Micro-transactions in Xenon

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posted 5/5/2005 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
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The “Douchebag Factor” is the sum of the negative emotions games have for a company minus the good will of it products. For example, Electronic Arts has a very high DF right now due to snapping up all rights to football franchises and running several franchises and companies to the ground. Compare this with Blizzard who has a low DF due to the general excellence of it’s games combined with continued support of its older games minus little quirks like the new honor system in World of Warcraft.

Why is this important? Because most console gamers are not going to purchase and play games that have a high DF. Would someone play Halo 3 online knowing that they could be at an immediate disadvantage by a guy who purchased the aim-bot gun? Probably not. I just can’t see developers selling gamers things that break up the construct of the game.

However, I can see them including fewer skins and graphical extras so they can sell more of them through the service. It sucks but as long as it doesn’t change the core tenets of the game I don’t have much of a problem with it. These transactions might also allow for gamers to add new mini-games after a game has been released, further adding to the value of the initial investment.

One of the possible side benefits of having micro transactions is the possibility for small gaming companies to sell their games via Xbox Live. While these companies aren’t going to produce monster games like Half-Life 2, it does raise the possibility for small companies to turn out great small games like Gish or Alien Hominid and sell them over the service.

I think this is more likely than before because of the upcoming release of XNA Studio. What’s XNA Studio you ask? It’s the next generation of console game development software that Microsoft is going to launch by the end of the year (check out our interview with Chris Satchell, the Manager of the Game Developer Group here). A lot of programmers are already using the "civilian" version of these development tools and it may open up Xbox Development to a whole new generation of developers (if you believe all the marketing hype).

One of the more interesting topics that is not getting a lot of play is the possibility of gamer to gamer transactions. Imagine being able to buy custom skins and decals for the next generation version of Project Gotham Racing but instead of buying them from Microsoft you could buy them from another gamer. You could have a completely original work of art on your car for less than a cost of a Soy Chai latté. Sure, this might open the door for pornographic images (just visit an unmoderated CounterStrike for an example of this) but there are some cool implications if Microsoft implements some kind of gateway system to prevent this from happening. This could open up a whole new cottage industry of people who create and sell services via Xbox Live, much like the people who now make their living buying and selling trinkets online.
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