Over on Keen & Graev’s Blog, they wrote about how microtransactions can ruin MMORPGs the way they’re being implemented now. Having played Maple Story a bit in the past, I can testify about how annoying “cash shops” are. But there are only two other successful alternatives: subscriptions and Guild Wars-style instancing.
But maybe MMO developers should look at a microtransaction model that worked really well in the past: Arcade Tokens.
In a video arcade, you paid a minimum of 1 token to start a game, and if you ran out of lives, you could pay another token to continue. Why not, instead of charging for loot, you charged for access to dungeons and resurrection while in those dungeons?
This way there would be a true free to play section of the game. This free section would be everything characters need, plus some easy grinding & crafting & standard MMO activities. Premium sections would require 1 token for entry and 1 token for each time your character needed to be resurrected. You get to keep all loot at no extra cost, and can even trade it as normal. The monsters would be harder and the loot would be better in the premium areas, of course.
Essentially, once you have the loot, you don’t need to go back into the premium areas (unless you want more of it) and could play the free part as much as you want. Players can also form teams for raiding the premium areas and pay tokens for each other if needed.