BioWare's Star Wars MMO to be 'Microtransaction-based,' Says EA (Updated)

By Nick Breckon and Chris Faylor, Dec 09, 2008 11:18pm PST Update: Electronic Arts has responded to Shacknews, reiterating that "no statements have been made about the Star Wars business model," and attributing Mr. Riccitiello's comments to a misunderstanding.

Original story: Publisher Electronic Arts today classified BioWare's upcoming Star Wars MMO The Old Republic as a "microtransaction-based" title, indicating that the game will include alternative financial models other than a subscription fee.

"We are continuing to stick to the plan relative to building out our direct-to-consumer models which include microtransactions and subscriptions," said EA CEO John Riccitiello in a conference call today. "The recent launch of Warhammer [Online] is a great example of that."

"Other initiatives we've announced, for example [the] Star Wars online MMO, are mid-session games which are microtransaction-based," he continued. "You'll be hearing more about those in the February [conference] call."

Other "mid-session" EA titles include FIFA Online and NBA Street. These games are either provided for free, or for a nominal charge, and are then supported by further microtransactions--small payments in exchange for services or content.

The Old Republic has been billed as a large-scale MMO with many single-player elements, including dynamic NPC companions and in-depth storylines. BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka has referred to the game as, "[Knights of the Old Republic] 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and beyond," while the official FAQ states that "the majority of the game can be accomplished by playing alone."

In this context, it seems that EA might be positioning The Old Republic as an alternative to MMOs that traditionally emphasize longer play sessions and charge users only on a monthly basis.

BioWare and EA have not previously released any official details pertaining to financial models for The Old Republic.

In an interview earlier this year, Ricitiello noted that the company saw potential in launching "mid-session games on a microtransaction model" after the relative success of FIFA Online in Korea and other markets. During today's call, he spoke of the shift towards online gameplay and monetization as a "global, not just Asia phenomenon."

The company is also preparing to launch DICE's free-to-play shooter Battlefield Heroes, which will be supported by microtransactions and out-of-game ad revenue, and EA Phenomic's microtransactional RTS/TCG hybrid BattleForge.

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  • So there I am, grinding Banthas for a level gazillion lightsaber. After 5 tedious hours of grinding this lightsaber finally drops. I take my time to celebrate.

    As soon as I looted the lightsaber a level gazillion Sith ran by and killed me with the very same lightsaber. I took a while to ponder why does a Sith wield the same lightsaber that a Jedi wields, only with different colors?
    Before I had to time to think about it a bright description struck my eyes, it said "I bought this!" (you should be able to inspect items with "the Force", am I right?).

    After a minute of rage, I look at the screen to only see a message "Please enter 5 dollars to continue the game without losing items.".

    /quit













  • Depending on how this is implemented, it could work out OK. Make awesome stuff in the game obtainable either through long amounts of regular play (think very rare epics in WoW), or pay a fee to skip all of that.

    Maybe it'll be pay for more character slots, or doubled inventory. Non-essential systems or functions that take a one-time fee (keep it under $5 to make it painless per transaction) could be interesting. They could approach SWTOR as an ala-carte MMO. Everyone gets the core, but then you get to pick and choose the optional stuff that suits their needs and desires.

    But then again, this is EA, and EA will charge $20 for a few different styles of gloves, recolored 5 times, and with Walmart or Ikea branding.