I'm seeing a lot of focus on my comment about how micro-transactions need to be for them to truly work, so I'd like to take a moment to point out I'm actually not "for" micro-transactions, I would much rather play games with a "visitor" & "subscriber" model.
What I meant was that if you have a micro-transaction model, the items have to be of very little impact on the existing game environment (and the game environment needs to be able to sustain and support itself without the need for those micro-transactions - so yes, I agree with you, they need to be optional).
In regards to the "side-grade" methodology, I am referring to the avoidance of pay-to-win in games where cosmetic items aren't the only source of income. I used Team Fortress 2 as an example, so I'll revisit that and elaborate on my explanation. In TF2, there are different classes. Those classes have access to many weapons, none of which are necessarily better than any of the other options available to you, but instead they are "different". Because no one item is a leap above another or an "up-grade", we call these "side-grades". In this particular example, the player base is never abused and there is never a time where you feel like "if I only had that item I could compete", it's even, and not even in a "rock - paper - scissors" type of way, but more of a "red rock - blue rock - green rock" style of play.
When FFXI introduced the mini-expansions for 10 dollars a piece, many of us paid simply for the "final mission reward", not because it was "the best", but because it was a nice side-grade on par with many of the "just shy of being best" items available at the time - this is as close to FFXI ever came to a micro-transaction model, and because the items weren't game breaking or massive upgrades vs already obtainable items in game, we viewed this as acceptable. Honestly, many of us would have preferred just getting the items for 10 bucks, because the content available in the mini expansions were ... lackluster ... to say the least, definitely something I wouldn't have paid for if those rewards weren't a guaranteed bonus upon completion of the storyline.
So yes, while I believe the FFXIV / FFXI model would do best with a "visitor" vs "subscriber" model, I know there are many people out there who would gladly drop 10-15 bucks down for a ra/ex body piece similar stat wise to the auction-house-version of the void-watch items, ESPECIALLY if it were re-skinned and available in different colors / styles, and No, I don't believe this would break the game in any way except lowering the already extreme cost of the "lesser" versions of the rare void-watch items you should be going for anyhow. I do believe you can impact the game in a way that is more positive than negative with this micro-transaction model, you just need to be intelligent when implementing it instead of developing stupid routes like "instant level 99 for 10 dollars" or crazy crap like "relic sale! 50 dollars per weapon for a limited time!". The dev team knows the base-line of stats on their items and where they could get away with releasing items that wouldn't break the game, they just need to be as involved with the "shopping cart" as they do the rest of the games' development, and to be honest, while I don't have experience in those particular businesses from the development end, I'd wager that this is most likely where the biggest failing occurs in F2P models that go wrong.
Edited, Jan 10th 2013 3:54pm by FUJILIVES