I was trying a game called Mytheon a few nights ago, and in the game there are vendors that sell things for gold, and vendors that sell things for United States Dollars, which are cleverly disguised as very special blue coins, coins that come from your credit card. (Guess which vendor had the best items!) It's a pretty standard thing for free online games to do, and it's a wildly successful business model in Asia, and growing in popularity here.
I wonder if I'm forever conditioned to hate those sorts of things by Magic: The Gathering. I find the idea distasteful, and I never really knew why; it seems like it disrupts the "purity" of the game, but I wasn't really sure. In Magic, people who spend the most money at the game have the most power. It's not clear-cut; certainly a player with less expensive cards can defeat a player with more expensive cards, but money can directly replace or complement skill. (I guess, similarly, in pro sports, money can buy you skill.) It's messed-up, and strangely addicting. It's only ten bucks, or twenty bucks, and you get yourself a rare, powerful card or a few packs of cards that might suck or might be great. Over time, this becomes very expensive, but you stay focused on the individual cards you want—the small picture—and ignore the big picture that holy crap, you've spent a thousand bucks on this game.
It might not even be the power aspect. Some free-to-play games offer things for sale that are no more powerful than what you would otherwise get without money, but the items that cost money are easier to get, or take less time to get, or are still clearly better than the free items in some way not relating to game mechanics. That's still obnoxious.
To play World of Warcraft I pay Blizzard about $12 a month, and I'm perfectly fine with that. That $12 gets me as much WoW as I feel like playing. It's probably sort of a ripoff because I play way less than some people and waste fewer of Blizzard's expensive human resources as other players who are constantly contacting game masters for assistance and I'm paying the same price as those people, but I think I might actually prefer that to having to worry too much about how much time I spend logged in. (This model probably works best for them because now I have this tiny feeling that I should play more to get more use out of my subscription, and the more you play, the more you have emotionally invested in the game, and the more likely you are to continue to play for long periods of time.) Really, I'm fine with paying that monthly fee because I can easily see that for that money I am getting regular (though quite slow) content updates like new dungeons and quests and game features, and it just seems logical. If the game were financed through small transactions, I think I would overanalyze things, and either be disgusted by the commercialization, or spend way too much money, then realize that I spent too much money, and then quit in anger.
Every time I play some game that tries to finance itself through "optional" purchases, I find myself annoyed by the practice. I place a high value on the quality of my gaming experiences, and I'm very much willing to pay for them (often fairly absurd amounts of money), but I guess what I really want is for real-life finances to be completely and utterly separated from my games. Intrusion of money into the experience ruins the immersion for me.