Guild Wars 2 and making bank

Last night in guild chat, one of our friends who wasn’t really following Guild Wars 2 closely asked about the microtransaction details.  As in, how much, how often, how annoying, etc.?  We didn’t have a lot to report; ArenaNet hasn’t done a “How We’re Going to Plunder Your Wallet Week” yet, and is most likely still trying to figure all the details out before releasing any to the public.  The same public, after all, that completely freaked out when the company let it slip that people might have to pay money to equip armor cosmetically.  I can’t blame them for holding back the business model as long as possible so that players won’t have all this spare time with no GW2 to play in which to complain.

But the truth is that, yes, Guild Wars 2 is going to have to fund itself in some way other than just box sales, and players need to accept that.  The game is considerably more substantial in scope and design than Guild Wars 1, not to mention mostly taking place in a persistent world rather than isolated (and therefore cheaper to run) instances and lobbies.  I was actually kind of surprised that ArenaNet confirmed that GW2 would be playable indefinitely after the game was purchased without a subscription, but if they can pull that off, it puts the game in a very good position against its competitors next year.

The company has to make bank somehow, which really only leaves a few avenues open: microtransactions, engaging in RMT while skimming off the top of player transactions, and pumping out content/expansion packs that can be sold to players.  Let’s not forget that Guild Wars 1 already has a cash shop on the website — it’s not the best shop in the world, but it’s pretty much the only way that ArenaNet makes any money off its long-term players considering that it hasn’t put out a new box product since, what, 2007?

Apart from the cosmetically inclined transmutation stones, ArenaNet also floated the possibility that it would sell additional dungeons, kind of a la Dungeons & Dragons Online.  Again, lots of freaked out players who feel as though they’re owed all future content for free without paying any sort of sub.  However, ANet came back and gave a reasoned response as to why charging for additional content works out in the favor of players:

“The thing I would say [about not having a subscription fee] is that we actually have the continued support development model that encourages us to make cooler things than anyone else… If we have to sell you additional content like microtransaction content or anything like that, we have to give you something that you’re going to want to buy. We have to earn your money.”

Still, this is a sore point among otherwise excited Guild Wars 2 fans, and I can sort of see why.  When you’re really excited about something, the last thing you want is for a late announcement to come along that will dampen, change, or potentially ruin that experience for you.  Just as it’s probably prudent that ArenaNet not talk about its business model until close to launch, players would much prefer to know all the nitty-gritty details now and adjust expectations accordingly.

Honestly, I don’t think it’ll be a big deal.  The core game, after all, will be playable for free indefinitely once purchased, and that’s got VALUE stamped all over it as if it was on sale at Wal-Mart.  If it’s a good game, and all indications is that it will be, players should want to support the company in some way so that they, y’know, have funds to continue running the game and developing for it.  As a current Guild Wars 1 player who has used the cash shop, I can say that the options there are far from game breaking or shortcuts — mostly account options, cosmetic outfits, and bundled packs.  ArenaNet could have really microtransactioned the heck out of GW in so many ways, but restrained itself from doing so.  Seriously, if there was an option to fill up your Hall of Monuments for $30, I’d be tempted beyond belief.  But nothing doing; I have to earn it the hard way.

So we’ll wait and see, but I for one am not worried.  ArenaNet not only has a lot of internal experience with creating attractive business models, but a whole industry of examples of what to do and not to do when it comes to microtransactions.

17 thoughts on “Guild Wars 2 and making bank

  1. paeroka September 20, 2011 / 8:40 am

    http://nerdybookahs.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/guild-wars-2-and-microtransactions/

    Just throwing this link in here as it has the URL to the original video interview plus transcripts of the important parts.

    In short: It sounds like they’ll continue the way they have. But I’d be surprised if they really did. I imagine the shop for GW2 will be bigger with more things to buy. However, I also expect them to keep their promise of not selling any advantages like better gear etc.

    Selling additional content would be great. Like they did with GW1 already. I just feel that I get more for my money than if I bought something like a non-combat pet or a cosmetic item. Though all of those three are perfectly fine with me. 😉

  2. Nils September 20, 2011 / 8:52 am

    They set out to make a game that just costs the player the box, because monthly subs are evil. Then *surprise* they they find out that they spent too much money on it and will need extra revenue. Suddenly, this great idea: What about charging players for wearing items?

    Hey, I have a better idea: Just be honest and ask me to pay a monthly sub. 15€? 25€? ok with me.
    But microtransactions? I already hate the game.

  3. Syl September 20, 2011 / 9:03 am

    “players should want to support the company in some way”

    Sadly, we’re living in a consumer culture where the cheaper is the better and there’s no such thing as value-price consciousness. price also used in a long-term, far-reaching sense of the word. most consumers won’t see farther than their own nose and you cannot expect them to think about consequences that won’t affect them directly, today. don’t think I need to make a list of devastating examples here. if the average consumer could get it ALL for free, he would…

    Like you said, if they pull this off and right now it’s all looking superb, ArenaNet have my full (financial) support. they’re probably wise to hold back on the info, players these days are even entitled to whine about games that haven’t even been released, lol.

  4. hammino September 20, 2011 / 9:31 am

    After experiencing my first micro transaction MMO with Turbines lotro. I can see what you are saying making sense. I think that if they do it well so that everyone still has a fair chance to freely play and not pay to advance or be “ahead of the game”, then having a store can be fine. I remember being mad at Turbine for going F2P (I had bought a $200 life time sub three months before) but right now I am fine with them.

    Anyway my original point is that if I were to play GW2, and I might. I would like this option as then I can buy the content I want when I want it. Also if I bought the game and did not like it well then I wont have to worry to much about a monthly sub.

  5. Utakata September 20, 2011 / 10:30 am

    The problem with micro-transactions in any MMO whether it’s cosemetic or *otherwise, is that it creates an environment when there always be some players that will be more equal than others. And the items that the player is prancing about has been obvioulsy purchased and not earned. Not only is this disingenuous to the players who can’t afford it, it also kills the sense of immersion into the game…when you are constantly being reminded of real life transactions invading a game. It’s the equivalent of having a McDonald’s restaurant built into Rata Sum for RL advertising purposes. Not to mention that some of us who have no credit card access are SoL on this even we do have the funds.

    Of coarse, keeping in the mind that ArenaNet may need to draw income outside of it’s box sales in order to keep GW2 afloat…the way around this is make sure items that can be purchased in a cash shop can also be earned ingame with reasonable effort. Thus the stores can be set up (as they are now in GW1 to my understanding) for those who are impatient. I believe this will be the intention of the developers from what I read about this.

    *Note: The purchasing of extra dungeons is even more problematic for two reasons.

    1) Grouping dynamics with other players will be awkward at best if the player doesn’t have said dungeon on their account roster. Unless ANet has a working solution around this to allow players to run those instances but not initiate them if they have not purchased them.

    2) Items with stats that drop exclusive to those dungeons does create a Pay to Win situation if no other item that has those stats equivalent in all other aspects of the game. This will put the player who has purchased that dungeon at an advantage if they bring that item over into PvP for example….

    …I guess I can hope if they implement such a scheme they would make it fair and accessible to everybody in the best way they can.

    Sorry for the tl,dr on this.

  6. Telwyn September 20, 2011 / 10:40 am

    I don’t see a big problem with this, the game will have a very low cost to enter. It’ll be great for casual play (GW1 is one of my secondary games I play every so often), and for the more hardcore players that blow through everything ASAP they can buy the latest content packs as and when they appear.

    I’d agree with the OP that the shop in GW1 is very optional and not at all in your face unlike some shops (*waves at LoTRO*), so if they plan on something similar with the DLC as the extra money making layer then I’ll be fine.

    Dungeons and raid like content I can do without. If all future updates are paid for though (including new events) then that could be more of a problem. It all depends how much we get at launch I suppose….

  7. Gina September 20, 2011 / 10:46 am

    Lately I’ve decided that I’m pretty much done with the subscription model. Granted, this is mainly because I shelled out for lifetime subs for LotRO and STO when they were offered, but still.

    The fly in the ointment here is the Sims 3. While it is not an MMO, I go on rampages with that game. I do not do this with other single-player games that I loved such as the Mass Effect or Dragon Age games. I may play Sims 3 almost every waking hour for a week and then I’ll put it down altogether for five months. But still, I definitely see the value in buying every single expansion.

    Just like I see the value in buying Turbine points now and then if I feel the need to buy something that costs more than what my monthly stipend gives me.

    I hope Arenanet introduces a similar point system. I have found in the past that the prices for certain things in the Guild Wars cash shop were extremely expensive compared to LotRO’s model.

    Of course, I have preordered SW:TOR, but I’m pretty much going to treat that as a single-player game: play until the content runs out, then cancel until they release more storyline. If the new storyline content is only strictly for raiders with some grinding thrown in for non-raiders a la Rift and WoW, I will not resub at all.

  8. sente September 20, 2011 / 12:21 pm

    Note that Guild Wars 1 has sold several millions of copies of the different game campaigns. ArenaNet is hardly going to be content with just 1-2 million sold, they are likely aiming towards the WoW numbers.

    My guess is that they will initially aim for a rather gentle monetization similar to GW1, but prepare for alternatives if needed.

  9. Msenge September 20, 2011 / 2:41 pm

    If I remember correctly, the devs have stated the reason why they could get away with not charging a sub fee ifor GW1 was not due to all the instancing but with it’s server coding technology/structure, etc. And thus the addition of the persistent zones instead of instanced zones was no big deal.

    And lets not forget that ANet and GW/GW2 are owned by NCSoft – a company not known for keeping games with low returns/low performance up and running.

    Guild Wars 1 is still the best value game I ever bought and Guild Wars 2 appears to be ready for a repeat performance. Thus I predict that I’ll be one of those people to be happy to spend some extra money in the cash shop.

  10. Warsyde September 20, 2011 / 8:01 pm

    My Guild Wars 1 experience has left me inclined to give Anet the benefit of the doubt here. They gave so much stuff literally for free that I’m confident anything we have to pay for will either be worth paying for (new dungeons) or completely frivolous (cosmetic stones).

  11. Tesh September 20, 2011 / 9:47 pm

    “an environment when there always be some players that will be more equal than others”

    …which is totally and completely unlike the imbalances that happen with heirloom gear or raiding gear in games where time-rich players get ahead of the curve, right?

    “Fairness” is an illusion at best, a cruel mockery at worst. Life’s not fair. Deal with it.

  12. Vulpis September 20, 2011 / 10:29 pm

    @Tesh Well, that’s the thing–‘time-rich’ players are at least putting *effort* into getting that gear, rather than just ‘pay for power’. Personally, I’d go for a system that is set up so that things are gotten *both* ways (the Delta Flyer in STO is the sort of thing I have in mind, though the in-game acquisition method is a bid grindy), so that the time-rich but $$$-poor can get the things same as the ones with money to waste.(And the best gear should *always* be in-game only, never cash-shop. Otherwise, what’s the point of actually playing?).

  13. Tesh September 20, 2011 / 10:38 pm

    Right, and making money takes no effort at all, is that it? Don’t you see? “Fair” is in how you frame it, and it’s always going to be imbalanced by factors that you’re conveniently ignoring. It’s not worth worrying about.

    Making things like the Delta Flier available via multiple routes is good design, yes, but we as players have to get over the selfish desire to have what the other guy has.

  14. coppertopper September 21, 2011 / 12:20 am

    I really like GW1’s cash shop model in that, while you are at the login screen, you see the cash shop store and what is currently on sale. Login, and no immersion breaking cash shop popups and omnipresent cash shop buttons. LoTRO has broken the 4th wall with cash shop reminders, almost like you have a used car salesman following you everywhere you go in game.

    I hope they do make a grip o money – the lore is fantastic and really builds a personal interest in the RPG aspect of gameplay. I still believe money follows quality and innovation (hello Minecraft), and Anet is known for both.

  15. Utakata September 21, 2011 / 11:30 am

    Tesh, you seem to be comparing ingame balancing issues with micro-transactions….and I’m not sure why. Since they are different issues. And making a game F2P or Freemium won’t make pre-existing imbalances disappear. If anything it will likely add to the problem. It’s also a bit of a non sequitur to claim that because there’s also ingame imbalances then it’s fine to make it F2P. One does not really follow the other.

  16. Tesh September 21, 2011 / 3:50 pm

    I’m pointing out exactly that difference. Game balance and monetization are two different things and should be approached as such.

  17. Pingback: Value Used Guild

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