It seems to be the case these days that everyone falls on one side or other of the microtransaction debate. I happen to fall on the side that’s not so in favor of it. Which is why I feel I should reply to the article from Massively’s Colin Brennan, about Champions Online’s use of a standard subscription model and microtransactions on top of that.
Now Champions Online is not the first game to do this, and I doubt they will be the last. In his article Colin notes that World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, and Xbox Live all use microtransactions on top of a subscription fee. Personally I don’t see what Blizzard does with WoW as microtransactions, and I’ll discuss more on that later. CoH I’ve never actually played, and Xbox Live absolutely does use microtransactions.
As for World of Warcraft, I see those “account services” as just that. When I think of microtransactions in games I think of buying in game items, currency, or buying additional content for the game. I don’t see things like name changes, gender changes, or server transfers as microtransactions. At least I never have in the past, but I suppose they are technically in the same category. For whatever reason though I see those as more acceptable. I don’t mind paying a bit of money for a server transfer(though I do think blizz should offer the ability to transfer all characters from server A to server B for one fee) or a new character name. I think the primary reason this doesn’t bother me is it isn’t content that was created and then withheld from me to earn an extra buck.
Xbox Live is most certainly run with microtransactions. In the case of Xbox Live though I see it in a completely different light than I do a MMO. For one I see Xbox Live as a service that allows game company’s, movie/tv companies, and music companies deliver content and/or additional content to consumers. Second nothing that someone else buys through Xbox Live is going to have an impact on my personal gameplay experiences.
Now as for Champions I’m not entirely sure what all is being offered in the Item shop but I do know that they are offering some in game items(costumes and the like). Now whatever is being offered in their store may be entirely cosmetic/fluff items, but that doesn’t in my mind make it ok for them to pull it aside and say sorry you have to pay extra if you want this! If I’m paying $50 for the box, $15 a month, and presumably $50 per expansion I expect to get ALL the content created for that game!
This isn’t anything extremely experimental or surprising. It’s not price gouging if you don’t actually pay for it. And it’s not like Champions is going to ship with huge swaths of content missing, forcing you to buy items from the Cryptic Store to progress through the game. It’s simply an option, nothing more.
Take advantage of the beauty of the system — if you don’t want it, don’t pay for it.
But that’s the thing, I DO want it and I want it for the price I’m ALREADY paying them. Furthermore It is price gouging to me. They are deliberately withholding content from paying customers, to milk those customers for more money! I think it’s a poor business practice, and I think that it will ultimately lead to a lower subscriber base than the game could otherwise potentially obtain. I know I for one will not subscribe to any game that charges it’s userbase a high subscription fee and then tries to use microtransactions on top of that. This is sadly one of the reasons why I have not gone back to EQ II. I’ve wanted to play it again for sometime now, but I will not support a game that uses a full subscription and microtransactions. I wish Champions Online and it’s playerbase well, but it’s unfortunately not a game that I can support.
Edit: Added a poll in the side bar on the matter.