What do you get when you put Everquest II producer John Blakely, Matt Firor of ZeniMax Online Studios, Mark Jacobs of EA Mythic, Raph Coster of Areae, and GoPets CEO Erik Bethke into one room to discuss opportunities for increasing revenue and reaching new players in the MMO space? From what I saw this afternoon, you get a debate over microtransactions versus traditional subscription payment systems. I attended a panel called "Where are the Biggest Online Gaming Opportunities?" which was supposed to about experimenting with new MMO design and innovative new revenue models, but it quickly became a debate of old school MMO systems versus the new ones. The subject of microtransactions has popped up a lot this week, most notably in the Dave Perry Q&A from earlier in the day, where Perry sings the praises of the ad-supported, microtransaction funded business model. I don't know what convention organisers thought they would accomplish by bringing these men together, but what they got was a few heated arguments and well-placed jabs. Koster in particular had some great lines. At one point he was discussing 'clumsy microtransactions' that left gamers with a bad taste in their mouth. "Hello Lumines. Hello Oblivion. Yeah I'm talking about you." Apparently not a big fan of horse armour.
Once the smoke had cleared and then panel closed, there was no clear winner in the debate of standard subscription versus free-to-play microtransaction supported games. They only point that seemed to be agreed on was that anything that got gamers online was good, and that PC gaming wouldn't die until parents can work from home and children can do their homework with a games console. Productive!