Microtransactions are a polarizing subject. Some people equate them with a “Free to Play” system, and some view all microtransactions as a pure form of evil. Others, like me, view them as a line that can be walked gracefully. If done correctly, I believe that microtransactions can be a great boon to the player’s experience and the developer’s bottom line.
Mike O’Brien of ArenaNet wrote very broadly about how microtransactions will come into play in Guild Wars 2.
Here’s our philosophy on microtransactions: We think players should have the opportunity to spend money on items that provide visual distinction and offer more ways to express themselves. They should also be able to spend money on account services and on time-saving convenience items. But it’s never OK for players to buy a game and not be able to enjoy what they paid for without additional purchases, and it’s never OK for players who spend money to have an unfair advantage over players who spend time. [Source]
Aside from the part that says “time-saving convenience items” being very ambiguous and possibly exploitable by ArenaNet, this explanation sounds solid to me. I am 100% in support of companies creating cosmetic items/upgrades/enhancements for purchase. I see this as a different skin for your League of Legends character, or to be more relevant a cool glow for your sword or emblem for your shield. These things make players feel unique and look how they want; they add a ‘specialness’ that creates a sense of fondness for the player.
Blizzard sells mounts like the sparkly pony, cute non-combat pets, and account services such as name changes to their players. I find these forms of microtransactions acceptable and in no way related to the types of microtransactions found in Lord of the Rings Online’s Cash Shop. Turbine sells advantage to players, and that would be the line I mentioned earlier. That’s why microtransactions can be such a devious monster. When first implemented, they can be truly cosmetic, but later the insidious side slithers in to corrupt the game. I hope ArenaNet is true to their word.
Another side of a microtransaction system like this is the ability to sell the currency used in the shop on the in-game market for gold. Mike mentions the similarity to EVE’s plex system. I like this idea and I think it will help keep the GW2 economy alive.
My fingers are crossed and I have my hopes up that ArenaNet is capable of sticking to their convictions.