By now, I’m sure most of you are familiar with the term “micropayments”. Tiny tiny payments or purchases, usually electronically. But what exactly are they, and what does it all mean for you?

The scope of a micropayment can be narrow or wide. I would probably conclude that anything you get on the iTunes Store is considered a micropayment.

If you have a next-gen console, you will no doubt have entered this territory, too. Older games, videos and tv shows are just some of the things you can buy on the Xbox Live Marketplace for instance. And we see a lot of this even in terms of extra game content. We computer gamers are well aware of the word “patch”. Patches for games are a common sight. And although unfortunately most of them concentrate on fixing bugs that should’ve been fixed before it went out the door, there are times when actual new content is being added, too. I guess I can’t mention World of Warcraft here, as you pay a monthly fee, and thus really also for the new content. But I remember back when the first game in the Unreal Tournament series was released, Epic (the publisher) pushed out several bonus packs with new maps, all for free. I’m not talking about expansion packs here, but new free content.

Singstar is making a comeback (and what a comeback it’ll be!) on the PS3, and Guitar Hero is being released on every one of the 3 big consoles. We already know that Singstar for the PS3 will be based on downloadable tracks. No more buying the game and getting your songs. Now you can (must?) purchase the songs online. A neat idea, but you know you will end up spending more money on it than you would’ve on the old game. Same thing applies to Guitar Hero. Bungie also just released a map pack for Halo 2 for the Xbox. Not free, naturally. I like the idea of getting new stuff, and so easily. I just have a feeling they will milk us for all it’s worth.

The next big thing, where the mainstream will be introduced to micropayments, is IPTV. Many people already have the ability to watch movies on demand through their cable company. This trend however, will only expand. I can’t predict the future, but is it stupid to think that in the future, there won’t be any channels, and you will only pay for the shows that you watch? Either way, VOD (video-on-demand) will be a big thing in the very near future. And it won’t be free. I know if I missed an episode of something, and it was available to watch right away on my tv, for a small price, automatically added to my bill, I wouldn’t think twice about clicking “Play”.

I’m sure I’ve overlooked a million other micropayment situations. Know of any? What is you take on this? Do you like the idea of many smaller payments versus one big? Will it make you more selective as for what you’re getting?


2 Responses to “On Micropayments”  

  1. 1 Eivind

    I think it’s a great thing when it’s extras that you wouldn’t get without paying anyway, but in the cases of Singstar and the like, I hate it. You should at the very least get a package which works fine and a set of songs/cars etc. out of the box..

    But it’s a very cool thing for indies (think istockphoto.com, for example), and I hope people will become more used to small payments for everything. The web isn’t always that free anymore – people can make money other ways than with advertising – and I hope that inspires quality work, even if it costs a few pennies!

  2. 2 Andreas

    Good points Eivind! And you are definitely on to something. We see people starting to charge for podcasts, and even blogs (shrug), but isn’t it only fair? Just because something is digital doesn’t mean it should be free.

    Now what I’d like to see is the ability to buy fonts, brushes, shapes… cheap, and within Photoshop.


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