Anarchy Online is introducing GRACE to its game, which is an item that will grant you a month subscription. The game is still also available as free-to-play, but of course using a subscription will grant you access to other features in game, like using their player auction house. They aren't the first game to implement a system that offers an alternative to subscription through subscription items, but their forum post introducing this system reads like one of the most convoluted, confusing systems out there. Not just that, but there are a lot of exceptions about it that simply do not make sense.
First of all, GRACE can be purchased for $14.95 USD, which is the same as a month-to-month subscription, and it can be sort of traded to other players through the GMI, which is the in-game player auction house. Seems all normal and business as usual, right? Well, not really. Here's where things start to get weird. First off, you can buy these with real money and sell them on the market to other players for in-game currency. GRACE cannot be traded directly, so you can't buy some and just give them to your friends. I understand why there are certain restrictions here. There could be repercussions when you are basically letting players use real money to generate in-game cash.
The weird part, though, is that you cannot purchase GRACE with in-game currency yourself, outside of buying from other players through the GMI. If you're a free-to-play player seeing this as a great way to earn credits to then buy from other players on the market, however, you're completely out of luck. Access to the GMI is only available to subscribers, which I think is one area that Funcom is missing the mark here. It seems like they're keeping their free-to-play players right where they're at.
Now, I'm not a dev here, but I would think that by letting GRACE be more accessible so that free-to-play players would let them come up with a legitimate way to have subscription entitlements would be advantageous. A little good will can go a long way, and not everyone is capable of purchasing subscription services or subscription items using real life money, and I'm not necessarily talking about 14 year olds who can't steal mommy's credit card anymore.
The upside of games doing this is that they're putting the “gold selling” in their own hands, letting players buy these types of items with real money to then sell on the in-game market for in-game money. Of course this will not get rid of the gold selling business, no matter how many times we read about credit card fraud and what not. Only once players stop buying from these crooks will that business be over, but I think it is a good idea to allow those who choose to go this route to do so within a safe environment from the gaming companies themselves.