Many complaints about this format seem to stem from the notion that this is a new practice. However, keen observers of the industry will note that this practice is absolutely nothing new.
The first introduction of this format is, amazingly enough, World of Warcraft. Name changes, server transfers, character re-customizations, and the eventual faction transfers are all a part of their suite of premium services. Perhaps you never thought about it because Blizz never used the dreaded terminology, but these are microtransactions. You're paying extra to take advantage of a service, even though you're paying for a subscription.
Over in another superhero fun land, NCsoft has been selling character costume packs, extra character slots, and other goodies all for premium prices in City of Heroes. Oddly enough, no one has rioted over the sale of wedding outfits and mystical armors, even when the magic pack comes with a brand new power that you otherwise can't get in-game.
"Microtransaction is a loaded word in our culture -- it makes people think of unfair item shops and poorly formatted 'free to play' games.'"
So why all the angry?
Why Cryptic? Why Champions? Why does everyone lash out now?
First off, people are angry because microtransactions are coming with the game's launch, and that makes them visible. CoH added their microtransactions years after the launch. Xbox Live was originally just playing games online, adding in microtransactions after a few years of service. World of Warcraft followed the same trend, adding their "premium services" well after launch. Cryptic hasn't slipped them in later, under people's noses.
Another reason people are angry -- Cryptic called them microtransactions. WoW offers "services," XBL offers "content," and CoH offers "packs." Microtransaction is a loaded word in our culture -- it makes people think of unfair item shops and poorly formatted "free to play" games. That word alone has put many people off simply because it exists. I'll put money down and say that some of the naysayers didn't go on to do their homework regarding what Cryptic was offering.
But Cryptic isn't offering anything new. It's a shop of "services" like name changes, costume changes, and other account level data changers coupled with some silly cosmetic options. Plus, Cryptic has stated that anything that has an in-game effect can still be acquired in-game. Don't want to pay for the costume change token? Earn one in game.
Stop saying the sky is falling
It's not. You don't like it, then don't buy from it. This isn't anything extremely experimental or surprising. It's not price gouging if you don't actually pay for it. And it's not like Champions is going to ship with huge swaths of content missing, forcing you to buy items from the Cryptic Store to progress through the game. It's simply an option, nothing more.
Take advantage of the beauty of the system -- if you don't want it, don't pay for it.
Colin Seraphina Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased who is paying for sparkling angel wings, if they're available. When she's not writing here for Massively, she's rambling on her personal blog, The Experience Curve. If you want to message her, send her an e-mail at colin.brennan AT weblogsinc DOT com. You can also follow her on Twitter through Massively, or through her personal feed, @sera_brennan.