Sony Online Entertainment has made the bold move of introducing micro-transaction item sales to its subscription-based fantasy MMOs, EverQuest and EverQuest II.
The game operator has launched StationCash, a virtual currency similar to Xbox Live's Microsoft Points or Nintendo's Wii Points. One hundred SC costs USD 1, EUR 1 or GBP 0.80. It can be used at an in-game marketplace to buy armour, potions and other benefits.
"The EQ and EQII development teams have chosen items carefully in an effort to avoid a disruption in gameplay balance," reads the StationCash FAQ.
"Rather, Station Cash (and items purchased with SC) are intended to allow for convenience and added customisation. Such items provide players with a unique gameplay experience for nominal fees."
Items for sale in EverQuest II, according to Massively, include potions that increase the speed at which you level for four hours (USD 1-10), and cosmetic items such as "appearance armour" (USD 10) or pets for in-game housing (USD 1-5);
The move hasn't proved very popular with the games' communities thus far, although we predict that the experience-boosting potions will sell like hot cakes.
SOE has already expanded the ways it makes money from its games with online card-trading games for EverQuest II and Star Wars Galaxies, and is looking to explore new business models in the future with Free Realms and The Agency. However, introducing item sales to a full-price subscription game is a move few have dared to make to date. It will be interesting to see how StationCash performs.