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

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.