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Wired on "Free to Play / Pay for Stuff"

There's a Wired News article out on the "free to play / pay for stuff" online gaming model:

By now it's expected that major American multiplayer games like World of Warcraft will charge customers a monthly subscription fee. But the news out of Asia's booming gaming market suggests a different approach may be more lucrative...

Some of the most popular games in Asia are given away for free and charge no subscription dues, but collect micropayments for custom avatars and other items...

The popularity of online gaming in Japan, China and Korea dominated more than a few sessions at the 2006 Game Developers Conference in Silicon Valley last month, where U.S. companies looked for advice on developing games that appeal to the massive Asian market...

About 20 percent of players of the casual racing game Kart Rider are women, said Min Kim, director of international business development at Nexon. Players have purchased some 20 million cars in the game, and they can record and post their races and scores on a community website, along with screenshots of their cars.

Declining to state specific numbers, Kim said money spent on customization was "a lot more than people usually pay for subscription fees," and that the game's concurrent user numbers were higher than every U.S game except WoW.

In fact, as noted in my blog entry from a GDC roundtable on the topic, some people are discussing specific numbers:

Some dramatic statistics were discussed. ARPUs (Average Revenue Per User, typically per month) across 'free to play, pay for stuff' games in Korea are approximately $25. The moderators reported that ARPUs across their various games are $20. This includes not only the users who pay for items, but the 'freeloaders' who don't buy anything. That's substantially more than most subscription-based MMOs of which I'm aware.

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