NOTE: This piece of text I wrote originally December 2008 in another site, but now here’s an updated version to start the subject here.
Some says that microtransactions are the future, while others say about subscription. I should say that none of them is a good answer; at least, not as we know them today. In a first look, microtransaction is really a great option: gamers don’t have to pay in order to play, unless they want to "grow" faster, or want something different than the game's default experience.
But here is the two main problems with this, which I believe will become more and more obvious to the gamers over time: first, that if I don’t want (or can’t) pay to play, I can only spend infinite hours playing in order to remain competitive against others, that maybe have time and money to develop themselves much more faster that others. In other words, the game’s balance will rely essentially on player character’s development, which is insane (to not use other words). And second, all the purpose of those games is to develop characters, not the game experience itself – because, if were so, there were no room for microtransactions.
Obviously, the character dev principle is perfectly acceptable (and healthy to most games), but base the game essence on this isn’t. Even board RPG games, the crude experience of this (which I also develop), is much more focused on play experience than in character development –as the latter is a consequence of the earlier. This inversion will be more and more obvious over time, and players will no longer want to experience this kind of game as they perceive how much they must give (extensive time, money, effort) to receive so less (almost char dev only). I believe that microtransactions should be the way for many games, but the char dev principle (which seems to be intrinsic to microtransactions in almost any game who offer that) is not. It must be part of the game, but not the essence, in order to keep this game genre healthy enough to grow more.
Abbreviating, I think some kind of microtransaction embedded within our stablished game genres is much more suitable than "forcing" games to be like a MMO. I say that because almost nothing is said about joining this business model with traditional game genres.