Why it Matters That Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp Has Microtransactions

The Switch port of the visual novel series is bringing a new side game with new monetary practices.

Spike Chunsoft has released some new details about Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp, the extended mini-game-turned-full-game that’s coming as part of the series’ Danganronpa Decadence collection on Switch on December 3. And friends, the vibes are off, as the game will be adding microtransactions.

The real-world money transaction in question is in unlocking characters and upgrades through buying them outright instead of with an in-game gacha mechanic. Ultimate Summer Camp is a bigger, better version of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony’s Ultimate Talent Development Plan side game, and unlocking characters to play required you to grind a fair bit. The option to use real-world money lets you side-step that entirely, and given the original game’s grind, the appeal is pretty apparent.

Why does this matter? A lot of video games use microtransactions, as they’re a way to extend profit beyond the moment someone takes it off a store shelf. The context is in the Danganronpa franchise as a whole, and the note it left on back in 2017 with Danganronpa V3.

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General spoilers for Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony follow:

See, V3 was unlike the other games in the murder mystery series, in that it was, by the end, a satire of the video game industry. It took place in an alternate setting from the original trilogy, and showed a version of the world where Danganronpa’s death and despair became so popular it was spun off into a reality show where people would volunteer to take part in Monokuma’s killing game, killing, dying, and solving murder mysteries for the entertainment of an obsessive fandom disinterested in themes, characters, or the integrity of its story. It’s an elaborate metatextual look at what it means to be caught in a cycle of supply and demand, and how existing solely for the consumerist cycle will ultimately cause something to lose its soul. The game ends with the characters ending the Danganronpa reality show, seemingly making a statement about ending a franchise so it no longer has to be beholden to the capitalistic content mill of the video game industry.

And here we are, four years later, with Director Kazutaka Kodaka no longer at Spike Chunsoft, and Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp bringing in new monetary practices to a series that had, to this point, not done any paid DLC or microtransactions (other than that weird mobile game that was shut down shortly after launching in 2015) and had seemingly died on its own terms in 2017.

Spoilers end here.

From a mechanical standpoint, the option to opt out of what was originally your only option makes sense. If V3 hadn’t been making the points it was, the same microtransaction would have likely fit in the board game Ultimate Summer Camp is based on. But this is a series that once created an entire metatextual setting and endgame to protest the exact kind of business decision that’s being made here. It’s easy to say that this was the inevitable conclusion of a game that is built on unlocking characters people like, but just because something is a good business decision doesn’t mean that companies have to make that decision. Companies choose to make those decisions. They don’t have to do anything. And those decisions, the optics around them, and what they mean for the integrity of the work they’re implemented into are worth interrogating, rather than shrugging off these things as an inevitability of being a video game in 2021.

And I hope it’s not an omen for what’s to come for the series that, four years ago, seemed like it was going to stay away. I hope Danganronpa doesn’t miss the point of Danganronpa.