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Are Micro-Transactions the Future of Online Game Business Models?

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the to-agree-pay-50-cents dept.

The Almighty Buck 68

Last week we discussed news of Sony Online Entertainment's unveiling of a store that would allow players to purchase in-game Everquest items for real money. Massively spoke with John Smedley, SOE's CEO, about the system and what their goals were. He made the point that they were limiting sales to things that wouldn't unbalance the game. "They're fun and they're convenient. That's all they are. We're not selling power. There are a lot of respectable viewpoints on this, and a lot of reasonable people can disagree on them. Our view is that nothing here is gamebreaking." Edge Magazine has a related piece about Mytheon, an upcoming action-strategy game that will rely on micro-transactions to support its otherwise free-to-play business model. The game's producer suggests that micro-transactions are "a model that really gets us closer to the end user, and that's the way things need to be in the future, online."

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Hooray! (5, Insightful)

Godman (767682) | more than 5 years ago | (#26156947)

I love being nickeled and dimed to death by everyone.

Re:Hooray! (2, Insightful)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157131)

Exactly (except for in the equivalent British denominations). I don't get much chance to play games any more, but I don't want to feel that I've got to keep paying to play the games I do have.

Buying a game and playing feels like you're getting great entertainment. Buying a game (including this one, since it appears to be "buy and then free play") and then having to keep buying things seems more like a situation where you'd feel like you were an entertained piggy bank.

What's wrong with just making decently entertaining games that people are actually willing to go out and buy?

Re:Hooray! (4, Insightful)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157215)

What's wrong with just making decently entertaining games that people are actually willing to go out and buy?

That's not exactly the thinking of course. The thinking is more "what gets me more money? Maybe microtransactions do." Microtransactions and good games aren't mutually exclusive, but a lot of the people making these decisions are just looking for the easiest way to maximize their profit. The old joke actually fits here:

1. Make a game
2. Put microtransactions into it
3. ???
4. Profit!!!

The 3rd step doesn't really need to be identified for the microtransaction plan to dominate. If it gets them to step 4, step 3 could be "Go back to step one and make the game good so it will sell more" or it could just be "allow gamers to think 'It's only $3, who cares if it's good' to get you a lot of microtransactions with minimal investment."

Re:Hooray! (2, Informative)

nobodylocalhost (1343981) | more than 5 years ago | (#26161001)

Microtransaction isn't just about making a profit. It can also allow a new company/game to grab a sizable player base quickly. "How?" you may ask. Many of the microtransaction mmos I have played offers a standard set of content free to sign up and free to play. This allows players to demo the game play as well as some of the content. Further more, free account players may choose to play for free indefinitely. Granted, they may have a limited experience, but they also create communities that draws others in.
A second aspect to microtransaction is that it helps those who need to lapse in payment. Say if you got to move to a new place and for couple months you are worrying about more important things like unpack and furnishing than being bothered to play a game. Well, in normal systems you either get hit by a bill which you didn't utilize the service or you go through a hassle to get the game company to stop billing you then start billing you later. The second option also carried the risk of having your account removed. In case of microtransaction, you decide what kind of service you want and what time you want it. So there really isn't a need of "buying in bulk".
Those plus points however do not reflect on all microtransaction games. I think there are more good points for microtransaction, although it really depends on the implementation of it in game. Some companies are trying to innovate while some others are just plain greedy.

Re:Hooray! (5, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#26162909)

Microtransaction isn't just about making a profit. It can also allow a new company/game to grab a sizable player base quickly. "How?" you may ask. Many of the microtransaction mmos I have played offers a standard set of content free to sign up and free to play.

Those aren't microtransaction mmos, those are simply pay-as-you-go mmos (vs subscription mmos). And pay-as-you mmos are a great idea. I'd play a lot more MMOs if I didn't have to subscribe -- because I have only x hours to play, and if I add a 2nd mmo my costs double but I don't have any more time to play... lousy value proposition.

A microtransaction mmo is when you get the game, and then after you login you choose a class... warrior or cleric are there... or you can pay $2.00 to unlock ranger.

And then you walk into town... the inn is open and the blacksmith is open... but $2.00 to unlock the artisans guild hall which is lets you dye your armor. So you walk into the blacksmith... ooh, a shiny +1 shield is available but its got a picture of a pink butterfly on it. But for $2.00 you can unlock the +1 shield-pack with a pictures of dragons, unicorns, bears, and lions -- still pink unfortunately, but you can dye them in the artisans hall!

Then you head out into the wilderness to hunt and explore... You approach a hut in the woods, enter it, kill the 2 gobblins inside and find a trap door to a cellar. You reach down to open the trap door... $2.00 to unlock the goblin tunnels instance. Maybe later...

Then you form a group with some other newbie... and an hour later he's gained levels 3 times, and your barely half way through your level... and you started out at the same point... so you ask him about it... and he tells you that for $1/potion you can boost your xp/kill by 50% for 30 minutes -- he found the potion vendor inside a cool goblin tunnels instance...

Mark my words. That's where things are heading.

Re:Hooray! (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170777)

While some of the parent posts have potentially sensible uses, I can see this as being the real use (even if it has been modded Funny instead of Insightful). My wife bought some of the extra content for Oblivion, and that seemed interesting and of a decent quality, but once you get people used to "and you've got to pay another couple of GB£/US$/etc to unlock X" then the sales areas will milk it for all it's worth. Just look at some of the crap people are paying for already on things like the iTunes shop!

Re:Hooray! (0)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157231)

> What's wrong with just making decently entertaining games that people are actually willing to go out and buy?

It's simply harder and more expensive.

They follow the thief line of thought: "Why work if I can just steal?"

That's what happens when the objective is not to make a good product but a good profit. It happens everywhere, it's just sadder in the entertainment industry.

Re:Hooray! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26157897)

ironically, the reason people are moving towards microtransactions and online games is precisely because of games piracy. So if you want to blame this on theft by the evil publishers, you are aiming at the wrong place

Re:Hooray! (0, Flamebait)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157977)

> ironically, the reason people are moving towards microtransactions and online games is precisely because of games piracy.

Oh, yes, of course! It has nothing to do with getting more money.

What was I thinking! If they blamed it on pirates that must be the reason.

Thanks for correcting my mistake.

Now we can discuss how pirates where the reason of inventing new taxes on everything vaguely related to music.

Re:Hooray! (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#26170803)

No, the reasons companies are moving to microtransactions are: 1) They can stop people re-selling and so anyone who wants the game has to buy it new (in extreme circumstances), 2) they can keep making money without doing much extra work ("We just sold the game for $50 and it took 50,000 hours to make, if this content took 1 hour to make then we'll sell it for $2 and make 2000% profit"), 3) there's a group they can blame and the media will support it, so the general populace will fall for it as well.

The only problem is that 1) leads to people not playing the games because they don't want to pay full price, 2) leads to people getting annoyed and moving to games that don't "nickel and dime" them for their gaming experience and 3) is all just a load of made up BS.

Re:Hooray! (0, Redundant)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157825)

This is really the standard business model in Asia. Maple Story works this way. Ragnarok works this way. I'm pretty sure Liege II does, too. I don't play any of these games, but they're really popular here.

Play for free. Pay extra money to make the game more interesting.

Re:Hooray! (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26168137)

Liege II

You mean Lineage II? I'm pretty sure Lineage I & II are straight-up subscription-based games, not micro-transaction games.

And yes, micro-transaction games are insanely popular in Korea at least. There's a lot of casual games you've never heard of too - like a combination online dancing / dating sim game, or odd stuff like that.

Re:Hooray! (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#26169489)

Yeah. That's what I meant. Lineage Leige. Gaiea is one I saw recently that works that way, too.

Re:Hooray! (1)

anomnomnomymous (1321267) | more than 5 years ago | (#26158611)

Sorry, but in this context that doesn't make sense.

Most of the games they're talking about here are free games, where the stuff you can buy doesn't offer a mayor advantage over the people who don't buy it.

Whereas I can see where you're coming from since there are quite some games these days that release extra content (that most likely was already done once the game shipped) for a small fee, I don't think one should complaint about a business-model where the initial fee is nothing.

And sortof on topic, here's a small list of a few (free) games I currently enjoy:

Anarchy Online: A free MMORPG.
Audition: A Dance-Dance Revolution game... for your fingers.
Quake Live: Though in closed beta atm, still the same adrenalin rush as Q3 gave me.

For a list of other (Korean) free games, check out this site []

Re:Hooray! (1)

donatzsky (91033) | more than 5 years ago | (#26159045)

AirRivals [] is pretty good fun too, and the only free-to-play that I keep geeting back to.

There's also:
Perfect World []
Rohan []
Upshift Strikeracer []
Archlord []
Dreamlords []

Re:Hooray! (1)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 5 years ago | (#26159047)

Most, if not all, of the microtransaction games I've seen have been totally free with optional payments in lieu of playing a few hours. You'd only be nickel and diming yourself.

Re:Hooray! (4, Funny)

CR0 (22574) | more than 5 years ago | (#26160109)

You know, a capitalist society would say, "let me pay for what I want to use", and a socialist society would say, "bill everyone the same and give everyone the same opportunity."

I'm surprised American's so dislike free play with micro-transactions and prefer to pay a large monthly fee.

You know, universal health care might work for you guys.

Boring conference call? Try Fable Island []

Re:Hooray! (1)

KevinIsOwn (618900) | more than 5 years ago | (#26162501)

This analogy doesn't work at all- Paying the same amount per month for access to the game in no way amounts to socialism. People have different items and different abilities in games based on how much/how well they play them. Some sort of marxist model of gaming would give everyone the same items and abilities and tell them to have at it.

The current model of pay monthly and play actually has way more in common with capitalism. People who put time in and succeed tend to get better items and abilities, and are more powerful in the game. And, of course, rich people can simply buy these things on ebay.

So then when the idea of micro-transactions come into the game, we end up with a game in which power is based solely on your monetary worth (or at least, what you are willing to spend) rather than your abilities.

I could continue to abuse the capitalism/marxism analogy, maybe throw in a car analogy, but instead I'll simply point out a major downside of this type of game for gamers: Sunken costs. I'm not sure I buy the idea that games are literally addictive, but I have no doubt that sunken costs in a game will definitely influence gamer's behavior in a negative way for them. I also have major problems with the idea that players can buy the best items in the game, and then the company can come and simply keep making better items, so gamers are constantly forced to buy better items if they wish to play the game. And due to their sunken costs, they may perceive it as cheaper to keep paying those fees than switch to a new game. (Hopefully they will see this and quit early on)

Re:Hooray! (1)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#26164921)

Well, in my day, we unlocked items according to our skills, not our pocketbooks. That was a meritocracy. Buying your way to cool items makes it a plutocracy.

Macro Transformations the FUTURE Of SLAHDOT SCROTS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26156959)

I buy my saline kits from Chase Union Ltd in Movi, Michigan. The cost of a 1000 cc bag of sterile saline, drip tubing, sterile wipes (to wipe down your sac and all around) and catheter needle is with shipping around $25.
You can call them at +01 (248) 348-8191 and ask for item "MF 100" a scrotal inflation kit.

To do the saline, take the bag of saline and put in a microwave for about 5.5 minutes at low heat to warm to a bit above body temperature;about 100 degrees or so. Unwrap the outer plastic packaging and put the saline bag aside. Unwrap the drip tubing which comes with the kit and move the clamping system down toward the end opposite the vial type thing and CLOSE IT SHUT. Take the larger end of the drip tubing and uncap the protective the warmed bag of saline and remove the clear cap. Insert the drip tubing nozzle into the saline bag opening. Find a curtain rod, pot rack (which i have and use in the kitchen) shower rod or something elevated above you. Hang the bag of saline with the tubing attached and shut off. THEN VERY IMPORTANT. SQUEEZE SOME OF THE SALINE INTO THE VIAL ABOUT HALF WAY -THEN OPEN THE CLAMPING DEVICE AND BLEED ALL AIR OUT OF THE TUBING. YEAH YOU LOOSE A LITTLE BIT OF SALINE BUT THIS IS A MUST. YOU DON'T WANT ANY AIR OR AIR BUBBLES IN THE DRIP TUBING! REPLACE THE CAP ON THE WORKING END OF THE TUBING.

Before hand, while the bag of saline is warming either take a hot shower, or fill a basin or kitchen sink with very warm water sit in it for 4-7 minutes. The idea is to warm your ballsac skin up and let it get loose and hang.

When you have finished warming your sac, and you have the bag of saline (BLED FROM AIR), you are ready to grow.

With your sac still very warm use the wipes provided with the kit to wipe down your cock and ballsac. By the way, you will want an adjustable leather cock ring , nylon rope, or other type of removable cock/ball ring to wrap around cock and ballsac after inserting the catheter needle.





Pull out the needle itself leaving the teflon sheath inserted into you sac. Tie yourself (cock and balls) off with some sort of removable cock ring or rope or robe tie or whatever.

Sit down, don' t plan to move around too much for the next 30 minutes - hour. Have your beers/soft drinks or whatever already out of the fridge. You will want to stay idle and focused while you do this.

While sitting, and close to the hanging bag of saline and the drip tubing, remove the protective cover of the end of the drip tubing, connect the drip tubing to the catheter sheath in you sac. THEN START ADJUSTING THE CLAMPING DEVICE OPEN TO ALLOW SALINE DRIPPING TO APPEAR IN THE VIAL UP BY THE BAG OF SALINE. ADJUST FOR AN EVEN DRIP DRIP DRIP FLOW AND NOT A STEADY STREAM OF SALINE.

If the saline doesn't drip at first, try pulling the catheter sheath out a bit until you at first experience a small burning sensation;it goes away almost immediately.
Work on the sheath depth and the clamp until you get a good flow of saline going into your sac.

Don't move around too much......or be cognizant of how much you move around while the saline drips into and starts to bloat out your sac. You can always shut off the flow of saline with the clamp, disconnect and move around take a p, whatever......
If you disconnect, take the small stopper thing that is still attached to the needle and plug the teflon sheath to prevent leakage.

I like to use liquid vitamin E on my sac while it stretching and expanding;you should / can put oil or handcream on your sac while it is expanding. The sac is very stretchable but to expand up to 18-20 inches within an hour or so stresses the tissues,so things need to be lubricated somewhat..


When you have finished doing the amount of saline you want to, feel comfortable with, can accept, close off the saline bag with the clamp, and disconnect.

Over filling/stress of the sac can cause osmosis leaking/sweating.. Do an amount of saline at first that is comfortable and not stressfull/hurting by all means. I have over done before don't want to walk around with your sac dripping water out of it.and the after results cause chapping etc which takes a few days to peel and recover from.

Some of the saline is going to migrate into your cock. Your cock girth is going to become much larger than you have ever experienced.






At first your sac will be very tight,but over the next few hours or over night, keeping the cock ring on less tightly or without a cock ring your sac will relax and begin to stretch.

The saline will take a couple of days or more to absorb into you body. That is okay,Saline is sterile water adjusted to normal body PH.

Enjoy it, flaunt it if you are inclined, watch the perm stretch and sac tissue growth that happens over time.

You will need to p a little more often than regular as the saline absorbs into your body, but just enjoy the weight and feel of what is between your legs.

I hope this helps....If your nuts and sac are normally pretty big or even small and you want more, this will blow you away with the results.

Take care
Read the rest of this comment...

Re:Macro Transformations the FUTURE Of SLAHDOT SCR (0, Offtopic)

AbRASiON (589899) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157203)

We miss you klerck :(

Oh this is an easy one. (1)

AbRASiON (589899) | more than 5 years ago | (#26156993)


If they want me as a customer, they'll still cater to the single player, linear but good experience, much like a good book or movie, that's how I see the majority of games I play.

I will not pay for installments or addons and they will never see my money, period - I don't like being nickel and dimed.
I won't buy a mobile phone for ZERO DOLLARS!!! with a 45$ a month plan.
I won't get an internet account with ZERO DOLLARS!!! signup but 99$ a month access.

If they want me, they have me buying stuff now, if they want more from me, tough luck.

Re:Oh this is an easy one. (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157091)


If they want me as a customer, they'll still cater to the single player, linear but good experience, much like a good book or movie, that's how I see the majority of games I play.

I will not pay for installments or addons and they will never see my money, period - I don't like being nickel and dimed.
I won't buy a mobile phone for ZERO DOLLARS!!! with a 45$ a month plan.
I won't get an internet account with ZERO DOLLARS!!! signup but 99$ a month access.

If they want me, they have me buying stuff now, if they want more from me, tough luck.

$45/month for a cell phone isn't bad, assuming it includes enough minutes to get you through a month and that they actually have decent coverage. My main complaint about cell carriers isn't the monthly fee, its the 2-3 year contracts they make you sign in order to get service.

Re:Oh this is an easy one. (1)

AbRASiON (589899) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157299)

It was a completely theoretical figure I pulled out of my...... ear.

In Australia I believe cell prices are cheaper than over there too, I pay 0$ a month and only pay for calls,... and no - we don't pay for incoming calls or SMS, the entire concept is insulting and alien, you poor bastards :(

Re:Oh this is an easy one. (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#26162515)

Well with american corporate greed being what it is I'm not surprised.

Re:Oh this is an easy one. (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 5 years ago | (#26158623)

I pay $10 a month. I mean 10 cents per minute I ACTUALLY USE.

Fuck you phone companies for making everything monthly.

Re:Oh this is an easy one. (4, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#26158669)

I got really pissed off with this recently.

"Beautiful Katamari" for the Xbox 360 was a must-buy game, I love the Katamari games. Unfortunately it was really, seriously short. Then I thought "Hmm, looks like there are spaces on all the islands for extra levels....

Lo and behold, there were about 6 more levels available as DLC on xbox live. I bought them, but I hated them and myself for doing it. it had obviously been the plan right from the start. Deliver half a game and then squeeze more money out of people for the rest. And I can't even re-sell the game with those levels because they're not part of the physical media, just some stuff tied to my user account.

It sucks.

Re:Oh this is an easy one. (1)

ldierk (1270930) | more than 5 years ago | (#26162565)

I bought them, but I hated them and myself for doing it.

That's exactly how you show 'em you don't like what they are doing! Very smart!

Re:Oh this is an easy one. (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#26162665)

That's exactly how you show 'em you don't like what they are doing! Very smart!

Perhaps I ought to send a strongly worded letter too?

Yeah, I know, I'm usually pretty good at refusing to buy into things I disagree with, but I failed miserably this time.

Re:Oh this is an easy one. (1)

Jarnin (925269) | more than 5 years ago | (#26164295)

Your description reminds me of SPORE. In development, SPORE was like neapolitan ice cream, in that it had something for everyone. When it went gold, the devs took a knife and removed the chocolate and strawberry ice cream, so what actually shipped was just plain ol' vanilla.
When players asked "Where is the chocolate and strawberry?", EA and Maxis responded with "Silly consumers, we're going to sell those to you at a later time!".

MMORPGs have been doing this for years with expansions. Everquest II even had mini-expansions called "Adventure packs" available for the first couple years. The idea was that instead of having to build entirely new areas of the game, like continents and lands with cities and dungeons, they could simply create new dungeons & monsters, plop them in existing areas and make profit.

Now, with micro-transactions, they don't even have to make the dungeons and monsters. Instead they invent new items in the game that are "exclusively available only through the EQII online store!"
Sure, they're not game-breaking now, but for how long? It'll only take a few people creating new items to say "well, this doesn't break the game too much, and we can sell it in the store for $3!

But wait, it gets worse! (2, Insightful)

nobodyman (90587) | more than 5 years ago | (#26166413)

And I can't even re-sell the game with those levels because they're not part of the physical media

Ironically, these levels are part of the physical media [] . You didn't download them, you purchased the right to *unlock* them. I was furious when I found this out. I can't believe that NAMCO (and Microsoft) got away with this. I think you would have a legitimate case if you wanted to take them to court: nowhere on the packaging does it mention that disc you are purchasing contains data that is encrypted until you cough up even more money.

Re:Oh this is an easy one. (1)

Sentry21 (8183) | more than 5 years ago | (#26167357)

The concept, however, is a clever one.

Look at books as an example. An author may write a book of a reasonable length (not a Wheel of Time 900-page mammoth). People buy it and like it. He writes another one, they buy that too. And another. As long as he keeps putting together a compelling narrative, people keep buying them and enjoying them.

Why can't games makers do the same? I could buy the Harry Potter box set for $200 and sit down and read them all, but that's not how they were written. They're a series of separate stories, each one building on the previous and leading to the next.

Personally, I would be glad if games publishers did this more often. Amortize the cost of development over ten 6-hour games which each stand on their own, rather than one 60-hour game which was rushed to market for the holiday season. I'd like to grab a game, play it, enjoy it, and move on, and then come back again when the next episode is due. Half Life 2 is doing it, albeit not really fantastically.

Where downloadable content comes in is the ability to expand what's there already (e.g. the oblivion-style of adding an extra dungeon here and there), or the ability to remove distribution costs entirely (to make the model more feasible, rather than shipping 10 discs to distributors, stores, and consumers).

Curious to see who picks up on this and does it right first.

Re:Oh this is an easy one. (1)

Damvan (824570) | more than 5 years ago | (#26175583)

Just curious as to how you access the internet since I have never seen a company offer internet access without a monthly fee. Pay as you go? Somehow pay up front?

Re:Oh this is an easy one. (1)

AbRASiON (589899) | more than 5 years ago | (#26181923)

The example was more of a 99$ a month vs 50$ a month - small initial fees and high ongoing fees absoloutely drive me insane, I like keeping my overall expenditure down, incase of emergencies.

I read micro-transistors (3, Funny)

Cur8or (1220818) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157053)

I was hoping the next gen was here for Christmas. Come on man, where is my Xbox 720?

Who cares? (1)

tnok85 (1434319) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157071)

Does anybody play EQ anymore anyway? And if they do, aren't they in their 40's and living in their mom's basement? So... they don't have any money to spend anyway...

Re:Who cares? (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157239)

Does anybody play EQ anymore anyway? And if they do, aren't they in their 40's and living in their mom's basement? So... they don't have any money to spend anyway...

Well, they have enough money for microtransactions, which may be a driving force behind this. Anyway, even if they do have their own house, they don't have any money anymore.

Re:Who cares? (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 5 years ago | (#26158925)

You are kidding, right?

This is exactly the nerdy demography that has a hell lot of free cash to spend on frivolous expenses.

Mommy, Mommy! (2, Funny)

ImNotAtWork (1375933) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157093)

week 1: I need your credit card to buy x week 2: I need your credit card to buy y week 3: z? Game gets uninstalled by mom.

Re:Mommy, Mommy! (4, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157201)


"Mom. I need your credit card to buy a potion to turn my in-game pants blue."
"You have ten seconds to say you were kidding, before I send you to a boarding school."

Re:Mommy, Mommy! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26157607)

shit you can do that? where do i sign up?

Re:Mommy, Mommy! (2, Funny)

IceCreamGuy (904648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26158739)

Naaa (1)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157593)

Convenience wins, every time. Hence subscription models are likely to be far more popular.

Re:Naaa (2, Insightful)

Saint Fnordius (456567) | more than 5 years ago | (#26159175)

The sad part is that we've always had micropayments: it's called a meter. You buy gasoline (or petrol) not in integer gallons (or litres), but rather you get a price rounded to the nearest cent for your purchase. Long distance calls? Another micropayment, lumped into a monthly bill.

That's what made micropayments feasible in the past: instead of having to buy each increment, you only made one payment at the end of your consumption. You don't have to prepay every long distance call. You don't have to second-guess how much fuel your car needs. Another writer that is far more clever than I pointed out that if were otherwise, we would balk since each payment involves a little anxiety that is independent of the amount paid.

So yeah, I agree. Customers hate micropayments. They prefer the "all you can eat" flat rate for services. It's only things like fuel pumps where people don't think too hard about it, since it's a lump sum at the end (and there's no economically feasible way to apply a flat rate to a fuel station).

Fluff for the moment (1)

Ryunosuke (576755) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157645)

So far everything is Fluff except for the 3 potions (Xp, Tradeskill, and Acheivement buffs, 3 tiers each). The fluff armor and stupid house pets aren't worth any concern, but the potions can open a door. The 3 tiers of pots (10%/4h $2, 25%/4h $3.50? and 50%/2h $10) are really the only way to get to cap on achievements, so it's not too hard to see it coming. As long as it's fluff, no one should be too worried. However ... it's SOE and that should worry everyone.

Doesnt seem to be popular.. (1)

severn2j (209810) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157671)

This is becoming a very common theme for PS3 on the Playstation Network, Little Big planet, for example has lots of extra costumes, that you can get for a small(ish) fee.. For what I've seen tho, most people just download the free stuff and leave the pay stuff behind. Im not sure what the figures are, but there was uproar about having to pay £4GBP for a 1st week t-shirt for your sackboy. So far the only Micropayments that do work, are from extra tracks for games like SingStar and Guitar Hero/Rock Band. Although, I think any more than 99p per track is excessive (are you listening, Activision?)

If Micropayments do take off, they need to work on how much they charge for stuff..

RMT vs MT - They are everywhere (3, Insightful)

Jack9 (11421) | more than 5 years ago | (#26157883)

I am speaking generally about the US MMO market when I say the MMO market. I don't read foreign game sites or forums.

RMT - Real Money Transaction vs Microtransaction

I don't see much difference between these concepts, although some ( [] ) may disagree. Both terms describe paying real money (for an effect that cannot be obtained any other way) BEYOND your subscription fee. The surviving niche and aging MMOs have switched to RMT added value (if you will), because it's an easy revenue model to implement, that works. There isn't more justification needed for controllers (of the purse strings). For most cases, the number of people who would give up on a game SWITCHING to RMT are usually pacified by making the RMT benefits cosmetic. Changing appearance is seen by gamers as an acceptable vanity issue. How many MMO player groups find a member bidding for a relatively weaker or even inappropriate (strategic) item for appearance's sake? (healing staff on a fire wizard) I dare say, it's commonplace.

While Asian based MMOs take RMT for granted, America has a similar mentality toward obtaining possessions. There is a market for players who are accepting of RMT for stronger items (+90 sword only available for 30$). I would say the demand is much lower than the casual MMO base and is antithetical of the shared beliefs of aging players who "walked through the lizard temple both ways for a year to get this Fungal Vest". Currently, most MMOs are about aquiring personal power, at whatever cost the game has set up.

From the context of the overall habits of gamers, it's very apparent to Comic and Game shops that CCGs have fallen out of favor in the light of the MMORPG phenom. Now players cam compete in the abstract against a wider variety of people, with almost no effort. They don't even have to travel anywhere. It's a larger playing field, yet they can still feel equal in terms of capability, for an overall lower cost (now that you don't have to save to buy 4 of the clutch cards for tournament decks every X months, see M:TG who rotates what sets are allowed). There are number of CCGs which are played almost exclusively online.*

In the Asian MMO market, if you put in purchasable power items and you will lose some audience. The balance seems to always favor including RMT for Power items. To what degree would it affect MMOs in the US? Americans seem very tolerant of Collector's (or Pre-order) Edition bonus items that are low or medium on the gamewide scale of power. Buying gold with real money or characters with real money has been going on since gold farming was coined. This gold is used for "twinked" alternate characters or even the individual "best" items, through a communal player's market. It's part of the accepted MMO landscape. To that extent, isn't RMT already in every game? It's in iTunes. What's more, RMT can eliminate gold farming, when it happens that you can buy gold from the MMO itself (some claim many gold farmers ARE from the game makers, running a masquerade). Other than perceived tradition (see no RMT, hear no RMT), there doesn't seem to be a compelling bias against it. Overwhelmingly, it's the visibility of the RMT that seems to cause players to complain. Perhaps a fear of raising the bar for games that may already seem like a chore.

I agree RMT is the future. Is it really that hard to accept a tradeoff? Some of the die-hard idealists will outright quit, a subset of those, permanently. In exchange, the game (and some people's careers) will receive a longer lifespan. I think it's just a metagame about player expectations at this point.

*I use forums to monitor the closing of shops, which are all but extinct in Southern California.

This idea keeps coming back (1)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 5 years ago | (#26158055)

It seems like every year or two this old idea gets dusted off and applied to one or another business. Remember when micropayments were discussed as being the way to pay for online newspapers? How about blogs? Now it's games; too bad it's a lame idea - but nobody seems willing to put it out of its misery.

Micropayments don't have to be a problem (1)

N1AK (864906) | more than 5 years ago | (#26158145)

Like just about everything in life Micropayments are not inherently good or evil (though probably Lawful rather than Chaotic ;) ). I've tried a couple of MMORPGs though never for more than a month.
  1. Guildwars: Buy the game, possibly buy expansions but pay no subscription.
  2. WoW: Buy the game, possibly buy expansions and then pay subscription.
  3. Warhammer Online: Buy game, possibly buy expansions and then pay subscription.

I am quite happy with all the above payment methods as long as the cost is balanced to the value of the game. I have the same feeling for micro-payments (MPs).

My main concern with MPs is that level of spending becomes a defining factor in the capability of your character. A secondary concern is that their are a lot of morons in MMOs, and although I would rather the producer actually moderated the games in most cases inability to pay is one of the few lameness filters present.

As to the fact that MPs haven't taken off in the western world yet, Bioware are releasing a new Star Wars MMORPG which will feature them. The combination of a big franchise, a different setting to WoW and a well respected (by most) developer gives this a fair chance of becoming a big hit. Especially as it'll be 'FREE'.

Micropayment as the future of online games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26158405)

Micropayment is not "the future" of online-games. But it will be a part of most online games as it allows developers to get extra revenues from dedicated players.
Competitive games like Darkfall will most likely not be able to do any micropayments due to the opposition of it's players. At least none that have any effect on the game balance.
Other semi-competitive MMOs such as Free Realms will use them as a addition to traditional fees. But they won't be game changers such as the "you need this potion to win in pvp"-stuff like in traditional asia grinders. I see more cosmetic items like the new additions to EQ or the character-near services currently offered by Blizzard.

Sounds great, for now (1)

tadauphoenix (127728) | more than 5 years ago | (#26158509)

The idea seems great to the business sharks. Unfortunately what's going to happen is there will be a burst period where every development studio jumps on the pay for content bandwagon in a frenzy, then the whole model collapses when consumer faith craters due to wasting money on worthless content. Like levels that are already included on a disk. Or requiring players to spend roughly $150 to get less game than if they paid $60 on the exact same game years before.

The era will happen, but it will be short, and bring us closer to the bubble collapse of the game industry. Ooooo dooomsayerrrr.

This isn't a trend, it's SOE desperation (4, Insightful)

WCMI92 (592436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26158699)

SOE has been foundering now for years. In a time when the MMO industry has been growing, SOE has shrunk. If you look at or mmoprgchart, you see that they've lost more than half their subscribers since 2005 across all their games.

Of course most of the wounds to SOE are self inflicted. Such as the Star Wars Galaxies NGE which cost them by some estimates 80-90% of their player base and a HELL of a lot of reputation, this when SOE didn't have that great of one to begin with, what with being caught doing things like releasing EQ expansions unfinished and gating content, etc.

Fact of the matter is, people flee SOE games because the company lacks any sort of ethics or integrity. John Smedley is a pathological liar who will promise that things won't happen that the player bases don't want, then turn right around and do them, usually sprung on players overnight with no warning.

For example, he flatly denied that RMT would be coming to the EQ2 servers that weren't part of "station exchange". The new pay for items system that is the subject of this article was literally sprung on everyone overnight, one day it wasn't there, next day it was IN THE GAME, no warning, just an obscure reference in the patch notes. Of course this has caused massive outrage.

BTW, this new "macrotranscam" system isn't SOE's ONLY RMT scheme they have going. Their card games are even worse. In the card game, there are now loot cards that grant exclusive in game items, some of which are superior to anything available in game. They won't publish the odds, so buying the "card" decks amounts to gambling. There has been discussion that this may in fact be illegal under the US online gambling ban...

SOE being SOE, you know that they won't be able to resist the temptation to make even more things RMT exclusive, and where they aren't, to not tinker with loot drop rates to tempt people to pay for things that they could earn.

Fact is, I believe that RMT the way SOE is doing it is destined to fail. It's unproven first off whether this sort of scheme will work in the first place, and it's definitely going to be rejected when tied to games that charge a FULL PRICE subscription fee. People simply aren't going to fall for that. The only place, IMHO, RMT might work is in a game where there is no sub fee, or as an alternative to a sub fee, to "pay as you go" up to and stopping at the price of a full sub fee.

In the past, Smed has pimped RMT as a way to get people past the "barrier" of the full price sub fee. To no one's surprise he's using it as a way to get people past the "barrier" of thinking that $14.99 a month plus paying extra for expansions is enough money to play his mediocre buggy games.

No thanks.

Re:This isn't a trend, it's SOE desperation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26159971)

Yeah. I used to feel that way after SOE burned me on the NGE too.
Then I got over it. SOE is out to make money like anyone else, you and I included. They tried something, made a big boo boo and they paid for it. Ultimately they have to have at least a minimal desire to produce something that people will enjoy if for no other reason than to make money for themselves.

SO what if RMT fails, it is an addition to the game that can be removed as easily as it was added on. However, I don't think it is doomed from the start, there is much more to it.

SOE and their monumental blunders aside, the idea of paying for content only as you are ready to access it is really a good idea. If this were implemented correctly then each zone would have a price tag on it. The game wouldnt have a monthly fee to play. Instead I would pay for the game at the store (or online download), and then as I progressed my character I could unlock new content by paying for it. Think of each zone/quest/area/etc as a mini-expansion. You want to run an epic quest for the Sword of a Thousand Truths? Fine, pay $9.99 USD for the Swordswingers Epic Quests package and you now have access to that content. If you look at it from an exclusive perspective then you dont have to pay for content you arent going to use. Why should I pay for the Wizard's Epic Wardrobe if I am a Swordswinger?

Ok enough silly. My point is that this idea of RMT is bigger than SOE and it has true potential. The success or failure will come from who adopts it first and how well, or poorly, they implement it. SOE has not done so poorly with this model so far as they have simply added content that is a convenience not game unbalancing (if that is even a word).

With TOR stating that they will be using this model I am interested to see how many others jump on the bandwagon and screw it up before someone comes in and gets it right. I put my money on Blizzard to perfect this model based on other companies' mistakes.

Re:This isn't a trend, it's SOE desperation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26160237)

I am interested to see how many others jump on the bandwagon and screw it up before someone comes in and gets it right. I put my money on Blizzard to perfect this model based on other companies' mistakes.

I don't think Blizzard is so monumentally stupid. Of course they did merge with EA so it will remain to see if they truly remained as independent as they claimed they'd be.

Turing word: Owning
In a sentence: I can't see Blizzard involved in RMT however with EA owning them I suppose it might happen.

Re:This isn't a trend, it's SOE desperation (1)

Bahamut_Omega (811064) | more than 5 years ago | (#26167857)

I believe you goofed on your assumption of EA taking over Blizzard. If I'm not mistaken, run through the archives and you'll find it's Activision with Blizzard in tow. Hell, even looking it up on the site for Blizzard Entertainment it says itself.

Re:This isn't a trend, it's SOE desperation (1)

Sage Gaspar (688563) | more than 5 years ago | (#26173217)

The idea of paying for what you use makes a certain kind of sense, but I vastly prefer some sort of stability. How much are you going to have to pay to get access to content in the next year? What if your guildies like one dungeon and you prefer another dungeon? What happens when they sort through the feedback and find that Swordswingers paid for fewer epic quests than Wizards? I wouldn't bet on Swordswingers getting as much development time as Wizards then. Oh, you like Swordswingers and have years invested in one? Tough titties, market demands dominate the content now. Sure these demands exist anyway, but not with nearly the same immediacy as if you're funding with microtransactions.

And do you wanna bet that you're going to be paying more or less for the same amount of content?

Re:This isn't a trend, it's SOE desperation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26163173)

Actually, some of SOE's games are doing decently. And one, in particular, is a damn fine game. You may of heard of it. It's called EQ2.

EQ2 was a bad launch, and had a lot of bad concepts in it. Such as the "you don't have your real class until level 20" gimmick that was a colossal flop. You want to be a bard at lvl 1? Too bad, wait until lvl 20! Yeah, that went over about as well as a stinky fart in church.

But the game is substantially better now, and may even be better that WoW for a decent part of the MMO community.

If you don't like PvP as the end-all-be-all game sustaining force, EQ2 is a very viable option. If you like updates that come out more than once every 1.5-2yrs, EQ2 is a strong contender. If you like gameplay that is fun, with great ideas such as the collection "quests" and an incredible auction system, EQ2 rocks.

The problem for SOE is that the SW:G NGE fiasco really tarnished their image with a TON of folks that had ALREADY QUIT THE FREAKING GAME! How many people on /. rant about how SOE screwed over everyone playing SW:G, when subscriptions numbers already sucked? The game was going in the toilet one way or the other, so they took a chance, and it failed. They've at least admitted it was a mistake.

Look, I've played WoW, and I've played EQ2. I played WoW for the first 9 months after launch (and I was in the closed beta for a few months before that) and quit shortly after maxing my level on my main toon. I was BORED, and I don't like PvP. Conversely, I played EQ2 for 3 years straight, had a blast even when soloing or in PUGs/raids and only stopped playing after a 3 month hiatus surrounding the birth of my 2nd child. So, the wife and I went back to WoW. In the 4 months I've been playing WoW again, I've got a lvl 61 toon, several in their 30-40s, and I'm not having as much fun. I'll play until I hit 80 and can raid with friends to see how that changes my opinion, but I'm not having as much fun as I had the first time through.

Needless to say, I just picked up a copy of the newest EQ2 expansion, so the wife and I can play both games. I suspect our duoing time will be more in EQ2 than in WoW.

As for micro-transactions, they won't fly in the U.S. for a long time, especially in today's economy. People won't justify paying $xx for an item they can get with some time they already paid for. Even the geeks with cash they normally burn through are cutting back on extras.

And I have yet to see a micro-transaction game that didn't suck for the most part. The Asian MMO market is all potion-pumpers. No skill involved, just carry a ton of mana/health potions, play a ranged/mage class, and go to work. No tank concept, no teamwork needed. It's a solo game. Ptui!

Re:This isn't a trend, it's SOE desperation (1)

DigitalWallaby (853269) | more than 5 years ago | (#26168155)

As for micro-transactions, they won't fly in the U.S. for a long time, especially in today's economy. People won't justify paying $xx for an item they can get with some time they already paid for. Even the geeks with cash they normally burn through are cutting back on extras.

A large number of players in the US market already take part in micro-transactions across all the games out there. The difference is that they are not generally sanctioned by the game companies.

Gold selling and powerleveling services are big business, and the players themselves have proved that they are willing to pay real cash for in-game items. If players are willing to pay third-party gold sharks and take risks with their accounts, it'd be a good bet that they'd pay for officially sanctioned items too.

I wouldn't count out micro-transactions in the US market yet.

justification of cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26158901)

Itâ(TM)s a matter of the end user being able to justify the cost. Letâ(TM)s say I have the option to pay $15 per month for a subscription, or $15 per month via micro transactions. Iâ(TM)m far more likely to play the game with the subscription because I can justify spending $15 per month because of the company needing to employ tech support and infrastructure bills and the like, but I cannot justify spending money on the things that should be INCLUDED IN THE GAME.

In the end am I paying the exact same amount of money for the exact same things? Essentially yes, but micro transactions feels frivolous and unjustifiable, where as I can emotionally and logically justify a subscription fee. This model has worked elsewhere but I think it will fall flat on in the US. Also think of kids who have to justify the cost to their parents who pay for it. Which do you think mom and dad will think is more reasonableâ¦

Re:justification of cost (1)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26159821)

The monthly subscription fee also has a set cost that's easy to budget and control. Each individual micropayment feels cheap, and therefore one might initially be inclined to use them more often. However, even small payments quickly add up, and many small payments are much harder to keep track of than one regular larger payment. Before you know it, you end up getting burned when your monthly credit card statement says you spent a lot more than you intended to, and you swear off micropayments forever.

A monthly subscription model also provides more steady and predictable income to the business. People like micropayments initially because the business things people will spend more and consumers think they'll spend less. When it turns out that micropayments just end up making everything more difficult for everyone, they get dropped.

Legos (1)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 5 years ago | (#26159659)

Easy to Use.
Unlimited Replay Value.

No level grinding.
No exp tread mill.

Limitless creativity.

This is totally old (1)

justicezyx (1160189) | more than 5 years ago | (#26160605)

Many Chinese online game company this 2-3 years ago.

Re:This is totally old (1)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#26165013)

Your sentence missing something.

Re:This is totally old (1)

Mozk (844858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26166807)

He accidentally a whole word!

It's a trend, but not the only one (3, Informative)

Matthew Weigel (888) | more than 5 years ago | (#26161239)

Small fees for one-time things are showing up in a lot of online games these days, no question. Guild Wars, City of Heroes, World of Warcraft, all support one-time fees for things like extra character slots, server transfers, and cosmetic (or complete) respecs. These are things that don't affect gameplay, are uncommon purchases for any individual player, but do improve player enjoyment (they also enhance revenue something fierce). Should they be free? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It makes sense for Warhammer Online to offer free server transfers right now to help balance populations, but in general players are closely tied to the community on their individual servers - so it makes a certain amount of sense to regard it as a value-added feature. Likewise, City of Heroes hands out free respecs like candy, but if you still can't get enough of them... sure, it makes sense to charge.

And then there are games that are free to play... they have to have some revenue model. Games like Puzzle Pirates demonstrate that a game can be fun, balanced, and robust, while still selling all manner of things that affect game play. The key with that approach, I think, is to use a dual currency model (as Puzzle Pirates does, as Iron Realms pioneered back in the '90s) that allows players - who never pay a cent - to trade with other players for all the benefits of spending money.

Of course there's also the Korean free to play model, or the model common for Facebook games where it is "free to play" but you have to pay in order to really enjoy the game (or worse, there is a subscription but you still have to engage in microtransactions in order to really enjoy the game) - I think this is the model players don't like, and fear every developer is planning on when they say free-to-play or microtransactions. I think developers and publishers know players hate this model, and are aware of the backlash they'll see if they use it; that doesn't mean they won't ever try it, but it does mean they'll tend to tread carefully and consider other models first.

On the other hand, that doesn't mean subscriptions are going away, because clearly a lot of players like to just pay a subscription, know how much they need to budget on a game, and know they don't risk a fevered drunken night of transactions running up their credit card bill. It's unlikely to go away, but it is going to have to start sharing the limelight with other models that address the needs of different segments of the population.

I think a lot of people here are missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26162433)

For a community that advocates Linux (of which I too can be fingered from time to time) I am amazed at how shallow many of you are being about this model.

It promotes games that you don't really have to pay for or pirate to use. The microtransaction model isn't used to combat the game that simply costs a certain amount and then you own, it is aimed to compete with the EVE and WoW types that require a monthly subscription fee to even get into the universe.

This is a marvelous alternative that seems to me, as a business developer and player, to be completely viable and effective. Nexon has been doing this for years.

Let's just look inward for a moment and ask ourselves how many of us have bought say- an expansion for any game period. Even those like Halo or The Sims; games that by what appears to be a good deal of your logic you should have had all of the content from the flat fee.

Granted, if WoW were a simple one time fee I would likely count myself among its players but I for one refuse to purchase a membership knowing full well I will go months on end without playing it.

The micro method works, and will probably be a lot more viable as a business model than monthly subscriptions as the economies of the world continue to decline. The added bonus of a game like this is as people have to make drastic changes to their lives such as moving, changing jobs, losing a job, etc. you won't have your account deleted simply because you didn't want to continue the $100+ per year to keep it active even if you don't want to pay it.

Re:I think a lot of people here are missing the po (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26163259)

Granted, if WoW were a simple one time fee I would likely count myself among its players but I for one refuse to purchase a membership knowing full well I will go months on end without playing it.

Yes, but if you are not going to have time to put into a MMO, then you don't buy or play one, period. You play a single player RPG or FPS, not a MMO.

No matter which way you slice it, too much stuff changes with patches and other stuff to every have a good experience playing a MMO once a month or less. You need that continuity and a time commitment to ever get anywhere.

With that in mind, why even both commenting? It's like saying "I don't understand anything about cars, so let me jump into a discussion about the new Mustang".

(Everyone has fun with the car analogies, no matter how bad, so I made mine awful!)

getting progressively screwed (1)

castironpigeon (1056188) | more than 5 years ago | (#26163583)

As publishers try to find more ways to increase profit while decreasing expenses we're going to see them try many new and sometimes creative ways to screw the player.

First, they release games in an unfinished state to see how crappy a game they can release before consumers won't buy it anymore. You get things like HGL and TR. Then they try to sell you the other half of the game later until it becomes acceptable practice, as Blizzard is doing with Starcraft 2. Finally, the publishers will just sell you a monthly subscription that gives you the privilege of being able to buy ever smaller increments of content for as much money as they can possibly charge, a practice already piloted in Asia where the population is already so addicted to online gaming that any content thrown their way is like tossing a small animal into a pool of hungry piranhas. Gotta love capitalism.
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