After a March report by Gamasutra said the Spore Store would allow for the purchase of "asynchronously downloaded assets from other players," EA responded with a statement claiming the Spore Store is intended solely for "out-of-game merchandise," like t-shirts or posters. "'Sharing' or 'downloading' player created content is a core feature of Spore, not at all something that is part of the Spore Store or even under consideration for additional charge," the statement said. "The entire game is based on players making creatures, buildings and vehicles which can be accessed from what we call our Sporepedia - a web-based collection of all player created assets."
"We have also mentioned that we will be providing the Creature Creator tool as a stand-alone product in the month or two before the game launches so that players can begin to design their creatures, but we do not have plans to sell individual parts via microtransactions," the statement concluded.
But things have apparently changed between then and now, according to a GameCyte report, which said EA CEO John Riccitiello is keeping the possibility of Spore-based microtransactions in his sights. In a conference call following the release of the company's first quarter financial results, Riccitiello said, "Job one with Spore is to make the launch successful. I would love to imagine that two years from now or a year from now the debate is whether we need a Spore label inside of EA, because the back-end system works so well that we're able to monetize body parts, plant parts, car parts, planets - as a way to generate incremental revenue off an install base of several million active users. But it's a little bit like pool, in that I'm a little afraid that if we spend way too much time setting up the second shot we'll miss the first shot, and I don't know if that metaphor works for any of you, but right now, it's all hands on deck to make September 7th the event that matters."
"Yes, we've got a clear, obvious and very compelling post-launch monetization opportunity. This is a game where basically, the parts are what make the sum of the product work," he continued. "So selling parts as we do with the Sims Store online right now in The Sims 2 is incredibly obvious, we have all the technology for it, but that's really not what the overwhelming portion of our focus is on right now. It's on making that a successful launch and making sure we have the right to ask that question down the road."
Obviously, microtransactions won't be waiting for Spore fans when the game launches, but should the franchise take off like The Sims it will be far more surprising if they don't make an appearance than if they do. The reaction of the fan base will be worth watching, as it may have a real impact on similar moves by EA in the future. While gamers overwhelmingly rejected a plan to make certain weapons in Battlefield: Bad Company available only to players who paid extra for them as DLC, the Spore demographic will presumably be somewhat more casual, and as a result may be more receptive to forking over the dough for additional content.