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TechnoGoth

Micro Transactions

38 posts in this topic

I’m doing the initial analysis on how to best to include micro transactions as part of the core game design, and I’m curious if anyone has played a game in which they feel micro transactions were done well?

So far I’ve seen the following examples of them included in games:



Accelerators and Boosters - Essentially players pay in game currency to speed up the game experience. Level faster, teleport to locations, get better item drops, reduce elapsed time.

Premium Gear - The best gear/items/and abilities are only available to player who purchase them.

Dehandicap - Essentially the free experience is so limited that the player feels handicapped and the only way to get a decent experience is pay to unlock features.



The only game I can think did micro transactions well would be back in the day when I used to play magic the gathering. In that case you bought booster packs to get more cards which gave you more choices when it came to deck design and hopefully access to better cards. Which is the same approach I’m looking to take.



So, what are peoples thoughts how have you seen micro transactions done well in the past?

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I think that there're two kind of people who are willing to pay money. The first group is the speeding/cheating group, they want to invest money to have a faster progress or to overpower others. The second group is the prestige group, they are willing to pay money to gain prestige items without none or really low game impact (I want the bigger car than my neighbor concept).

Satisfying the first group is really difficult, because game balance depends on money spent. This could lead to the death of a game project really quickly:
You are better when you spend money
=> players who do not spend money will loose frequently
=> player base will weaken
=> only players who spent money are left
=> after victims left the playerbase you can't gain an advantage with money
=> player base is destroyed
=> game over

Most MMORPG try to avoid this pitfall, but gold sellers will eventually do it and you need to fight gold sellers too.

The second group could be satisfied without sacrifying the game. Players want to be distinguished from other players. When you are the cool RPG rogue or FPS uber-killer ,it would be cool to invest some $ to get a cool looking black suite or black desert eagle.
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Team Fortress 2 -- now this game has become a micro-transaction heaven as of late. No idea how many people actually buy stuff from there, but the shop doesn't actually give any advantage -- it just supplies players with payed shotcuts, allowing customization the way they want it, without having to wait for certain gear to pop up or mold it from heaps of junk. This is a good shop.

Champions Online -- another game where there is a sach shop as well as a subscription option. I find this worthy of mentioning because, as a player, I do not feel bad about not paying and/or subscribing. The game's shop is set around buying new customization options and vanity powers, such as cool effect travel powers, sidekicks or exp/hp boost items. Given this game is primarily PvE, it doesn't ruin gameplay for anyone, and PvP is divided between the subcribers and non-subscribers (non-subscribers may choose to fight the subscribers). Subscribers on the other hand won't bore with the game due to the ability to create their own custom classes -- they can tune in the character to the best of their ability and either engage in PvP (to check which build is better) or continue with PvE.

Allods Online (pre-Chapter 1 (? I think it was chapter 1)) -- a great game that got totally devasted by "ballancing" and cash shop. In the early beta days, the game was just awesome -- the cash shop was a barelly visible (gameplay wise) feature that contained bigger backpacks, vanity items and potions. It was a bliss where PvP was interesting and intense, death wasn't much of an issue (you could cash shop out of it or just loose in-game gold) and the ballancing made each combat a wild display of skill, tactics and Lady Luck b*tch slapping both sides as she found fit. Then came the Chapter 1 update and the Curse mechanics, forcing people into buying cash shop. And so, the game died. Despite the efforts to fix this and bring players back, the game never regrew to the state it was in, and cash shop bullies still roam the lands.

Private servers of some popular MMOs -- They mostly supply people with vanity items otherwise unavailable (or hard to get) or stuffs you can usually get with lots of effort. I think game designers/developers should look upon the private sector to see how a cash shop HAS to be ballanced, as otherwise the servers would go down due to debt and players would leave due to cash shop bullies.
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I think it depends on what sort of game your using the micro transactions on.

For MMORPGs I think the best rout I have seen is the DDO system where you can sub monthly or use the micro-transactions rout where the "suber" gets everything the micro-transaction guy can get.

Spiral Knights seems to do a good system although if you don't buy from the cash-shop you cant play for more than a hour or two a day. This seems annoying at first but for the type of drop in and play game it is it works relatively well.

The two rules I personally would stick to 9 times out of 10 are that a player shouldn't have to pay just to play the game and that a player should not be able to "pay to win".

[url="http://www.slideshare.net/bcousins/paying-to-win"]Here's a link[/url] to a talk from one of the devs of Battlefield Hero's. Personally i find him a tad bias and I would argue that its a very specific kind of game he's talking about it working in but none the less its a interesting watch.
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[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1309970996' post='4831863']Spiral Knights seems to do a good system although if you don't buy from the cash-shop you cant play for more than a hour or two a day. This seems annoying at first but for the type of drop in and play game it is it works relatively well.[/quote]This does not make sense to me, if you have money it means you work so you don't have much time to play... Shouldn't shop system be made for those who work and not play a lot so they have a chance to catch up with free players who play all day?
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[quote name='Acharis' timestamp='1309985271' post='4831965']
[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1309970996' post='4831863']Spiral Knights seems to do a good system although if you don't buy from the cash-shop you cant play for more than a hour or two a day. This seems annoying at first but for the type of drop in and play game it is it works relatively well.[/quote]This does not make sense to me, if you have money it means you work so you don't have much time to play... Shouldn't shop system be made for those who work and not play a lot so they have a chance to catch up with free players who play all day?
[/quote]

I have noticed this in few free to play games they seem to artificially limit the amount of time a person can play the game each day without spending money. Which seems counterintuitive to me as it means people with the most free time and desire to the play the game get the least benefit out of the free to play model. As they either have to spend money to extend their daily play experience which is unlikely or they just create additional characters on other servers, split their time between them.



How do people feel about micro transactions in single player games? Do they have a place there? After all Zynga has proved without a doubt that micro transactions is very successfully business model based on the 600 million they made last year from their 232 million monthly users.

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[quote name='Acharis' timestamp='1309985271' post='4831965']
[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1309970996' post='4831863']Spiral Knights seems to do a good system although if you don't buy from the cash-shop you cant play for more than a hour or two a day. This seems annoying at first but for the type of drop in and play game it is it works relatively well.[/quote]This does not make sense to me, if you have money it means you work so you don't have much time to play... Shouldn't shop system be made for those who work and not play a lot so they have a chance to catch up with free players who play all day?
[/quote]

Look at it this way -- the paying, and thus working, people may catch up to the free people due to their time limits. It makes sense to me. And if you have a tight schedule at a job and want to play more, you just buy additional time. I also see it as a way of saying "go outside people, it's a beautifull day!". Wishfull thinking huh?

Micro-txns are a good investment if you like the game. If you don't invest, you won't like the game, as everyone who pays will be superior (talking about the games that employ such a system). This is deadly loop IMO, one that can only be broken by a leap of faith from the customer's side. You can't possibly know if you'll regret buying anything or paying in the future. That is why cash shop should not be the sole mechanic on which the game is based. Or at least try and divide the playfield between paid and free, as did Champions Online.
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Spiral Knights is a bit of a conundrum but i think it works purely because the game is so simple. There is an option to buy the energy needed via in game currency, it seems to be regulated via the players themselves as well in a auction house style setup, it would take a few days to be able to buy any of it at when you first start playing but for dedicated players i assume it would be a day or two (the equivalent of 4ish hours of game-play). I honestly didn't even know this feature was in the game nor did anyone i play with until today so sorry about that. It does seem to solve the puzzle Acharis raised somewhat.

From my own personal experience though this self regulating aspect of the game seems to work wonders. It stops me overplaying the game (which is possible with how simple/action orientated the game is) but gives me enough of a taste for me to want to come back every day or two to play a bit more. For example if i had a lot of time on my hands i may well have burnt out on such a shallow game after a few days. Instead I'm limited on the amount of time i can play for each day which means a few weeks may pass before i get tired of the game mechanics, at this point i will probably have friends within the game, a guild and a character i have some attachment to. Not to mention new content seems to come out every week or two. All this stops me from just giving up on the game which i might well have done under other circumstances. At this point i may even decide to invest in a microtransaction or two simply because I'm not invested in the game, as far as i could tell the average cost of energy isn't that high and would thus allow the majority of players to afford it.

As for single-player games i would put DLC under the banner of microtransactions. So ye i would say they have a place in single-player games the issue i have with that is when a game is released with DLC readily available (at a price ofc). That just makes me feel like I'm buying a product with chunks missing from it no matter how much content the game has by itself, e.g. Dragon Age.

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Anyone saying "don't add items that give cash shop players an advantage over non cash shop players" is not looking out for your company's best interest.

It's been proven that the majority of people want to be able to buy an advantage. Even if the 2% of the vocal forum communities say that it ruins the game.

People want:

- advantages over non cash spenders (weapons that do more damage, armor that protects more, etc)
- faster progression (experience boost/game currency boost)
- cool looking stuff to wear or other vanity items such as special colored chat text, having their name stand out more, etc
- access to more maps/content/whatever

Pretty much in that order.

Now, the items that give advantages need to be small advantages and not to the point where it's totally gamebreaking... You may even get away with just selling high end items that can be earned in game as well. But I'm positive that powerful items that can't be obtained in game will sell the best.

Yes, you will have a vocal minority that complains *A LOT* but the end result will be a huge increase in profit. People have misunderstandings when it comes to what "free to play with cash shop" actually means. It means "if you want to play this game seriously or on any sort of competitive level, you're going to have to pay to get there". For most people who just want to play for free, they are fine with knowing that they are at a slight disadvantage to those who pay. You get what you pay for. Too often people just assume "free to play" means "I should never have to pay for this game and should be able to get everything I want/need without paying".
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[quote name='Konidias' timestamp='1310069439' post='4832468']
Now, the items that give advantages need to be small advantages and not to the point where it's totally gamebreaking... You may even get away with just selling high end items that can be earned in game as well. But I'm positive that powerful items that can't be obtained in game will sell the best.

Yes, you will have a vocal minority that complains *A LOT* but the end result will be a huge increase in profit. People have misunderstandings when it comes to what "free to play with cash shop" actually means. It means "if you want to play this game seriously or on any sort of competitive level, you're going to have to pay to get there". For most people who just want to play for free, they are fine with knowing that they are at a slight disadvantage to those who pay. You get what you pay for. Too often people just assume "free to play" means "I should never have to pay for this game and should be able to get everything I want/need without paying".
[/quote]

To further strenghten this, I would point you to Astrum Nival, GPotato and the game Allods Online. This is the best example of an awesome game being destroyed by a cash shop tweak. And this damage cannot be undone, no matter how much you try. I admit this situation is specific, as the game was oficially still in beta while cash shop became very expensive -- the producers must've hit themselves hard on the head to pull off something like that .
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Considering how relatively new Microtransactions are and the trends that are emerging, I wouldnt say there isn't a [i]best way[/i] to implement them just yet. I see opportunities to implement microtransactions in very creative ways, [url="http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2011/07/monocles.ars"]not just Cash Malls for advantages[/url]. You seem to have a good starting point TechnoGoth and including them as part of the core game design is good foresight. The only question I have for you is how far are you willing to push them outside the current trends to find the best way?
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I think they should be confined more than most people state here.

In my opinion, it's best when they don't give bonuses that let them surpass other, free players. Zethariel said:
[quote]the paying, and thus working, people may catch up to the free people due to their time limits. It makes sense to me. And if you have a tight schedule at a job and want to play more, you just buy additional time.[/quote]
I disagree. It pretty much ends up being like this: "You're buying the game rather than playing it". If you don't have time to play it, make time, don't buy extra stuff and say you played it. It's not worth it. Games are supposed to be for fun or relaxation, not ... paying money. They're made to be played.

I think micro-transactions should be limited to graphical, appearance-changing items rather than gameplay-changing items, such as more powerful weapons. Guild Wars released a set of costumes, which only alter appearance, and within the next day everyone was wearing one...besides me, because I thought it was useless. Why pay to look like everyone else? But that's not the point. The point is that it worked for a huge sum of the playerbase.

I also think it would be good if the micro-transaction items could also be earned through free play. For example, an MOFPS game that only has PvP. If it makes players pay G-ShalamaCoins or whatever they feel like calling it (it's cheesier every time), then it's annoying because other players can't use it at all. They're blocked out from part of the game's content and most of them, such as myself, will always be blocked out because they aren't foolish enough to pay money for it. That is an entry of anti-design: an implementation that cripples or downgrades your game design.
My solution would be to offer them for both G-ShalamaCoins and in-game coins (which would probably be Garudos or some other made up word instead of 'gold'...)

Anyway, this is the end tag of my rant, I guess... </rant>
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limit customization and create a vanity shop for everything. Allow players to buy skins for weapons, characters, armors, pets, and maybe player owned houses and skills. Also, you can offer some options for people that work, like maybe a afk system that would be equal to doing quests for x amount of time. Also, you might want to do expansions, you can lock certain areas for expansion buyers like lotro. All of it comes down to how you implement it and how you execute it. Study your audience well, and if people don't like something and it causes you to lose a mass of players, ROLLBACK.
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[quote name='Konidias' timestamp='1310069439' post='4832468']
Yes, you will have a vocal minority that complains *A LOT* but the end result will be a huge increase in profit. People have misunderstandings when it comes to what "free to play with cash shop" actually means.[/quote]Quoted for truth. But then again, since they [i]don't pay[/i] you, let them complain. It's impossible to run a game without 2% of the community making a noise like 200% of a community.

Except when you publish an update, in that case 50% will be complaining that you ruined the game. Another exception is if you tweak the game so it gets harder, that will also make 50% of the community complain. And if you revert the change, the other 50% will complain. No matter what you do, you are [i]always [/i]a total sucker who doesn't listen to what your [i]everyone [/i]wants, and you only want to ruin the game. :D

[quote name='Acharis']This does not make sense to me, if you have money it means you work so you don't have much time to play... Shouldn't shop system be made for those who work and not play a lot so they have a chance to catch up with free players who play all day?[/quote]
The opposite is the case, actually. The [i]people who do not pay [/i]for the game will play all day if you allow them. They consume the greater share of server resources (CPU and bandwidth). So, not only do they not pay you, they actually cost your company money.
Add to this that not few of them are the 2% that produce the most noise, and not few might be goldfarmers.

It therefore makes sense to limit the F2P players in a timely manner. For a [i]paying customer[/i], it does not matter how long he is playing. First, he won't play all day anyway, but more importantly, he is giving you money, [u][i]he keeps the bills paid[/i][/u]. For everyone.

Plus, a [i]paying customer[/i] is less likely to be abusing, cheating, scamming, because having his account banned means losing the "invested" money. For a F2P player, the worst thing to happen is to lose something that was free in the first place and reopening another account with another throwaway email.
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[quote name='samoth' timestamp='1310639404' post='4835200']
Plus, a [i]paying customer[/i] is less likely to be abusing, cheating, scamming, because having his account banned means losing the "invested" money. For a F2P player, the worst thing to happen is to lose something that was free in the first place and reopening another account with another throwaway email.
[/quote]

That doesn't always work in practice though. For example, Runescape says that a lot of the goldfarmer P2P accounts they discovered were using fake or stolen credit information, so it actually cost them money.
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Here's a talk made by Ben Cousins (general manager for Easy at EA)

http://www.slideshare.net/bcousins/paying-to-win

Where he goes into detail about how Battlefield Heroes was suffering as a vanity only cash shop game, and how they increased profits by double/triple by adding in items that gave slight advantages. He also talks about how the vocal 2% forum base had hundred page threads complaining about the release of "pay 2 win" items, and revealed that the forum base actually spends 10x more than anyone else who plays the game...

Which means that the people complaining the loudest are the same people who are spending the most money on your game anyway.

The video is a must-view for anyone looking to implement micro transactions into their game.
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[quote]Accelerators and Boosters - Essentially players pay in game currency to speed up the game experience. Level faster, teleport to locations, get better item drops, reduce elapsed time.

Premium Gear - The best gear/items/and abilities are only available to player who purchase them.

Dehandicap - Essentially the free experience is so limited that the player feels handicapped and the only way to get a decent experience is pay to unlock features.[/quote]

Ok, ok, its safe to say we all have good idea of the current trend. However, there has to be other ways to employ Microtransactions in our games that have yet to be discovered. As a Independent Game Developer, I believe we can be a little more creative with our implementations. How about a Brainstorm Session to find other ways to utilize Microtransactions? Maybe something new and trendy will surface. To help facilitate the [i]thought process[/i], I'll post a phrase. For this phrase, generate as many answers as possible [i]no matter how off-the-wall[/i], [i]with NO regard to players.[/i] Afterwards, we can can go thru the answers, fine-tune their definitions, analyze potential advantages/disadvantages, then decide to save or delete them. To participate, just quote the The Brainstorm Session Phrase, followed by your answer(s).

Are you ready to play? Ok, here we go.

[color="#FF0000"] [color="#FF0000"][b][color="#0000FF"][color="#000000"]The Brainstorm Session Phrase: [/color][/color][/b][/color][size="4"]How many ways can you sell everything in your game, over and over again?[/size][/color]
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I wasted a small forture on Battleforge. I enjoyed collecting the cards (units/spells/buildings) and what not. Similar to Magic the gathering in that respect I guess (never played it though). I still have loads of points there that I've never spent (no longer play it), never once felt ripped off.
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[b]The Brainstorm Session Phrase: [/b]How many ways can you sell everything in your game, over and over again?

[list=1][*]Asset Creation (Textures, Meshes, Audio) for In-Game Advertisements[*]Advertisement Runs In-Game (Time-Limited)[*]Advertisement Runs Website (Time-Limited)[/list]
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In-game advertisements have been known to fail pretty badly at making any significant revenue. In fact, a lot of games switched from in-game advertisements to the micro transactions model because it was far more successful than ads in the game.

I really don't think as developers that we should be trying to find solutions for people to play our games for free. We should be finding solutions that encourage people to pay for our games in some way.

In-game advertisements are usually annoying to players and don't generate enough revenue to even bother with.
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[quote name='Konidias' timestamp='1310671640' post='4835400']
In-game advertisements have been known to fail pretty badly at making any significant revenue. In fact, a lot of games switched from in-game advertisements to the micro transactions model because it was far more successful than ads in the game.
[/quote]

Unless the in-game Advertisements are of the Players. I'm really trying hard to spark some new ideas here. IMO, As a developer I feel we should entertain every possible means of generating profits from our games not only from players, but from other developers, advertisers, affiliates as well. I'm not ruling out in-game Advertisement in my Microtransaction Model, I'm simply changing how I advertise in-game advertisements.
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Slightly off topic: Advertisements in games have been a sticky subject since developers released how viable it is at generating money. I think its important for a developer to incorporate advertisement into a game as seamlessly as possible, not only to remove the majority of objections the players of the game could have with the inclusion of adverts but also to generate the largest revenue possible from said adverts.

What do i mean by seamlessly? Well i mean that the player will not even notice the advert is there in the first place, it will make sense within the game world to see that advert but it in no way impacts the players game-play experience. Take for instance a level of a FPS set in the near future, the level has the player walk down a high street. As they walk down the street they see adverts for coca-cola. The player would not think such adverts are out of place, in-fact they would think it amiss if adverts weren't present on a high-street. If not over done it puts the idea of coca-cola in the forefront of the players mind, the goal of any advertisement, and unless the player is staring straight down at the ground it is unmissable.

I will use an extreme example to illustrate how i think it should NOT be done. A player should not have to sit through a 30 second commercial for Viagra each time they load the game and then again when they load a level in a serious Sci-Fi RTS. This not only does the advert have little connection with the game in question but the player is forced to sit back and do nothing for a whole 30seconds, this may not seem much but if you think of A. the speed by which games now load for the vast majority of players and B. how load-screens are now being used very effectively to give the player additionally information on the game whether it be tips or even snip-its of story. Additionally they could just get up and get a drink or Alt-Tab out of the game to Google the meaning of the universe. In the later's case this will limit the amount of money a firm is willing to give you for such an advert since there's every chance a player will never see the product their advertising.

On-topic: I think a tiered system of buying is the most effective way to put micro-transactions within a game. To me this means something like a player can play the basic game for free, they can then opt to have more content bolted on for a few $/£ (Like a new map of level) and if they wish to avoid all this they can pay say £20 for what is essentially an expansion that contains all the bonus stuff you could get through the micro-transaction rout. For me this would mean i could get into the game sufficiently before having to buy anything for the game, once i had gotten into it and money was a bit tight at that point i could pay for an extra map or if i had the money i could just get the whole lot in one go. This may not have been the best example but my point is essentially to give the player as many options as possible when it comes to micro-transactions.

The problem i cant help shaking when it comes to multiplayer games in general is that people often play them to escape the real world. The last thing you want is for the real world, in this case how much someone earns, to have an effect on your gaming experiences. Take the monocle in EvE that was going for £50 or something like that, they said it was for a status symbol in the game (i.e. i have enough money to burn on this) but that is something you can do can in real life by buying a pair of designer sunglasses. Now I'm sure you could get it through in game money but in all honesty no one will ever see it as symbol of you being good at/dedicated to the game but instead the fact you have more money than sense. This doesn't effect the way the game is played but it does continually remind a player that they don't have the money to spend on such a novelty.
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[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1310753373' post='4835744']
What do i mean by seamlessly? Well i mean that the player will not even notice the advert is there in the first place, it will make sense within the game world to see that advert but it in no way impacts the players game-play experience. Take for instance a level of a FPS set in the near future, the level has the player walk down a high street. As they walk down the street they see adverts for coca-cola. The player would not think such adverts are out of place, in-fact they would think it amiss if adverts weren't present on a high-street. If not over done it puts the idea of coca-cola in the forefront of the players mind, the goal of any advertisement, and unless the player is staring straight down at the ground it is unmissable.
[quote name='T e c h l o r d' timestamp='1310671054' post='4835395']
[b]The Brainstorm Session Phrase: [/b]How many ways can you sell everything in your game, over and over again?
[list=1][*]Asset Creation (Textures, Meshes, Audio) for In-Game Advertisements[*]Advertisement Runs In-Game (Time-Limited)[*]Advertisement Runs Website (Time-Limited)[/list][/quote]
[/quote]
Additionally, one should be able to go to a virtual coca-cola vending machine (inside the game world) and order real-world coca-cola products, paid for via microtransactions and delivered to your house from a local distribution point! In-game advertisements are relevant as they can be products & services utilizing Microtransactions for players, developers, advertisers, affiliates from inside the gameworld. There are many other potential virtual / real-world products & services that can take advantage of microtransactions in-game and out.
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[quote name='T e c h l o r d' timestamp='1310770201' post='4835824']
Additionally, one should be able to go to a virtual coca-cola vending machine (inside the game world) and order real-world coca-cola products, paid for via microtransactions and delivered to your house from a local distribution point! In-game advertisements are relevant as they can be products & services utilizing Microtransactions for players, developers, advertisers, affiliates from inside the gameworld. There are many other potential virtual / real-world products & services that can take advantage of microtransactions in-game and out.
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I remember a MMOG of some-kind advertising that you could order a pizza from the local take away through the game. There was at least one real world example of it but I think there have also been a few April fools that have followed that kind of line. Probably the biggest issue is making sure such a product is available on all the territories that your game covers. Coca-cola for example isn't distibuted by the coca-cola company (outside the US anyway) but by other companies working on coca-cola's behalf if I remember correctly. Its an idea that could work pretty well but I can imagine the logistical issues would be a nightmare for the majority of products. Maybe something like Amazon would be better suited for this kind of promotion?
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