Hairy topics, all of them, yet as someone who has been laid off during this ugly economic downturn... I have to say that having options that would allow me to keep that $15/mo for use toward groceries is nice.
On RMT, I have to say I'm firmly in the camp that doesn't mind cosmetic items which give no advantage to game play. These are especially acceptable things to offer in a F2P game, and provided they are just "extras" and not required to advance in game content they do nto inhibit P2P subscribers. Examples would be clothing which is stats-wise identical to something in-game but which may have a unique look, vanity pets, rare mounts (which offer the same travel speeds/abilities as regular mounts but just look different). I would even go so far as to say to sell profession skills for say "hairdressers", taylors, and the like... provided that the skill's subsequent item held no over-powered advantage when compared to other items at the same level.
Some people feel that no one will pay for things that do not offer advantage, but considering that people will do so to get things as basic as a no-stat "Power Ranger" costume in some games, I disagree. I do not think such sales would fully support the game, but I for one do not see the harm in offering a monthly or quarterly "special item". Especially if their is a max number of them available to be sold. This is in part to assure they do not swamp the market, and also to take advantage of that marketing ploy of "supplies are limited: act now".
If the worst argument is the "slippery slope" idea, where by these items inevitably lead to potions/epic pay-items, then the game in question has some weak people at the helm.
Subscription tiers, another ugly word to many people. Coupled with Advertising revenue on the lower or lowest (F2P) tier means all customers are "paying" customers. I do not agree with providing a differing customer suppoert experience based on what sort of plan a person is on. Having worked for many years in the customer service industry, I know that isn't right. Flat out.
The way I would ideally lay out a tiering plan would be to have a F2P tier supported by advertising viewed on load screens. Those always struck me as a sheer waste of space, and would be better applied by posting up a still image akin to a full page colour advert. Rather than having the ad include a launch-in-browser button I would have a "request information" button where the game company sends an email to the requesting player that includes more info, a direct link, and the requisite warnings to use AV scan on any links before following them as we can never guarantee the security of a 3rd party site. This method means the game company need never give out their customer's email address as that "details" email would be sent from the game company itself. Still image ads seem less difficult to impliment, as well.
Second tier and third tier would likely only be $5 apart from one another, if that turned out to be $5-$10 or $10-$15 would depend on the market at the time of launch, I suppose. I would, personally, prefer the lower range of second tier being $5 and third tier at $10 in order to under-cut the majority of main line P2P subscriptions.
First/F2P tier = full access to the game as an adventurer: able to buy/sell (including use of small market stalls), join guilds, join fiefdom raids, have the same max character slots as the pay teirs; but cannot START a guild, rent a full house or shop building, or own/rent fief land.
Second/middle tier = full access to the game as an advanced adventurer/merchant: able to buy/sell (including use of small market stalls, or rental of full "shops"), join/start guilds, join fiefdom raids, have the same max character slots as the other two teirs, can rent a full house (for personal or guild use); but this level cannot cannot own/rent fief land. No longer sees load screen advertisments, or sees a reduced number of them.
Third/top tier = full access to the game, can join or create guilds, rent shops or market stalls, same max character slots as other players, but by default has at LEAST the base square of fief land to build or farm on. They can take part in and initiate or accept fief skirmishes, where by they can expand their territory (or if they lose they can lose a square down to them holding the minimum of 1)... alternatively they can accept quests from the NPC government officials to be deeded more land in peaceful ways.
I believe subscription tiering like this would accurately reflect a socio-economic class system, while still letting players interact and access all parts of the game. Even someone who opts to only stay on F2P can join a guild run by a landowner, and thus have access to the landowner's assets: mining nodes, plants, which appear on their blocks of land. If that guild/landowner takes part in fief wars, it also allows the F2P users to take part in these battles for experience and looting.
Yes, from an economic standpoint "landowners" have a distinct advantage, however, that is not an inaccurate reflection of a fantasy setting. Depending on other factors which could be included, such as the granting or loss of land by a landowner depending upon if they meet their government taxation, it could be used to help maintain balance in an economy.
Example: Any landowner with 2 or more areas of land owes X amount of grain/fish/ore/etc as goverment tithe. This inflow of resources can be used to stock the NPC vendors and whenever those have high stocks the cost of said resource is lower, when they have low stocks it is higher. Such control isn't what many would consider a "true" sandbox, however it seems like the most reasonable way to balance an in-game economy to me. Failure to meet tithe can cost a landowner a chunk of land (again, down to their minimum 1 square which is all their $10/mo guarantees to them).