Real money or digital currency?

With online gaming becoming an evermore-prevalent cornerstone of the games market, many developers are also turning to the Internet for publishing. As mentioned previously in this blog it’s Valve and their online digital distribution service Steam that are the current masters of this art – you pay your money you get your game.

Now many other developers are seriously looking at the prospect of online only publishing and this includes Realtime Worlds, the developer behind Crackdown and APB. The latter is an action orientated MMO which when purchased comes with 50 free hours of online play. After this, 20 more hours can be bought for £5.59 or if the player prefers they can buy a 30 day unlimited package for £7.99.

It’ll also be possible to buy this extra play time using an in game currency, RTW points, which can be bought in large amounts with real money or made through selling custom items to other players. In an interview with Develop, APB Lead Designer EJ Moreland said it’s a system that’ll also be implemented in the developers’ future titles.

““Realtime Worlds is transitioning from being a developer to being an online publisher, [and] RTW Points is going to be the currency for all of our games in the future.”

One of those games is a yet unannounced title and Moreland’s comments seem to suggest that the Dundee-based studio will be producing another online title.  Of course, through self-publishing a title online the Games Developers, Games Designers, and Games Artists cut out the middle man in the form of needing to cover the costs of physical discs and retail. This may very well be appealing to Train2Game students looking to break into the market.

However, one has to wonder if people will use the currency to buy extra playtime. Paying for RTW points with a debit card will take some time, then will the whole process have to be repeated in order to pay for the actual product? Though perhaps the use of RTW points will strengthen the APB community, and ultimately encourage them to play for longer – and thus pay for more content. Maybe players with large amounts of RTW points will play future titles too, seeing as they’ve already stocked up on the currency needed to buy it. We’ll see.

What do you think is the best system for a developer to use when publishing a game online? Real money or a specific type of in-game currency?