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THQ Integrating Live Gamer Micropayment Model Into Company of Heroes Online

Online monetization platform Live Gamer talks to Gamasutra about its partnership with THQ to bring a microtransaction model to Company of Heroes Online for the game's North American launch.
Online monetization platform Live Gamer has partnered with THQ to bring a microtransaction model to Company of Heroes Online for the game's North American launch, the companies said Monday. It's THQ's latest move in the publisher's efforts to realign its business to focus more on online models. Live Gamer said that the real-time strategy game Company of Heroes Online is just the first of THQ's offerings that will implement the platform, with more Facebook, PC and mobile-based microtransaction games on the way. "It helps accelerate their plans. It helps them focus on what they do best, making great games, building communities and marketing," Live Gamer president and co-founder Andrew Schneider told Gamasutra in an interview. His past experience includes other digital distribution-related positions at companies like NBC Interactive, Sony Pictures and Sony Music. In a statement, THQ EVP of casual games and global online services Martin Good called microtransactions a "viable and profitable revenue stream," and said the Live Gamer partnership is "a critical component" of his company's online strategy. THQ has been working with China's Shanda Entertainment and Korea's Windysoft on the free-to-play, microtransactions-based beta version of Company of Heroes Online. THQ originally released the critically-acclaimed strategy game, developed by Relic Entertainment, as a packaged PC game in 2006. Schneider added that game publishers looking to generate more revenues from online microtransactions can implement Live Gamer's "enterprise-grade software" to monetize a game's virtual economy. The microtransaction model, in which users pay small -- but often more frequent -- amounts of money for virtual items, originated Korea. Typically, microtransactions games are free to download, and let users play the basic game for free. Other game companies that have used Live Gamer's technology include Funcom, Acclaim, Sony Online Entertainment and others. Schneider said that microtransaction models and digital distribution are gaining a stronger foothold in the West, but added that the shift from retail packaged goods to completely online business models will take some time. "Where we saw broadband basically decimate the music industry with this model over the course of three years, I don't think it's that aggressive in our game industry," he said. "I think we're looking at a longer time horizon for the complete disruption, and it's driven by high-speed broadband to the home." He said that the U.S. has around 30-35 million broadband households, currently. "When that hits 50 million-plus, I think that's where you see the fast acceleration from packaged goods to online. If I would guess it's still 7-10 years."

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