concept is not in itself terrible, especially in certain F2P games, their implementation in the world of full-price Triple-A titles has been awful. While previously games would be designed to reward the player with a sense of accomplishment after being completed, the philosophy has now changed. Completing a game and owning all collectables (skins, amour, weapons) is now about how much you can spend, rather than how much time you dedicate to the game.
This is then followed by the introduction of game components which outright favor customers who spend more money. So called Pay-to-Win, with games such as FIFA, allowing big spenders to have a significant advantage against players who decide to not invest in the game any further.
Developers now seem to produce games around microtransactions in order to generate profit, with a tendency to force Lootboxes in their games at the expense of gameplay. As the most popular form of microtransactions, Lootboxes have recently come under a lot of pressure as some people argue their status as gambling. This pressure resulted in countries such as Belgium banning them. This is an interesting development, as most Mobile games rely on this mechanic as their core.
Microtransactions in games have also given an incentive for developers to release an incomplete product, and then gradually announce new DLCs behind a paywall. More and more often I see myself browsing the store and seeing DLCs which are meant to complete certain games storylines, or add different endings. It now seems that in order to experience the full game you are forced to pay more on top of the £50 already invested.
Gone are the days of spending hours of grinding for that secret armor set, nowadays you just open the store and purchase it.