Today Electronic Arts confirmed that the PC and Mac versions of The Sims 3 would in fact ship with a virtual goods item shop built in to the game's online functionality.  We already knew that the iPhone version of Sims 3 would contain a
virtual goods mechanic thanks to the reveal of Apple's in-app payments,
so this announcement is not entirely unexpected. It is still a major milestone in the growth of virtual goods into "traditional" gaming.

The virtual goods in The Sims 3 are built in to the game's suite of online functions. When players initialliy register their accounts at TheSims3.com (required for other aspects of online play) they'll receive $10 worth of the game's virtual currency, SimPoints. These can be spent in The Sims 3 Store, which is essentially the game's item shop.

The release doesn't specify exactly how many points the $10 bonus is, but does note that SimPoints can be purchased for real money in bundles of 500, 1000, and 2000 points. In North America, EA specifies payment support for PayPal and most major credit cards. Examples of virtual items the SimPoints can spent on, from the press release, include new clothing and outfits for Sims and exclusive styles of furniture for decorating houses.

Very typical virtual goods as these things go, but in prior editions of The Sims EA wasn't charging real money for them. Clearly the success of Sims-like virtual worlds like Second Life and There.com has made EA rethink the way they inadvertently left money on the table before The Sims 3.

Granted, EA seems to be the quickest of the traditional console publishers when it comes to adopting virtual goods business models, as the company has already published the virtual CCG/RTS hybrid BattleForge and has Battlefield Heroes still in the works. It begs the question of where else in the future EA may opt to deploy virtual goods add-ons. 

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