Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Say Howdy to Microtransactions

Three Rings Design, the studio behind the pirate puzzle MMO Puzzle Pirates, have announced their new game, Bang! Howdy.

A Wild West-themed strategy MMO geared towards casual gamers is plenty compelling, but the thing I find most interesting about the new game is that the business model is based solely on the sale of in-game items.

This is huge business in Asia, particularly in Korea. The item sales revenue model is how half of the 30 most popular games in Korea's PC-bang game rooms make their money.

In the US, both There and Second Life, while still niche products, boast impressive stats on player purchase of virtual items for real money. Sony's Station Exchange brings ebaying in house with the company taking a cut, albeit to an audience of only a few hundred thousand. For console jockeys with cash to burn, Xbox 360 games will include microtransactions.

The booming ring-tone and cell phone wallpaper businesses indicate that charging small amounts of money for electronic trinkets works if you make it easy and make it about personalization.

Is the North American mass market ready for virtual item sales in their games? Three Rings is certainly bettin' on that hoss.

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