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It’s as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced…

Epic fail, EA.  Really?  Microtransactions?  Really?

No.  Don’t do it.  I know 2009 is looking bad for you and you’re scratching titles left and right and losing money but seriously, this isn’t the direction to take this amazing potential.

This one is scratched off my list until I see John Riccitiello come to his senses and announce that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be a AAA title not seeking to be a microtransaction cash cow.  I challenge ANYONE to point me to a game that was Microtransaction based and matched the quality of the subscription based game.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Done.

And as I browse the internet this evening I come across another RMT gem…

SOE apparently puts RMT on Non-Station Exchange Servers – didn’t they promise that they would never do that? Oh, ‘my bad’, Smed consideres RMT to be player-to-player only.  What should we call it then?  “RMT’ish?”

Update: Since Shacknews updated their story, I’ll update mine.  They added this little piece: “Electronic Arts has responded to Shacknews, reiterating that “no statements have been made about the Star Wars business model,” and attributing Mr. Riccitiello’s comments to a misunderstanding.”  Sounds more like “Oh crap, he let the cat out of the bag too soon again!”

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Comments

  1. 10:00pm again eh?
    anyway so Microtransactions is like where you pay money for items or something yeh?

  2. Yes, it’s when you pay real money for in-game items to the company that develops the game.

    It would be like buying potions or items in-game for a couple bucks. It goes further in some games.

  3. well then i have one thing to say it may be slightly immature
    but…
    gay that is all…

  4. The big push behind the whole microtransaction model is that it makes MMORPGs more ‘available’ to the masses. That’s absolutely true. However, the quality sacrificed is unfathomable in all cases.

  5. its something about it that makes crap to me i feel okay paying a 14.99 sub but having to buy the most epic items in the game turns me off. The game then turns into a who ever has the most money is the strongest which i just don’t like full stop i was not that excited about kotor mmo now im even less excited through i did love the single player games

  6. Any game that uses microtransactions to allow one player to purchase better equipment than another player will fail before it even gets out the gate. The only potential area where microtransactions can succeed are when the things you purchase don’t effect the game at all (i.e. social or appearance items).

  7. its funny they say it makes it “more accessible” to the masses, it doesn’t. I have had a lot of poor friends and they play a FTP MMO and its great but they are poor so they 2nd to the people who pay (rich).

    So freaking stupid, i hate it. I will never play a micro-trans game, ever.

  8. Well, it actually DOES make it more available. That’s why you have trillions of people playing Maple Story and DOMO and all those other games. They have their own appeal, but never would I consider them even in the same league as MMORPGs. Heck, I don’t even consider Guild Wars a MMORPG.

  9. Well the SoE thing isn’t RMT, it sound like it because they never explained it. You can only buy Fluff items (pretty much the similar itmes as the card game). There all no trade so you can’t trade them.

    So it is not like you can buy great armor or anything like that. You can buy 2 hours xp posions, but that the closest to game breaking thing they added.

  10. wait for it

    wait for ittt

    /darthvader

    NNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  11. So I can buy my way to success. Mmmmmm. That’s a big fat no from me.

  12. “Update: Electronic Arts has responded to Shacknews, reiterating that “no statements have been made about the Star Wars business model,” and attributing Mr. Riccitiello’s comments to a misunderstanding.”

    Probably chill out a little peoples.

    By the way, I don’t see a problem with a microtransaction model if there’s no subscription.

    If, on the other hand, it’s box price + monthly fee + microtransactions to stay competitive, well screw that obviously. But I doubt EA will go that route, nobody will want to play that.

    And if it’s just microtransactions for ‘fluff’ items, I really couldn’t care less.

  13. donderwolk says:

    it all depends what they see as microtransaction…
    I would not mind paying for an extra campaign or some other real cool game improvements.. which could not have been done on time before game release…

    but if they decide to go the Oblivion way.. well I am off..
    I will never spend my cash for some extra clothing stuff so I or my horse would look cool ingame… besides if you do that people would sooner point the looser finger at ya then think oh wow look at that nice shiny armour for 2 dollar and 50 cents… :)

  14. Agreed if micro transaction model follows the idea of a collectors edition per se, where you get extra costumes or special items (but not overly powerful ones) than I am all for it. It doesn’t bother me and it doesn’t give rich players a true leg up.

    I really do think that micro transaction model can work for a truly AAA MMO. I just think they have difficulty selling it as one to investors. With a subscription model you have a constant cash flow in the form of monthly payments, MT relies on lots of small payments that may or may not happen. That is why fluff items usually turn into more useful items, because there is no sustainability or reliability without a subscription.

    But yeah, I was very surprised at first. Even though I have an awful opinion of EA, I love Bioware and I don’t think that they would do anything that would jeopardize the true success of the product. My guess is that it will be subscription that will be enhanced by MT (for hopefully only fluff stuff).

  15. Some people scanned WoW data files and found some evidence of plans to charge players real money for further character customization beyond changing hair color and style.

    But it did not happen so far. Most people hate this kind of micro-transaction and RMT in general.

    Guild Wars also had some kind of veiled Micro-Transactions: People bought the “bonus pack”, the items of the “GW 1 millon” edition and additional char slots over the online store. Some even “skill packs” to avoid having to play to unlock them.

    People can argue a micro-transaction based system would be fair to those who play only occasionally. They do not get as much value out of their subscription fee as a 24/7 player, this is the usual argument.

    I personally prefer the subscription model. It would make me so sad if I would see a player in shiny armor one day, ask him where and how he got it and he would say “10 dollars for the breast, the helmet 5 dollars, …”.

    I am quite adamant in this regard, charge money/a fee for a game, but then leave it out of the game, games become too much serious business once money is involved.

  16. How could Bioware let something like this happen? Bioware is one of those EPIC level gaming companies who have tremendous respect from everyone in the industry because their games are consistently polished, beautiful, engaging works of art.

    Making an MMO is putting themselves in the same position Blizzard was in years ago. Making a foray into the violent and unforgiving world of MMOs is a risky proposition but if they play their cards right and develop games like we all know they can, they stand to do very well.

    Allowing EA to dip their money grubbing hands into the pot is messing everything up! If they would give Bioware the money they need and leave them alone, everything would turn out fine.

    WHY GOD WHY?

  17. What if they followed a Guild Wars business model or some derivative? What if all the microtrans were pure content, not XP boosts, item scrolls, gems sockets, etc.? What if Riccitiello is an uninformed doofus?

    I am the opposite of you, reaction wise. I was fairly uninterested in the game, but now if they might follow a different business model… might be a good thing.

  18. I think it depends on the game and progression model. Take EVE Online for instance which has sanctioned ways of doing RMT. You buy game play time cards and sell those to other players for ISK. Players do this because buying ships that get destroyed is VERY expensive even with the in-game insurance policies. Why don’t those players hate it? Because you can’t use any equipment without the prerequisite skills. For that reason the EVE players don’t seem to care where your ISK actually comes from.

    In games where the only prerequisite is a level before you can use an item, RMT in a subscription based game is a slippery slope. Most players are probably okay with fluff items or commodity items going for RMT. W101 is subscription based but you can buy crowns for cash but they’re only accepted at certain vendors, and those vendors many sell fluff. That fluff sells too. I’ve had my Christmas pet following me since the first day I saw it go on sale.

    The day EQ2 lets me buy an almost max level toon I’d quickly go back. I want to craft and run a little shop (house) but I CAN NOT stand leveling in that game. I’ve tried so many times and I just-can’t-stand-it!

  19. Curious George says:

    I am so very glad to see them finally do this. Mostly because I support the microtransaction model but also because I have said and continue to believe that microtransactions are the future of online gaming. It is simple capitalism as companies find the best ways to make money.

  20. I don’t see anything inherently bad in a microtransaction based scheme, it comes down to how they implement it.

    This, however, guarantees I will not play it. “the official FAQ states that “the majority of the game can be accomplished by playing alone.”

    Another Massively Singleplayer Online RPG. *sigh*

  21. Here’s how I view the Microtransaction model:
    It’s not about the ability to buy things to advance your character. That’s not ideal to me but it doesn’t really bother me. It’s what the Microtransaction has always meant when it comes to a game being developed and the quality. Never, ever, has a MMORPG ever been released with the microtransaction model and been anything but awful. Let’s compare a game like Maplestory to EQ. You know what, better yet, let’s compare free to play games in general to those you have to pay subscription for and you’ll see the blatant differences.

    It ceases to be a MMORPG when the microtransaction system removes the fundamental soul behind the idea of immersion in the world based on the game’s design for character progression/advancement.

    So, again, I don’t care about the ability to buy a chapeau for your dog or a candy cane colored space helmet for your house wall. I care about what happens to the games when such a system is instituted.

    Prove me wrong. I’m waiting for an example of any Microtransaction based game that delivers what we have come to accept, recognize, and expect as the minimum MMORPG standard.

    This industry, like every industry, is out there to make money. However, there are a few people out there who really want to make great games and probably care less about the money as they do making a quality product. We now know who isn’t one of them.

  22. I won’t execute the RMT concept until I see its execution, as many others have said.

    If a lightsaber is still a lightsaber but the green gem one costs $X, while the blue one is free, then how does that really affect me negatively (the gems give them their different colours)? It would be fine if they gave you access to more character customization (body shape, facial features, hair colours, etc). It would be fine if they shipped the base game and then charged you $X to gain access to an expansion-like campaign/world (afterall, we already buy expansions in the subscription model).

    I’d be mostly concerned with RMT screwing up the in-game economy by EA selling people in-game gold for RL cash. It would bug me if someone could buy a Blaster of Pwnage +1000% damage for RL money that gives them an unfair competitive advantage over someone else.

  23. That’s just it, Snafzg. Have you played Maplestory? Seen The Agency in action? Played some of those other free-to-play-microtransaction models? If you’ll notice the trend there then I won’t have to point out the obvious – since someone will miss it though, the obvious being the quality, scope, and gameplay of the mmorpg.

    Again, it’s not about being able to buy a lightsaber for $X or give it a special glow for $.X, it’s about how these microtransaction games turn out in the end. Yes, I’m preemptively condemning the game but in my defense, I have a lot of evidence in the form of history.

  24. RMT allows people to use shortcuts if they’re willing to pony up the money.

    Buy extra renown? Get that great item you’ve been wanting? Get that gold you needed? In most RMT models, that is all at your finger tips for the low, low price of $X.

    It undercuts the value of any sort of time investment or skill involved in getting those things. It turns everything into a “who is willing to spend the most money” economic.

    For the makers of the game, that’s great. It promotes a snowball effect where players will compete and spend lots of money. For players that are concerned with quality, like most of us, it is just going to make things shallow and disappointing.

    My two cents.

  25. Russell Gusto says:

    Oh God please do not do this EA! Just leave it alone…walk slowly away. You have a great IP on your hands so don’t mess it up with micros. Are they going to do this with WAR to? /sighs

  26. I think Mark Jacobs knows enough to adamantly put his foot down and not allow that sort of thing. That and EA probably hopes they can now draw two different crowds to both their games, thus seizing more market than they would by having competing games.

  27. Wait, what?

    “I challenge ANYONE to point me to a game that was Microtransaction based and matched the quality of the subscription based game.”

    I challenge you to show me a North American AAA studio who has made a microtransactions based game. (Dungeon Runners, while has it’s flaws and it’s strengths, didn’t have low production quality. It was actually a pretty polished and fun game.)

  28. That was kinda the point Cuppy. ;) No North American studio has made a AAA title using microtransactions. The games that have been made, like Dungeon Runners, came up far short. The rest of the microtransaction based games have all been heavily influenced by a different market. Bringing that market to North America is a great business idea, but it will lead to many, many horrible games.

  29. I challenge ANYONE to not panic over this!

    Oh wait…too late.

    “Heck, I don’t even consider Guild Wars a MMORPG.”

    Even though I’ve never touched it, millions would disagree with ya there.

    “It’s what the Microtransaction has always meant when it comes to a game being developed and the quality. Never, ever, has a MMORPG ever been released with the microtransaction model and been anything but awful. Let’s compare a game like Maplestory to EQ.”

    Fine. Since we’re into comparisons, let’s compare any game that Bioware has released over the past five to six years to most MMORPG’s that have been released in the past five to six years.

    NOTE: If you’re thinking for more than five seconds then you’re thinking way too hard to come up with something.

    “It ceases to be a MMORPG when the microtransaction system removes the fundamental soul behind the idea of immersion in the world based on the game’s design for character progression/advancement.”

    I love this statement as it serves to drudge up the mob and incite panic among the masses. And as we have no idea how these micro transactions will work, you have no facts to make your angry mob mad enough to bust out their pitchforks and torches.

    Nice try though.

    Jason (resident drunken idiot of Channel Massive)

  30. @Jason: You seek to refute my words with what could be, when I am backing my statements with what has been before. Like I said, prove me wrong. Point me to a MMORPG with the scope and quality of a subscription based game that uses microtransactions. Don’t you think there’s a reason none exist?

    The holy name of Bioware isn’t going to save their product. It’ll be the best damn microtransaction game ever released, I’m sure. The fact remains that it will never be greater than the sum of its parts.

  31. @Jason

    I enjoy the podcast. Blogosteria is always a hoot.

    I really doubt that I’ll purchase this game if this is going to be their business model. Can’t say that I am mad at them *puts pitchfork down*, and I am sure that the Bioware name, with the Star Wars IP, will attract many sheeple. Just not me.

  32. @Jason

    Almost forgot. Add Wickidd, and Morkeen, to your friends list on Dark Crag. (30 Zealot, 36 Shaman) We should group up and wreck some Order together sometime.

  33. I was just going to say that WoW actually has microtransations already happening on top of it’s subscription model, that being name and server changes. Launching WoW tonight however, I was surprised to notice that they’ve added another microtransaction feature called “character re-customizations” as well. So you can do a complete character makeover (i.e. race, name, sex, etc) while keeping all of your same skills, etc.

  34. That’s not really microtransactions Nollind, at least not the character makeovers. Those just cost in-game gold. That’s just fluff built into the game; a very cool feature btw.

    As for the server transfers and renames, well, that could be considered a form of microtransactions, yes, but the type we’re mostly referring to here is different.

  35. I believe that you are thinking of the barber shops in WoW Keen. You can now pay money to change your race, sex, and name.

  36. Ah really, okay I didn’t know that. That’s what I was asking the other day that no one on vent knew about. You were probably there, actually. I said “It’s only a matter of time before you can become a chick”. Okay, then yes Nollind that is microtransactions. However, the game is not built around them (thankfully). The game is still very much the subscription model.

  37. $15.00

  38. I think it’s important to note that just because there hasn’t really been a great microtransaction based MMORPG does not mean that it’s impossible.

    None really have a huge license with them that would encourage average people to join. EA isn’t some huge free to play MMORPG warehouse either. You go to a lot of these publishers and they have like 15 MMORPGs. It’s impossible to manage every last one of these well and there’s a speedbump solely based upon the fact that the English publisher is simply translating and has little lasting effect on the game itself.

    We’re talking about a MMORPG with a huge license, clearly a ton of money behind it, extremely talented and respected developers and a massive publisher. Is this really comparable to IGG translating yet another forgettable Korean MMORPG that looks like the last 30?

    I don’t think so.

    The problem isn’t that they’re microtransaction based. The problem is that they were never great games in the first place and they likely would have never been in any situation. Chances are any equipment you’d like to buy in a given month would not go beyond a $15 a month fee anyway.

    If EA fucks this up, then fine, I think we can once and for all concede that this plan can not succeed… but in the meantime, I really don’t think there’s a single good comparison out there.

  39. http://www.entropia-universe.com is a game worth looking into if you like MMORPGs and real life cash transactions. There is no subscription based version of this game so hard to compare but this for sure is an enjoyable game in my opinion. Plus it’s absolutely free to download and start to play, so very accessible.

  40. “However, the game is not built around them (thankfully). The game is still very much the subscription model.”

    Correct and like you, I can’t see how a game could make as much money from a transaction model as they could with a subscription model. I mean even if the customizations are fluff, who is going to spend $180/year in fluff? I mean most items you buy once and that’s it (unless they do something even more stupid and make you pay repeatedly for them).

    At the very most, I could see a MMO game module reduce it’s monthly fee to something like $5 or $10 per month and then add on microtransactions on top of that. Again these transactions can’t affect the gameplay in any way though or people won’t go for it, since they’ll be upset that others can just “buy” their way to the content with their uber-purchased gear and stuff.

  41. What about this then: Every MMO with the subscription based scheme is going to have gold farmers in one shape or form.

    Many microtransaction games require you to buy in-game currency. Wouldn’t this eliminate or at least make it less profitable for gold farmers to operate?

    With gold farmers, everyone is not on the same table: It separates those who are willing to break the games rules from those who aren’t. In a bought-currency game, at least everyone is on the same playing field.

    You might say: Well what if some trust fund kiddy can spend $5,000 a month on gold, and I only can afford $15 – should he be progressed farther than me? Well, why not? That kid could have spend $5,000 on WoW gold, and have the same advantages…. only in the latter case, you would *also* have to break game rules to compete with him.

  42. I definitely fall into the crowd that grimaces when the idea of RMT is passed around.

    On the surface, the Station Cash system seems relatively benign. That said, the problem that I have is that a poll went around to everyone in-game a few years ago asking how everyone felt about buying and selling items in-game with real money. I don’t know the exact results, but considering they made Station Exchange servers separate from other live servers, I’m guessing that the response was a resounding “not in my back yard.” What’s more is that SOE assured players then that there was no way that RMT would be allowed to creep into the non-Station Exchange servers. Proverbially, they got to have their cake and eat it too.

    Just a few years later Station Cash is dropped into the system … wait for it … with a promise that it’ll only be so-called fluff items that won’t affect game-play.

    A couple of things spring to mind.

    1) Why does SOE believe that keeping RMTs to so-called ‘fluff’ isn’t game affecting? Not everyone plays these games in order to drop the nastiest beasts the devs toss in front of them. In fact, there is a sizable community within EQ2 that have taken great pride in grinding out levels in Tailoring and Carpentry to provide the kind of ‘fluff’ finery and house-items that some players demanded. There are a number of people that have worked long and hard to grind enough faction reputation to have access to the little non-combat trinkets that the faction-specific merchants offered. Now, try telling those people that *their* gameplay and/or economy isn’t or won’t be affected.

    More importantly in my opinion, though…

    2) What makes SOE think that we’ll believe them this time? My gut is telling me that in not much more than a year you’ll be able to purchase ‘exclusive’ buffs, pieces of armour and weapons that are only available through these RMTs. Expansions will likely remain, but they’ll be resurrecting the “adventure pack” though on a smaller scale with access to individual dungeons or raid instances being made available for, say, $5-$10 worth of Sony-bucks.

    The fact is, EQ2 was never designed to be an RMT-based game. It was promised that it wouldn’t be. RMT being shoe-horned in after-the-fact is potentially unbalancing and therefore, in my opinion, no longer a ‘fun’ game. We’re being assured now that things are going to just fine, but the fact is they (SOE) have changed their minds more than once when it comes to these kinds of things and I am a firm believer in the notion that a man (or company) is only as good as his (its) ‘word’. Yes, this is a business. No one begrudges SOE for trying to make a few extra dollars. But a long-term business relationship (such as being a subscriber for just over 4 years) is a relationship built on trust. Credibility is everything and introducing Station Cash brings that credibility into question.

    With respect to SWTOR. If they decide to go the RMT route, the game will be built around the RMTs so it’s likely that they’ll likely be able to avoid the pitfalls that unbalance things game-wise. However, like Keen has already pointed out, at least historically, the chips are stacked against them.

    In the end it’s up to them (EA/Bioware) to prove that they can do it and do it right. It isn’t up to potential consumers to give them the benefit of the doubt. Especially in the MMO-space where we’ve all likely been on the receiving end of disappointment in one form or another when it comes to promises made to customers vs. promises kept to customers.

    There’s my two pesos, amigos.

  43. In the comment I wrote above I didn’t even realise how micro these transactions were. I doubt they’ll have much effect since it’ll be mainly fluff.

    In the game I was talking about (Entropia Universe), people are buying armors and weapons for ten thousands of US dollars (yes, 10.000’s). In that game you are indeed able to buy status and ‘uberness’.

  44. really dont see the big deal in this keen? I think games like that r fun. watching people waste there $ on fake pixles , funy man fun…

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