Confusion reigns supreme regarding the business model of the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic MMOG, as Electronic Arts disavows comments by CEO John Riccitiello that the game will be microtransaction based.
Specific payment models for the upcoming BioWare-developed MMOG haven't been officially revealed, but in a conference call to investors yesterday, Riccitiello said the game would make use of microtransactions. Microtransaction-based games typically have no monthly fees, but rely on small payments for in-game material, like currency or equipment, which free players don't have access to.
"We are continuing to stick to the plan relative to building out our direct-to-consumer models which include micro-transactions and subscriptions. The recent launch of Warhammer [Online] is a great example of that," Riccitiello said in the call. "Other initiatives we've announced, for example [the] Star Wars online MMO, are mid-session games which are micro-transaction-based. You'll be hearing more about those in the February [conference] call."
But soon after reporting on that statement, Shacknews received a statement from EA denying the whole thing and claiming the CEO's comments were the result of a "misunderstanding," saying, "No statements have been made about the Star Wars business model."
So, which is it? Is this an honest misunderstanding, or did Riccitiello just blow the surprise? Nobody knows, and at this point it looks like we're going to have to wait until February to find out. It is an interesting idea, though, and if true would represent a very fundamental shift in attitude toward the MMOG market. By taking the microtransaction route right from the start - with BioWare's Old Republic setting, no less, one of the few properties with a legitimate chance to unseat World of Warcraft from the MMOG throne - EA, and by extension the industry as a whole, would be running up the white flag to the Blizzard behemoth. But staying out of that particular meat grinder is no guarantee of success; the microtransaction model is widely used in the Asian market, but whether or not it will meet with similar success in North America is another question entirely.