Looking at top games young people play to help gain a greater understanding. Looking at age ratings, additional purchases and safety checks.
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Microtransations There are no microtransactions within Animal Crossing, but there have been discussions about potentially introducing them in the future.
Age Rating 3
Animal crossing is a game for Nintendo consoles, most recently Nintendo Switch, which focuses on social simulation and world building. The game prides itself on being laid back and giving players a relaxing experience of building a community which you share with animal characters. The most recent edition Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched on Nintendo Switch in 2020 and has been hugely popular with Children and Adults alike due to its simplicity and relaxing aesthetic.
History The Animal Crossing franchise has been active since the first game launched in Japan in 2001. This initial game was released on Nintendo 64 and GameCube, with each Nintendo console having an Animal Crossing title up to and including the Nintendo Switch. Spin off games have also been released for Android and iPhone devices, which aim to continue the experience of the main console games.
There are no rounds or clear ways to differentiate playtime on Animal Crossing. However, the world maps to a player’s time zone (entered when they first start the game) and matches the time of day (or night) in real-time, meaning if you were to log in at 10pm at night to play, the world would be dark, and characters would likely be sleeping. Certain features within the game, including the shop, close at set times too.
Microtransations As Apex Legends is free to download and play, microtransactions are a key contributing factor to the profitability of the game. One of these microtransactions centres around the desire to obtain different playable characters, which heavily impacts an individual’s play style and gaming experience. It is possible to achieve enough points to unlock characters through play time. However, a new player starting today may find almost 10 characters locked behind a play/pay wall, with more being added as the game continues to evolve. Packs of coins for purchasing characters and skins in advance can be more appealing than spending hours trying to catch up with friends. These coins can be bought at the following rates; 1000 points at £7.99, 2000(+150 bonus) for £15.99, 4000 (+350 bonus) for £31.99, 6000 (+700 bonus) for £47.99, 10000 (+1500 bonus) for £79.99. Loot boxes also feature in the game, with cosmetic skins, items and character voice lines/actions all available at random through purchasable loot boxes.
Age Rating 16
Developer: EA & Respawn
Apex Legends is a free to download battle royale shooter. The game does not require payments to play but there are paid editions of the game featuring additional characters and cosmetic skins, including Champion Edition £35, Bloodhound Edition £18, Lifeline Edition £18, Pathfinder Edition £18, Octane Edition £18, Lifeline and Bloodhound Double Pack £35.
History Apex Legends launched in 2019 and is an extension of the fictional universe explored in the Titanfall games. The game is a standalone and features some of the same mechanics as the Titanfall franchise, but its battle royale style and featured characters are entirely independent. Apex Legends boasts a player base of over 70 million people worldwide.
Following the traditional battle royale model, a game of Apex Legends can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. Once started, these games cannot be paused and if forced to exit the game, certain penalties may be made against the player as a punishment.
Microtransations This is a key feature of multiplayer COD games, enabling players to put their personality into their character, or represent their favourite COD Esports team. Cosmetic items, including skins for weapons and avatars, are available through the in-game marketplace. Loot boxes were introduced in COD WW2 in 2017 but have not featured in any version of the game since then. Warzone is a free-to-play game, meaning much of its revenue is reliant on promoting in-game purchases to players. In-game purchases in Warzone are made using COD points, which are purchased using real-life money. On Amazon 5000 COD Points costs £34.99, 2400 COD Points = £16-£20, 1100 COD Points = £8.50-£10.
Call of Duty
Age Rating 18
Developer: Activision, Treyarch, Infinity Ward
Call of Duty is a first-person shooter game, which features a single-player campaign mode, an online multiplayer mode comprising different games and an increasingly popular battle royale mode called Warzone. As Call of Duty is a franchise, it has been in the hands of various developers and publishers over the years with sub-series including Modern Warfare and Black Ops coming under the responsibility of different developers and game designers.
History The first Call of Duty game released in 2003 focused on historical warfare simulators and was based largely on World War 2. In 2019 it was announced that the series had sold 300 million copies of its various games to date. The most current release in the COD franchise is ‘Call of Duty: Cold War’ which features a story-based single-player campaign set in the 1980s. The online multiplayer side of the game mirrors many aspects of the real-life campaign, using weapons and equipment from the actual time period. Access to Warzone, the relatively new and increasingly popular battle royale mode of the game, is available through the main screen of most recent COD titles.
Single Player Modes can be paused at any time, whereas Multiplayer Games usually last 10 minutes maximum and battle royale (Warzone) rounds take on average 20-30 minutes.
Microtransations The FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) game mode features one of the most well known and popular forms of microtransactions, FUT packs. Each FUT gold pack costs 250 FIFA Points. On Amazon 12000 FUT Points = £71.99, 4600 FUT Points = £29.69, 2200 FUT Points = £14.39. FUT Packs are classed as a type of loot box as players spend in-game currency for a percentage chance to unlock a high ranked player.
Age Rating 3
Developer: EA Games
FIFA is one of the world’s best-selling video game franchises, with a new edition released every year. The current version (FIFA 21) includes men’s and women’s international football teamsand clubs from the top leagues around the world, with players able to control all aspects of their strategy, management and even finances. A variety of game modes, from Career Mode to Ultimate Team, give players different experiences, from following an individual player’s career, to managing an entire team, or simply taking control and playing matches against any team in the world. This wide variety of choice has made FIFA a success with football fans and gamers alike.
History The first FIFA game was released in 1993 and the game has continued to rise in popularity since then, with FIFA 12 becoming the fastest selling sports game of all time with over 3.2 million copies sold in its first week of release. The latest release, FIFA 21, was released worldwide on 9 October 2020 and is available for multiple gaming systems, including the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. An enhanced version of the game has since been released on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S and Stadia.
FIFA games speed up the real-time of a football match to make each game more playable. In online multiplayer games, where a player can compete against a friend or somebody else online, the game time can be altered in the game settings. However, most matches last between 12 and 20 minutes.
Microtransations Fortnite’s financial model is based largely on microtransactions, with the game itself free to play. Items that players can pay to unlock include character skins (which change the appearance of a player) and other cosmetic items including gliders (used to enter the game) and other appearance modifiers. The in-game currency used throughout Fortnite is ‘V-Bucks’ which are purchased using real-world money. As an example, 1000 V-Bucks on the PlayStation store costs £6.49 (as of March 2021). Loot box mechanics are also featured in Fortnite in the form of loot llamas. There are two different types of llama – one appears randomly within a game and unlocks weapons only within that game round, the other enables players to unlock skins and can be bought using ‘v-bucks’ as part of the in-game marketplace.
Age Rating 12
Developer: Epic Games
Fortnite is a free-to-play battle royale game available on all major consoles, PC, and Android/iPhone devices.
There are several different game modes available to play within Fortnite, from team matches to solo play. The game follows the battle royale format of eliminating players until only one team (or one individual) remains to be crowned the victor.
History Fortnite first launched in 2017 as a purchasable Xbox, PlayStation and PC game focusing on its main co-operative and survival focused game mode; known as ‘Fortnite; save the world’. However, after the launch of their battle royale mode later that year (which was free to play without purchasing the main game) the popularity of Fortnite skyrocketed. The game has since achieved global fame and has collaborated with franchises from Marvel’s Avengers to Star Wars, highlighting its powerful reach and influence. The game has also become well known for launching the careers of several popular game streamers, including Ninja (real name Richard Tyler Blevins) whose current net worth is estimated to be around £22 million.
Fortnite is played in rounds, with a set number of players taking part and gradually being eliminated until only one player, or team is left standing. This can mean some game modes take longer than others. However, due to a set timer, which drives players into the centre of the in-game map, it is possible to estimate that an average round of Fortnite can take from 20-30 minutes.
Microtransations Microtransactions feature heavily in GTA online, with the games using a well-known in-game currency referred to by players as 'shark cards'. These cash cards are optional but allow players to buy downloadable content and are purchased using real-life money.Cards vary in price, with each named after different sharks e.g. Bull Shark (£5.99), Megalodon Shark (£64.99). The in-game currency that players can earn, and buy, is referred to as 'GTA Dollars' and these allow the player to buy vehicles, outfits, weapons and a wide range of content that can determine game performance and online social status. Whilst loot boxes are not used in the GTA franchise, there are games of chance and more direct gambling features included n GTA online. The biggest feature is the addition of the 'Diamond Casino and Resort' which players can visit and interact with just like a real-life casino, spending GTA Dollars, which they can purchase with real money. This follows the game's desire to become a realistic role-playing game where players can act out real-life experiences in-game, including visiting strip clubs and shops.
Grand Theft Auto
Age Rating 18
Grand Theft Auto is a free roaming, open-world, sandbox, roleplaying game which allows the player to play as a set character in its main single-player storyline mode or create their own in-game avatar to play with online. The experiences a player can have in-game vary depending on which mode (story or online) a player is in. Both game modes contain strong adult themes and missions generally centre around criminal activity. GTA Online is a very popular multiplayer game and players can experience everything from vehicle races, shootouts, heists and even casino visits.
History The Grand Theft Auto franchise has existed since the late 1990's. The most recent titles include GTA IV and GTA V, the latter being the current flagship of the franchise. GTA V's online mode is what is largely still played and is due to be released as a standalone game on next generation consoles including PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.
There are no time limits to Grand Theft Auto games, either in story mode oronline. A player can leave whenever they like, but pausing the game is not possible in online modes.
Microtransations Whilst there is additional Downloadable Content (DLC) and paid add-ons for Minecraft, these are not essential to play the base game. Only the Bedrock Edition includes the microtransactions we are used to seeing in other online games such as emotes and character skins.
Age Rating 7
Developer: Mojang / Microsoft
Minecraft is a well-known crafting and survival game available on consoles, PC and Android/iPhone devices. The game is known as a ‘sandbox’ in which players can create vast worlds and build almost anything in an open world that they can explore and survive in, either alone or with friends online.
History Minecraft first launched in November 2011. Due to the complex nature of video game publishing, there are in fact two different versions of Minecraft in existence: one owned by the game's developer Mojang (Java Edition) and one owned by Microsoft (Bedrock Edition). These versions differ on some aspects, with Microsoft making the decision to include microtransactions in their version and Mojang opting not to. The game is well known around the world, being hugely popular with many children and young people. Like many popular games, there is a strong online community surrounding Minecraft.
As Minecraft is an open world sandbox game there is no definitive time set for gameplay. The world does transition between night and day, but it can be difficult for a player to keep track of how long they have spent playing the game.
Microtransations Pokémon Go features its own currency; PokeCoins, which can be purchased using real world money. PokeCoins can then be used to purchase items that improve your chance of success in the game and make the overall gaming experience more enjoyable. Whilst loot boxes do not feature directly in Pokémon Go, the game's 'Egg' feature includes a game of chance. Eggs and egg growing equipment such as incubators (which give the player a reduced egg hatching time) can be purchased using in-game currency and therefore real-world money. There is no guarantee that an egg will yield a certain Pokémon so this mechanic, accessible using real-world money, could be seen as a game of chance.
Age Rating 7
Developer: Niantic, Inc.
Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game in which players can catch in-game monsters (Pokémon) related to their real-life surroundings or geographic location. Pokémon Go is only available on Android and iPhone devices, including smart phones and tablets, this is due to the required ability to walk around and roam an area.
History The Pokémon franchise was first brought to the UK in the form of a trading card game, accompanied by an animated TV series, in 1999. The franchise’s origins are in Japan and were early examples of Anime (Japanese cartoons) becoming popular in the UK, Europe, and the USA. There have been several Pokémon video games, with Pokémon Go being a recent addition on the smartphone market. Other current Pokémon games are available on the Nintendo Switch.
Pokémon Go is a roaming Augmented Reality game meaning that it has no set play time or end time. Its world and in-game clock are mapped to the time zone of the player, so time matches real life in the game. Playing at nighttime and playing at daytime gives you the chance to capture different Pokémon.
Microtransations Players can use real money to make in-app purchases in exchange for Robux, the game's premium currency. Users can spend Robux on a variety of in-game cosmetics and consumables, depending on what the developer lists for sale. Loot boxes are purchasable items in Roblox and offer randomised items for a set price. This is the classic loot box formula many have criticised as being a game of chance.
Age Rating 7
Developer: Roblox Corporation
Roblox is less of a game and more of an online digital platform. Players can gather and share experiences or creations in 3D generated worlds. All games featured in Roblox (of which there are more than 50 million available online) have been created by its online community of gamers. Social interaction is a key feature of the platform, with chat functions available. In the UK there are around 1.5 million children playing Roblox. It can be installed on computers, consoles, phones and tablets, making it a hugely accessible and popular digital space.
History Roblox first launched in 2006 and has been growing steadily ever since. Controversy has affected Roblox in recent years with reports of child grooming in 2017 and an incident reported in the media in 2018 of sexually graphic imagery being sent to children on the platform. The company has issued statements updating parents on fixes to loopholes since then. Roblox launched its own ‘for parents’ website which lists its safety tools and information (https://corp.roblox.com/parents/)
Play time is not limited by set rounds etc. and as such Roblox, similar to Minecraft, it can be challenging to effectively manage gameplay time.
Microtransations Microtransactions within Rocket League enable players to purchase the cars and set-ups of professional Esports athletes. These packs can vary in price from £3 to £16. Credits (in-game currency) can be purchased; 500 for £3.75, 1100 for £7.50, 3000 for £18.75. Esports Tokens can also be purchased; 100 for £0.75, 600 for £3.75. Loot boxes previously featured in Rocket League but were replaced with a new system called ‘Blueprints’. Blueprints are dropped at random, dependant on play time, and enable a player to unlock different items and cars for a set cost.
Age Rating 3
Rocket League is a competitive sports game which is free to play. The game emulates a football match which takes place in vehicles. The players experience team matches in rocket-powered vehicles that can compete in both single-player and multi-player modes to be the winners.
History The game was first released as a PS4 and Microsoft exclusive in 2015, with Xbox One and Nintendo Switch versions released later. Rocket League is a sequel to a 2008 game known as ‘Battle Cars’ which received mixed reviews but had a loyal fanbase.