If Electronic Arts' prediction of the industry's future comes to fruition, in five to 10 years, all games will support microtransactions. Speaking to Kotaku, EA COO Peter Moore explained that this business model is similar to real-world retail outlets, like the clothing chain The Gap.
"I think, ultimately, those microtransactions will be in every game, but the game itself or the access to the game will be free," he said. "I think there's an inevitability that happens five years from now, 10 years from now, that, let's call it the client, to use the term, [is free]. It is no different than…it's free to me to walk into The Gap in my local shopping mall. They don't charge me to walk in there. I can walk into The Gap, enjoy the music, look at the jeans and what have you, but if I want to buy something I have to pay for it."
Moore went on to explain that such a change will not necessarily mark the end of big-budget, $60 games. It will, he predicts, lead to industry growth through bringing in new gamers.
"It may well be that there will be games that survive and they are the $60 games, but I believe that the real growth is bringing billions of people into the industry and calling them gamers," he said. "Hardcore gamers won't like to hear this. They like to circle the wagons around what they believe is something they feel they have helped build--and rightly so.
"But we have seen, whether it was with the Wii getting mom off the couch to do Wii Sports or whether it was, more recently, EA Sports Active, where we get females who love to work out, all the things that social gaming did--Rock Band did it, Guitar Hero did it--all of the things that elevated it from being a dark art of teenage boys usually sequestered in the bedroom--that it was testosterone-filled content that everybody railed against--to where everybody is a gamer…if you can move your index finger and swipe it this way, you're a gamer. And that has got to be the way it goes."
Microtransactions in games are nothing new. Valve's free-to-play team-based shooter Team Fortress 2 currently offers a range of items for purchase, as do numerous massively multiplayer online role-playing games. Additionally, Nintendo's upcoming Wii U will support microtransactions.