A Big Play For Micro-Transactions At Home [Updated]

[Update: BusinessWeek’s Paris correspondent Jennifer Schenker has an insightful piece analyzing the news of EA’s micro-transactions play, including the potential consequences of the move in terms of software piracy. Check it out.]

The Time’s Seth Schiesel has the scoop in this morning’s business section on Electronic Arts’ (ERTS) planned announcement of it’s first major foray into a micro-transaction-based title in the West. From the story:

In a major departure from its traditional business model, E.A. plans to announce Monday that it is developing a new installment in its hit Battlefield series that will be distributed on the Internet as a free download. Rather than being sold at retail, the game is meant to generate revenue through advertising and small in-game transactions that allow players to spend a few dollars on new outfits, weapons and other virtual gear.

The concensus from analysts and some inside the industry is that micro-transactions — paying for content from within a game rather than simply paying the up-front fee for a boxed title — are the certain future, with only the timing remaining in doubt. The model is much more developed in Asia where buying habits and disposable incomes vary from North America and Europe. It may still be early to roll out micro-transactions in full force in the West, but this play if it gains traction could accelerate the process.