Big Fun Says Show Us the Money

Big Fun's game Ronin lets gamers beef up their armies by buying, literally, the biggest soldiers.

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In a new industry where financial models are critical but no one has yet discovered the formula for success, Big Fun Development is trying something different. The company today revealed a business model for its massively multiplayer game Ronin that includes free play for gamers. The game, in which players struggle for control of feudal Japan, will have no charge for software or connect time, or even for basic fighters. But premium fighters will come at a price.

However, the game also allows premium fighters with special powers. These champions must either be obtained through capture or from the company: Players will buy their characters and get them delivered through normal retail channels in the form of collectible trading cards. Each card has an activation code so players can add the character to their online armies. Every month, Big Fun plans to release a new US$3 card pack with new fighters for Ronin. The first one is set for October. This idea mixes online gaming, trading cards, and monthly serialization, and Big Fun hopes it will open up new markets. An early version of Ronin, which will be shown at E3, is available at Big Fun's web site for play.

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