As far as most modern gaming publishers are concerned, there are two major ways to monetize a big-budget game: Either the company can rely entirely on revenue generated by a game’s $60 retail price tag, or it can drastically cut that price (often to nothing at all) and generated profit purely by convincing players to drop small sums of money on items and goods useful within the game itself. These piecemeal purchases are commonly known as “microtransactions,” and while they offer a viable alternative to the traditional retail model, they aren’t quite the holy grail of fiscal security. Instead, that would be a scheme in which a publisher offers a big-name game for the standard $60 price point, but also offers players small microtransactions designed to keep revenue flowing over the life of the game.
Ubisoft, the publisher behind the imminent Assassin’s Creed III has long been one of the key proponents of this idea. “There will be free-to-play on consoles,” said Ubisoft CFO Alain Martinez in the company’s September conference call with investors. “But in the future, with games like Watch Dogs, we could see more opportunity for $60 games to learn from the free-to-play model. The next generation will offer more and more item-based content. This will benefit our games’ profitability.”
With that in mind, it’s interesting that this morning a new quintet of downloadable content offerings for Assassin’s Creed III was revealed by Worthplaying. Each of the five packs, which are said to be available for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 iterations of the game, offers players access to a set amount of “Erudito,” a special in-game currency that can be redeemed “to acquire some game items, disregarding your current level.” Those who opt to spend $1 of real-world cash will receive 20 Erudito, $2 will get you 50, and so on until you reach the $20 pinnacle which grants players access to 925 Erudito.
Unfortunately missing from any of this is a solid description of what exactly players can buy with their Erudito. Our review of Assassin’s Creed III is still in lock down thanks to Ubisoft’s non-disclosure agreement (it should go live on Tuesday, October 30 at 9AM PST), but when asked how this faux cash might be used in-game our reviewer seemed puzzled and couldn’t imagine how such a microtransaction scheme might work given the gameplay elements and content currently found in Ubisoft’s latest adventure. Though we reached out to Ubisoft representatives for clarification on this matter, they were only able to tell us that more information will be coming in the future, so it appears we’ll have to wait for more word on what exactly Erudito is, both in relation to Assassin’s Creed III and as a precedent for the company’s future publishing plans.