Microtransactions are the way of the future

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Right now, the model for most big budget games is to sell the game for $60, then pad it out with rubbish that customers are nickled-and-dimed for by way of DLC. A lot of developers, even “traditional” ones such as Crytek, have realised that there’s greater potential for profit by releasing free-to-play games, and then charging for in-game items that increase abilities, grant players a competitive edge or just dabble with aesthetics. EA’s Peter Moore believes that we’ll be seeing a lot more of that in the future.

“I think, ultimately, those microtransactions will be in every game, but the game itself or the access to the game will be free,” he said to Kotaku.

“I think there’s an inevitability that happens five years from now, 10 years from now, that, let’s call it the client, to use the term, [is free]. It is no different than…it’s free to me to walk into The Gap in my local shopping mall. They don’t charge me to walk in there. I can walk into The Gap, enjoy the music, look at the jeans and what have you, but if I want to buy something I have to pay for it.”

Does that mean that traditional $60 games will be going the way of the dodo? not necessarily – it just means those $60 games will continue, via DLC and microtransactions, to swell in to $70, $80, even $90 games. Free-to-play  and casual games though, he believes, will bring billions of new gamers to the fray.

“It may well be that there will be games that survive and they are the $60 games, but I believe that the real growth is bringing billions of people into the industry and calling them gamers,” he said. “Hardcore gamers won’t like to hear this. They like to circle the wagons around what they believe is something they feel they have helped build–and rightly so.

“But we have seen, whether it was with the Wii getting mom off the couch to do Wii Sports or whether it was, more recently EA Sports Active, where we get females who love to work out, all the things that social gaming did–Rock Band did it, Guitar Hero did it–all of the things that elevated it from being a dark art of teenage boys usually sequestered in the bedroom–that it was testosterone-filled content that everybody railed against–to where everybody is a gamer…if you can move your index finger and swipe it this way, you’re a gamer.

“And that has got to be the way it goes.”

Games like Team Fortress 2, Tribes: Ascend, DC Universe Online, Blacklight Retribution, Planetside and MOBA games like League of Legends have proven that “free” games can offer great experiences. Even MMO’s like World of Warcraft and Star Wars: the Old Republic have shifted to being free-to-play…in the hopes that people don’t realise that they’re not particularly free.

What do you think? Is this the future? what free-to-play games have you played that make you think it’s a viable, and inevitable model for games?

Last Updated: June 21, 2012

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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