Not all microtransactions are created equal.
Turbine have seen the light with DDO: a large proportion of the items that you can buy in the store you can also earn through playing the game; from basic +1 Items of Slight Betterness to the sigils that allow you to continue past each of the limit caps at levels four, eight, etc. You can earn all of these items through playing the free game. The things that they generally hold back on are the adventure packs, classes/races and those items which make you level up faster; these are held back for obvious reasons, although even these can be earnt through playing the game and earning favour which can be converted in to store points.
How is Blizzard approaching the issue at the moment? So far they have a small store, with a couple of pet vanity items which – after mounts – are some of the most sought after fluff items in the game. Except on RP servers, where it’s usually a dress that makes your character’s boobs hang out and leaves little imagination in the buttock region either. And that’s just the male characters.
The important difference for me is that there’s no way to earn the WoW vanity pets in the game, and I think that’s a mistake when your game also requires a monthly subscription to play. Blizzard seems to have swung entirely to the other end of the scale with their pet store, catering to the More Money Than Time folks, and ignoring those who are of the More Time Than Money variety. This seems especially silly when Blizzard could make a nice grind for the vanity pet items and keep people invested in their game, both in terms of time and money, while offering those who baulk at the real world price of these trivial vanity items a chance to afford them in their own way, which, given the cost of a monthly fee, would work out about the same if you made the grind a daily affair that lasted a month.
Of course at the moment Blizzard offers these pets only as an additional cost to the game and, knowing the WoW community, that will probably cause a lot of ill will, probably more than it really warrants, but I think Blizzard are indeed being greedy and foolish with their first foray into a forthright game store.
SoE are looking to create a subscription for Free Realms, presumably because they aren’t getting the returns that they were hoping for from the game store, but again some of their better vanity items require you to pay or go without; it’s surprising how many people will baulk at paying for something when they are forced to, yet pay exactly the same price, for exactly the same item, if they have the option to earn it in the game, but can take a shortcut by paying for it now.
With DDO, Turbine have mastered the psychology of microtransactions; others would do well to learn from them.