I’m excited about Guild Wars 2 and I love how much passion is surrounding this game, but dang if that community is wound up tighter than Nurse Ratched. I can’t say whether it’s more or less uptight than what we’ve had for every past major release, but it’s pretty much up there. Even the slightest bit of controversial news or commentary about the game has a good chance of inciting riots and Chicken Littles, but that’s part of the fun of being slightly on the outside of it all.
So in what had to be the most predictable explosion of indignation and outrage and “didn’t we JUST do this?”, ArenaNet finally came out with its long-awaited news of the game’s microtransactions model and the world ended and yet we are still here. Maybe controversy isn’t the planet core-rending experience it once was. Again, it’s not like we didn’t see this coming; several months ago when the studio said that it was thinking about charging for the ability to change your gear’s appearance to another piece of armor you had on hand (and everyone exploded), we knew it was a matter of time before they’d have to reveal the rest and just get the stampede of opinions over with.
OK, so let’s put the outrage aside and look at this calmly. Even with the up-front cost of the game, we knew — and ArenaNet never hid it — that there would have to be some form of additional income to keep the game running, the devs paid, new content rolling in, etc. It’s a business as well as a game studio, and if money’s not being made, the game’s not going to be run. It’s as simple as that.
Guild Wars 1’s model was to roll out new boxed campaigns once or twice a year for the first couple years, coupled with some very light microtransactions (costume pieces, pet unlocks, name changing, etc.). But the game itself wasn’t a full-blown MMO either, so it was cheaper to run. Guild Wars 2 is eschewing the campaign model (although who knows about expansions) to focus more heavily on microtransactions (i.e. the cash shop) with — and this is the big surprise — game-supported RMT.
Let’s take a look at a couple things Mike O’Brien wrote:
“Here’s our philosophy on microtransactions: We think players should have the opportunity to spend money on items that provide visual distinction and offer more ways to express themselves. They should also be able to spend money on account services and on time-saving convenience items. But it’s never OK for players to buy a game and not be able to enjoy what they paid for without additional purchases, and it’s never OK for players who spend money to have an unfair advantage over players who spend time.”
There’s a lot of wiggle room there for what ArenaNet can conceivably sell — I mean, almost anything can fall under the umbrella of “time-saving convenience items.” But overall, I adore this statement and I’m glad he’s putting it right out there. All studios need to do this (and some have), because players have been fleeced enough with abusive business models to be especially wary about microtransactions, item shops, and RMT.
The “nevers” here are the big reassurers of what won’t be in the store, and those are probably the #1 and #2 biggest fears of most players when dealing with this business model. It isn’t fun to just see people with more money jump to the head of the line, because it rankles one with the notion of fairness and equality. We at least want to have an equal chance, that is.
Moving on from here, O’Brien says that the decision to support in-game RMT is practical and pro-player. It helps to cut out third-party gold farmers/spammers/sellers/hackers, it’s going to happen anyway, and so it might as well be on their terms. I never really liked the idea of RMT, and part of me still doesn’t — although, full disclosure, I think EQ2 was the only MMO I’ve played that tinkered around with this, and it wasn’t noticeable there at all. I guess STO does a little bit too with its dilithium/CP exchange, now that I think about it.
What’s cool about this is that they’re taking a cue from EVE and making RMT a two-way street. Players can buy the special currency — gems — with cash, but they can also use in-game currency to buy gems from other players. So, yeah, players can buy in-game gold with real-world money, but they can also buy this currency with in-game time as well. I think this latter part benefits the poorer person who does, as O’Brien says, have more time than money. It gives us options and flexibility without (hopefully) unbalancing the economy or giving a rich player a major advantage over everyone else (again, going back to his philosophy of microtransactions).
I certainly like being able to earn Turbine Points while playing LOTRO, so why not earn some gems through in-game methods as well? Lets me be as frugal as I want while still presenting me with an avenue to get what I want.
While people are on both sides of the aisle on this issue, I’m not that disturbed about it. I guess I’ve really grown apathetic toward the whole business model debate after going through it for years now, so as long as it doesn’t look game-breaking, I’m not going to throw a hissy fit over it.
A couple final thoughts. First, knowing now how this business model will be structured, I’m definitely purchasing the standard edition (maaaaaybe the digital deluxe) and using that extra $70 or so to buy gems than to get a statue and some art prints I’ll never really use. In-game goodies are where it’s at for me, and I’m guessing $70 could buy an awful lot of them.
Second, KIASA has a great reminder that it’s a little pointless to speculate too heavily on this post, since we’re still lacking specifics — and we’ve yet to see it in action. Quote of the day incoming in three… two… one…:
“So until anyone can accurately tell me the style, colour and condition of my underpants (and whether I’m wearing them on my head or not), they probably can’t tell me how well Guild Wars 2′s complex RMT system is going to interact with an as yet undefined player population, in an unreleased and unknown game system, with an item store that has no items defined for it, for an in-game economy that has yet to be established.”