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Electronic Arts, THQ Look To Microtransactions 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the do-not-want dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Forbes: "Electronic Arts, one of the world's largest games publishers, on Monday partnered with microtransactions platform Live Gamer to bolster its online game efforts. ... THQ also announced a partnership with Live Gamer last week to facilitate microtransactions of its online PC and mobile games in North America. ... Worldwide sales of virtual items are expected to reach $7 billion by 2015, according to online games research firm DFC Intelligence. Fast-growing social games companies like Zynga, the maker of FarmVille, are leading the charge. The company is estimated to be pulling in around $600 million in revenue annually, largely from the sale of virtual goods. Americans are also growing comfortable with the microtransactions model. Game companies point to the music industry, where consumers buy 99-cent digital tracks instead of full albums on CDs."
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Electronic Arts, THQ Look To Microtransactions

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  • by sopssa (1498795) *

    Note that in this case the games itself would be free like in asian markets and I doubt that the normal games are going anywhere. This is most likely to expand their market. There are a lot of people, especially teens, who rather pay for individual items than go to a store and pay full $60 for a game.

    It also makes piracy really hard, especially when the games are played online and the info about items and addons you own are on the server. It's practically impossible to pirate that. With the 90% piracy rate

    • by gravos (912628)
      Not sure why this is downvoted. It looks pretty accurate.

      As the Internet becomes ubiquitous you should expect to see fewer and fewer games without a significant online component. Piracy is rampant and it's publishers won't pay developers unless they maintain control over the game environment.

      Note that I didn't say this trend is GOOD or RIGHT, just that it's what is happening.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      With the 90% piracy rate on PC games it's not surprising that publishers are looking for new ways, even if that's sad.

      What, sad? No this is great! Finally software companies are doing their duty, and finding something to replace their outdated business model! This is what slashdot has repeatedly said that it wants, and now exactly that is happening! What could be better?

      (Yes, I am being sarcastic.)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    for "Nickel-and-Diming"
    • Nickel and Diming can be ok, if it means you don't have to pony up a $20 up front. It's also ok if they charge you a nickel for something which brings you at least a nickel worth of enjoyment.
      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Nickel and Diming can be ok, if it means you don't have to pony up a $20 up front. It's also ok if they charge you a nickel for something which brings you at least a nickel worth of enjoyment.

        Except you'll have to pay $60 up front and then a nickel for every bullet or health pack.

        Guess I'm not going to be buying many games in future.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nadaka (224565)

        With EA involved expect to pay $69.99 up front for the game, except that the last half is available only for $10 as down loadable content, $14.99 monthly for the subscription, $49.99 every year for the obligatory expansion, $4.99 for each extra map, and then, you can pay $0.10 for each extra click per day.

        • Then don't buy it. EA isn't your friend. They're a corporation. They don't like you, they only like your money. As long as people see expansions as "obligatory", they'll keep charging $49.99 for them.
          • by rident (1287114)
            Give this localman a medal!
          • While I agree with you to some extent, maybe it helps to play Devil's Advocate: so what's the alternative? As far as publishers go, I can really only think of one or two who don't treat their customers like absolute garbage. Activision, THQ, EA, Blizzard, Ubisoft, Square Enix, Rockstar/Take Two -- all behave like money grubbing jerks who seem only to be interested in squeezing every dime out of you. Only Valve and Bioware seem to provide decent value to me; but even they are trying and take from the hone
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by gmhowell (26755)

              Basically, you've answered your own question. The alternative is to not play. Sorry if you don't like this, but free marketers never promised free ponies. Not everyone gets to be an astronaut either.

              • by Nadaka (224565)

                It has come pretty close to that for me.

                In the last 5 years, I have only bought 2 games at normal price. Maybe 5 more at $20 and a handful at $5.

                I don't even have a real video card in my computer anymore. My play-station 2 is in pieces (but still working thanks to some patched cables).

                I am just not willing to invest time in new crap games, much less the high price generally demanded.

              • No, the idea of free markets working effectively was sold with the idea of competition driving innovation. You seem to have completely missed that and instead reverted back to a knuckle dragger unicorn insult in order to mis-characterize what I said.

                You may not really be a jerk or an idiot, but that was a really moronic reply. Sorry. Not sure if you will even see this but it bothers me when people are trying to have an intelligent conversation and it gets dragged down to unicorns and bullshit like you
                • by gmhowell (26755)

                  Despite your troll worthy reply to a light hearted joke, I've got a little time to kill:

                  Friedman et al. do not predict the nature of the market that will develop nor do they predict the results for a single consumer. Their focus is on macro level ideas. Your own individual utility is not maximized in this freeish market. This does not implicate a failure on the part of their analysis, as, presumably, the utility of ALL parties is maximized: buyers and sellers as a whole.

                  In my flippant response is a kernel o

                  • Well that was a better post but you finished it with the same stupid line. Still maybe now you will ponder who it does help. And the.real question, is it really utility that is being maximized, or is it just profitability? You also still missed the defacto collusion point.
                    • by gmhowell (26755)

                      Again, it's not meant to help any one person; it's an aggregate.

                      Collusion can only occur with imperfect knowledge. Imperfect knowledge means a non-free market.

                      If we are talking a study of free market economics, yes, it is utility that is maximized. For one company, they will choose pure dollars right now, no matter what. For another, they'll choose more dollars later. For a third, they'll sacrifice some profit in both the short and long term in favor of paying workers more. Similar analysis applies on the d

        • by rnswebx (473058)

          You do realize that EA bought Playfish [techcrunch.com], a producer of Facebook games similar to Zynga, right? I'd venture a guess that this has much, much more to do with those sorts of games than it does their 'traditional' PC/console games.

          With Zynga probably becoming a billion-dollar company in 2011, people are starting to finally take notice of the micro-transactions that have been popular in Asia for some time. My take is that EA is making these sorts of changes to try and catch up to Zynga in the social gaming spac

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hatta (162192)

        Not really. I'd rather pay the $20. When we're talking about $20 transactions, that's something that's worth my while to investigate and see if I'm getting a good deal. When we're talking about $.05 transactions, that's not worth my while to consider critically. Sure it's not a big loss if I get ripped off for 5 cents, but it adds up. I'd rather just skip it.

        To put it another way. For a $20 transaction, I have to make 1 decision. For $20 worth of $.05 transactions, I have to make 400 decisions. Whic

        • by gmhowell (26755)

          Most people don't stress over five cents. That's the whole point. It will be less stressful (and therefore, more likely to succeed) with multiple nickel transactions.

          You will figure it's not worth the effort to see if it is cost effective and pass on the entire scheme. EA and others are betting that enough people will figure it's not worth the effort and go ahead and purchase. Judging by the value and profile of Zynga, it's not hard to figure which way to bet.

  • by TrippTDF (513419) <hiland@@@gmail...com> on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:44PM (#33036364)
    So when you think about a microtransaction, you think it's a small amount of money. There are two ways for a studio to profit from this: Either they get a wider group of people paying for a game for less money, or they charge so many micropayments to their core users that it winds up netting out the same as if people just bought the game in the first place. In the former, more people get to enjoy the game for free, but if the game doesn't get REALLY widespread acceptance, then they default to the latter, adding more and more micropayments to people that don't realize how much they are spending until they have dropped $100 or more on the game.

    Should the latter happen, then the whole idea of micropayments will start to look shady and people will avoid any game that employs the tactic. In other words: It's a slippery slope for all but the most popular games.
    • by Dan667 (564390)
      this is the same problem as DRM. Business want to earn big profits, but have taken their eye off of making their Customers happy. You can really understand this as many of these businesses are completely mystified why Valve's Steam is so popular when it is very clearly providing services that Customers want.
    • by cgenman (325138) on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:59PM (#33036648) Homepage

      A big part of microtransactions are lowering the barrier to entry. If you try a bad game, you leave. No money spent. If you try a good game, you stay. Yay for you. This tends to be a more self-regulating system than traditional box sales, where the pee-sale hype determines sales, and a mistake costs the consumer $60.

      Also, why is everybody talking about this as if it is new? Asia has had huge microtransactions games for ten years. The US has had some, with Anarchy Online, Puzzle Pirates, and others being microtransactions based for years.

    • Well, it depends. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:01PM (#33036686) Journal

      http://www.mordororbust.com/233-lotro-store-beta-screenshots/

      This is for the change for Lord of the Rings Online Monthly Subscription/Lifetime membership model to a hybrid form in which you can play for free but have to buy content, similar to what they did with Dungeon & Dragons Online.

      Now, having played the game a lot, I can tell give you a rough impression of the prices involved and what they mean.

      Take dye. 125 points. An outfit consists of 6 items. If you color them all, that is 750 points. IF 100 points are 1 dollar (widely assumed but not yet confirmed) then that is a fairly hefty sum just to color your outfit. And the dyes can also be created in game. If you are willing to pay 750 points, then surely you would be willing to donate say 1 dollar to my paypal account for the dyes?

      Crafting scrolls are even more laughable they give a 15% increase to your critical change when crafting for 30 seconds. Not a long time at all. 40 points. I crank them out by the truckload.

      The content itself is far more expensive 500+ points. There are in the original game: Lone-lands, North Downs, Evendim, Forochel, Trollshaws, Misty Mountains, Angmar. 500+ points per area. Say that it is 5 dollars per area. Then you need to spend 35 dollars... how much did the entire game cost again? Oh, its budget now. 10 euro's...

      So... buy them in the item shop or a real one, 20 dollar difference. And then you get all orginal classes, full character slots no chat limits etc etc.

      Need I go on? It seems pretty clear that the item shop in this case is NOT the cheap option.

      To be true micro transactions such items as a dye need to cost about 1 cent. But that isn't profitable. And how many dyes do they need anyway? So Lotro item mall also has scrolls that give a permanent +30 to any stat. OOOPS! Pay to Win anyone?

      The old fashioned model of box-game with a monthly subscription is simple, the customer knows what he gets and so does the game company. Micro transactions only work on those who can't do maths and for those who are really going to play your game for free.

      I am afraid that for regular games it will be just more of the examples we already seen. Race games were every car has to be bought, RPG's with horse armour for 1/10 of the full game.

      Stop nicke and diming us to death. Gamers are not infinitly stupid and once we caught on it will be to late to change anything. We will have stopped buying and you will have gone bankrupt.

      • IF 100 points are 1 dollar (widely assumed but not yet confirmed) then that is a fairly hefty sum just to color your outfit. And the dyes can also be created in game.

        My brothers plays Metin. There are paid haircuts (that also give you some defense points), but they only last two weeks.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Radtoo (1646729)
      But I am sure they want to get MORE money than they would with larger expansions as was done up until now...

      So what do they presumably get from this move?
      • DL on LIVE => No resale.
      • Many people will just buy anything without considering reviews, believing 1.99$ is not worth proper consideration.
      • Maybe they plan to exploit multiplayer gameplay to constantly create forced buys. You do not want to be barred from playing the game with your friends because of missing maps or game mode, do you?
      • Of course only
    • by BitZtream (692029)

      What? You mean people look down on being nickle and dimed for something?

      Really? I never would have guessed people would consider this shady.

      'Microtransaction' is just a new name for the same old thing. Its just a way to take your money while tricking you into thinking you aren't spending much money.

      Its not a slippery slope and never was, its just a fucking scam praying on peoples propensity to spend a little bit of money way too many times because they don't realize what they are doing.

      People have been t

  • by Torodung (31985) on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:54PM (#33036542) Journal

    Yup. They killed a thriving industry, now they're looking to squeeze blood from the stone they made out of that vibrant, resilient hobby. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.

    It's gruff, but that's the way I see it. The faster these arrogant publishers go out of business, the quicker we can start over. When they've gone, nothing of value will have been lost.

    This all started with floppy disks and baggies. We don't need Hollywood-style production values to play and enjoy, and we can't abide the cost of corresponding Hollywood-style accounting and mismanagement that goes with it. I don't see the value of adding all that production cost to what amounts to the same crappy FPS, or a makeover on "The Sims."

    Let it die already, fast, the sooner we can all go back to enjoying weird little games in baggies, and maybe find something interesting to play as a result.

    --
    Toro

    • by kjart (941720)

      Let it die already, fast, the sooner we can all go back to enjoying weird little games in baggies, and maybe find something interesting to play as a result.

      I'm not sure why you seem to think that these things are mutually exclusive, but there are plenty of great and/or weird games out there, you just have to look for them.

      • by Torodung (31985)

        I have, I could list them. Nothing I play right now is what I would call a AAA title.

        My favorites:

        Weird Worlds [shrapnelgames.com], distributed by Shrapnel Games. Basic, top down Star Control IIish space combat and exploration game. $24.95

        Cave Story [miraigamer.net] (Doukutsu Monogatari). Free.

        Anything over at Spiderweb games. Gog.com hooked me up with a strange little game called "Evil Genius" for $9.99. You have to hack the widescreen in, but it's a surprising lot of fun.

        There are so many options, and I would dearly like to see AAA publisher

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Thirdsin (1046626)
      "Yup. They killed a thriving industry..." They killed a thriving industry for US. By US i mean the over 25 group that grew up with the classics and grew up with the system we knew and loved. What is happening now is a slow change, an evolution if you will. In 5 more years the largest part of the player base will not know the system we grew with and loved so much. They will only have been exposed to the industry in front of them, microtransactions and DLC. Gaming is no longer in the domain of the 'geek', it
      • by Torodung (31985)

        I disagree. I have kids. Mainstream kids. They bring the neighborhood kids around, and I let them into the candy shop every now and then.

        You break out Sonic the Hedgehog or Bonk, and they drop Super Mario Galaxy or Viva Pinata or Little Big World like a rotting, cold potato battery. It's the instant and natural responsiveness of the game that does it, I think.

        Especially around age 9.

        When I pull out those games, I begin to see actual, instantaneous enthusiasm. Enjoyment. No furrowed brow and frustration with

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I agree with what you said.

      I also take exception to the supposed link towards the music industry.

      the music tracks on a CD are rarely if ever related to one another. Each are generally a whole work on to itself - with most of them sucking horribly in many cases. It'd be more comparable to having Awesome Game, Awesome Game II, Awesome Game III: The Sequel's Sequel, and Awesome Game IV.

      Only Awesome Game was any good. So you get that and who cares about the rest.

      With this micro bullshit, it'd be like getting th

  • Microtransactions have spawned an entire group of gamers who find nearly as much fun from paying the game for free and going to insane lengths to get something for nothing than they do from just playing the game.

    Other people might pay $10 or $20, then realize what they've done and quit the game in disgust, especially as game executives get more greedy and obvious with their requests for money.

    Either way there's a limited pool of people who are paying and that pool is shrinking fast. I personally wouldn't in

    • by crossmr (957846)

      and yet Korea has had a thriving gaming industry for around 10 years existing solely on Microtransactions.

      They've got tons of games here absolutely free, and completely playable to the end without paying a dime.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Since their introduction, microtransactions have been subverted from their original purpose of funding content development after the game's release, and used instead to lock out content already on the disc until the user pays (e.g. Resident Evil 5's multiplayer, Street Fighter IV's costumes). This was little different from practice in the past, where content would be withheld for a future expansion pack, but is it all that different?

    To use a car analogy, withholding content for an expansion pack and nickel

  • It's working so well for the airlines; gaming companies want in on the action.
  • For years now, we've been able to get around the old injustice of having to buy a whole album just for one or two of the songs which weren't crap....

    Now, they'll let us buy just the levels in a game we want to play? Great! Level 1 is always such crap, no matter the game, I shouldn't have to pay for it!

    Those of us with busy schedules can just purchase the final level, all the pleasure of beating the game without the time investment of all that buildup nonsense.

    • For years now, we've been able to get around the old injustice of having to buy a whole album just for one or two of the songs which weren't crap....

      I suggest you need to do a little more investigation into your music & change artists. There are countless albums out there that are great from start to finish, so please don't make sweeping statements about all albums having only one or good tracks on them.

      Maybe that's the case for most modern over-marketed plasticized modern rubbish, but it's certainly no

  • Insert Credit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ALeavitt (636946) <aleavitt@gmail.COBOLcom minus language> on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:08PM (#33036794)
    A huge part of the allure behind home video games in the 70s and 80s was that people could now pay a higher initial cost for the games that they wanted to play and then no longer had to endure microtransactions. It seems that if EA and THQ have their way, we will slowly slide back to the days when we paid for a couple of minutes with a game rather than buying the game itself. After all, it would eliminate the used games market and ensure that developers and publishers get more of our money for less of their product. For a corporate bean-counter, that's a win-win!
    • by boristdog (133725)

      Next thing you know they'll make you stick a quarter in a slot for three more "lives" in the game.

    • It seems that if EA and THQ have their way, we will slowly slide back to the days when we paid for a couple of minutes with a game rather than buying the game itself. After all, it would eliminate the used games market and ensure that developers and publishers get more of our money for less of their product. For a corporate bean-counter, that's a win-win...

      ...until you come to the lose: gamers might not take to the old ways so well, and they may end up selling less games. Plus, it only takes one company to

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      As a developer who wants to 'make games' for a profit/hobby I don't really care if they pull this crap, its helpful to me.

      I don't have a budget, I do it for fun. I'm a programmer, not a graphic artist or sound engineer, no way I can compete with EA on a quality level across the board.

      This however gives me a nice easy way people will want to give me a try. $5 for my little game forever, or $5 in nickle and diming so you can play Maddan 2011 for 45 seconds.

      People won't be nearly as impressed by my game, but

  • There is a small but vocal minority that would buy the phone book if Steve Jobs offered it to them, but is anyone else still buying music? I don't know anyone who does.

    If there are, what percentage of them are curmudgeonly old people too conservative or technophobic to pirate, and what percentage aren't going to die in the next 20 years?

    • Your obviously youthful drug-addled brain has glossed over one important fact that destroys your argument completely...

      For music to be released in the first place, curmudgeonly old people like me have to be prepared to buy it (which I am *MORE* than happy to do, BTW, at least for good quality music anyway) such that someone can make it available to pirates to obtain freely.

      Incidentally, I'm in my mid-40s, have been around computers for 30+ years and probably know better than you how to rip my music & DV

      • But if you're in your mid-fourties now, you'll be in your mid-sixties in twenty years. That's just shy of your sell-by date. I wasn't trying to be mean, but it's well accepted that social change happens to a large degree through older generations passing on.

        I'm happy to pay musicians for music, but I can't in good conscience fund terrorist organizations like the RIAA.

        Good luck with the colostomy bag, but I don't imagine you could afford me.

  • How about lower the price of the game vs $60 + this shit?

  • Who is this 'god', you speak of?

    Well, that's your problem, I am sueing you and you can sue this 'god' person.

    how is this tactic taken seriously in a court of law?

  • ...and tired of having to deal with what the average consumer has voted with their wallets about. Micro-transactions in general aren't what the problem is, it's the fact that the average consumer will gladly shell out for all the micro-transacted extras in a game.

    I DON'T WANT the extra costumes in a console fighting game for 99c, I DON'T WANT any of the 20 extra levels that each cost 1/5 the full price of the base iphone game. It is currently fine that I don't want those things and can choose not to get
  • by wealthychef (584778) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:39PM (#33037222)
    By definition, shouldn't only millionaires think 99 cent songs are microtransactions?
  • 99 cents for a song on an album isn't the same as video game downloadable content. I can buy and enjoy a single song without owning the rest of the album. But for most downloadable content, you need to have bought the entire 50/60 USD game to even use the content.
    • by tepples (727027)

      I can buy and enjoy a single song without owning the rest of the album.

      Unless you get to things like Pink Floyd's albums, all of whose tracks show up as "album only" [crunchgear.com]. Nor can you buy one scene from a movie.

      • Good, quite frankly. If you haven't got the attention span to be able to listen to an entire album start to finish, then you shouldn't be listening to Pink Floyd, or countless other great artists.

        Turning music into "Pick 'n' Mix sweeties" cheapens it - well, maybe not for the plasticized chart dross out there, but for proper music written and produced by proper musicians it does.

  • Dear EA & THQ, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pandrijeczko (588093) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @12:40AM (#33040650)

    How's this for an idea?

    How about you develop some games worth buying *FIRST*, and *THEN* work out how you are going to sell them to me?

  • ... "Keep It Simple Stupid".

    As an avid gamer, I've pretty much stopped buying modern games now, simply because gaming has become far too complicated for me.

    I used to be able to go into a games shop, browse a good selection of titles, buy something, then go home, load it on my machine & play it. I didn't have to download new drivers, then a 500MB patch for the game before I even started to play it, I didn't have to register my security code on a web site, I didn't have to scratch my head reading the back

  • I don't see the real gripe here. Everyone's so pissy about micro-transactions being yet another way for the big bad industry to screw you. Seriously? They're giving you an opportunity to see if you even like something before committing anything to it. Boy, I sure wish other industries would screw me over like that instead of forcing me to drive a 50% devaluation off the lot...

    Okay, so they're figuring out that arcades were the way to go and are now wrapping back around to it. So what? What is it now, 12 mil

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