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.