The E for All expo wraps up today in Los Angeles, but not before microtransaction based games got their fair share of attention.
Top tier titles such as EverQuest, WoW, and EVE Online all have their own ingame economies, but the E for All expo gave free-to-play, microtransaction based titles a chance to shine. Nexon American’s marketing manager Meghan Myskowski wouldn’t exactly release usage patterns since 2005 for their groundbreaking title Maple Story, but she did say that the game spearheaded the microtransaction movement in the US.
“Now, people are used to paying for virtual items,” said Myskowski. “Virtual life has changed substantially.”
Another spotlighted game is Mindark’s Entropia Universe. Originally launched in 2004 as Project Entropia, they now have a registered user count clocking in around the 800,000 mark, with only about 40 percent of users registered in the US. MindArk says that since it’s inception, approximately $400 million worth of transactions have occurred. Entropia’s in game currency, the PED has an exchange rate of 1:10 – $:PED. However, in game items do not see a real wold conversion factor, in so much as a special coat may cost $1700 (and at that real world price, it had better have a Gucci label attached to it).
MindArk is already making preparations to raise their profile by implementing the new CryEngine 2 , which promises even more photorealistic game play. The CryEngine update is expected to release in early 2009.
President of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, Joseph Olin says, “Most people playing in these persistent world environments are building their character. In E.V.E., third party brokers trade currencies in virtual worlds. Nexon has shown across all of their games that if you have the right balance of in-game economies and real world value, consumers are happy to spend some money there.”
Olin’s position on the business model as a whole is slightly biased towards producers and not players. “Interactive entertainment companies are looking for ways to monetize their investment. The changing nature of PC entertainment software distribution, and the advent of console entertainment systems, has changed what software entertainment companies can do. You can’t sell boxed entertainment anymore. And people who are playing games aren’t always playing them on PCs anymore.”
Not just relying on microtransactions in MMO’s, Olin quickly turns his attention to the rise of music based games, specifically the microtransaction model in Guitar Hero and Rock Band. “Downloadable content and microtransactions for console based games are on the rise–look at Guitar Hero and Rock Band, where people anticipate downloadable Tuesdays, and you see huge numbers, half-a-million people downloading a song.”
Summing up the industry Olin adds, “consumers have so many different paths and choices to make, that the traditional business model of the consumer buying from a store, those walls are crumbling because everything is in real-time, and everything is connected.”
Tags: academy of interactive arts and sciences, cryengine, entropia universe, Eve Online, EverQuest, Joseph Olin, maple story, Meghan Myskowski, microtransaction, mindark, Nexon, project entropia, trade currencies, virtual life, WoW