GW2's GemGate and Customer Service

By David Piner -
0

Yesterday, funny enough, we talked about monetization and the player psychology in purchasing virtual goods. Of course, at the time, ArenaNet's gem store changes were a line item in my RSS feeds, and now the entire thing exploded over the course of yesterday. There are two topics I want to talk about, the first is customer service and the rude and inflammatory attitude that I believe ArenaNet had and the second is the change itself, why it was bad, and why changes like this shock and destroy player trust. 

Before I continue, I do want to say that I still have a favorable opinion of ArenaNet, their team, and NCSoft. The entire group is very awesome, the game is great, but this one instance just doesn't sit right with me and I want to rant a little bit about it. 

Before reading any further: mandatory reading: Guild War's 2: #GemGate

Yesterday, ArenaNet made some statements that were not, hrm how do I say, nice? There were two posts on the forums that were both very unhelpful, provided very little insight into the issue, and painted the community as ranting lunatics versus an outrage group of consumers. Which is just stupid and this should not ever happen, EVER.  

The first post asked the community to stop ranting and then, immediately, said that they need feedback on what the community wanted. The community wanted them to CTRL-Z the changes. That was it. That's all they wanted it. This thing that has existed in the game since the dawn of time was good, it worked, it was great, and it was exactly what made Guild Wars 2 one of those games that had a heavy handed cash shop, but was  very fair about it. 

Asking for suggestions is the least helpful thing I think at that point, because the community gave a unified response: revert the change. That's what everyone wanted. That was it, that's all they wanted, and they didn't need ArenaNet coming in and pouring gas on the flames by saying something similar to "okay children let's all calm down here." 

You ever been in an argument with someone and told them to calm down? Did that ever work good in your favor? This is really not only about the statement, but the choice of words, because good customer service uses a very light hand. ArenaNet should have simply said, "okay, we can see people are very upset about this issue, what would the community like for us to do?" Then just open a dialogue and work towards some kind of satisfying conclusion (ctrl-z'ing the change). 

Oh and insinuating that people aren't going to get what they want is just bullsh!t of the highest order. Seriously, we are consumers and we're going to get what we want within reason or we're going to go play something else. That simple. Don't be condecending to us when we have an issue with something and act as if we should be grateful about this change. Just, don't. 

Then the second post followed up by saying that the gem exchange was rarely used, that it's for NEW players, and that "veteran players" might have used it just a little bit, but new players couldn't figure out how to use the interface. Which is cool, okay that's the reason for the change, except that's a DIRECT LIE. 

You can't lie to players. The entire Internet has been freaking out about that statement because let's face it, new players don't have any gold. There isn't any gold in the game to be had until you're actually farming it. Guild Wars 2 is poor town for most players, because money is so scarce, and no new player is going to have the 83 gold or whatever to convert. 

So this can't be a change for new players. Because they can't use it. It's like saying you're changing raiding mechanics because new players can't figure it out. Well, new players can't raid, unless you're talking players "new to raiding." In which case, if it's confusing, you don't fundamentally change something with the UI, you add in another tutorial to help explain. You type in a number of gems you want, it quotes how much gold it costs, and voila. 

As far as the claims that there wasn't a lot of people using the system and that most people cashed out in some specific matter, well that can be attributed directly to RMT, who often buys gems, cashes them out, then sells the gold at a markup. They don't play around and need the lower options. So I guess maybe the data is skew'd? I don't know, I don't work for anet. 

I think that things like this should be handled very carefully, because it's easy to alienate people who are upset over a change to the game that isn't neccessary, helps no one, and wasn't needed. A little less "hey everyone let's not be upset" and a little more "let's find a compromise" would have been nice and would have made me feel a little bit better about the incident.

Anyway, my apologizes to anyone I may have offended with this article and I would like to reiterate I love GW2, I love Anet, I've met a lot of the folks IRL, and I've had email conversations or skype conversations with many of them, and they're all cool people. I'm sure yesterday was just a stressful day for everyone, but at the same time as a consumer, I expect respect, and I expect to be treated fairly. Broad statements that lump everyone together and insinuate things isn't my cup of tea. 

Tomorrow we'll talk about how the changes annoy me and how if they were permanent, they wouldn't help ANet make any more money. 

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About The Author

David "Xerin" Piner
Get in the bush with Xerin every week for his column, Respawn, as he analyzes the hottest trends, buzz topics, and absurdities in MMO gaming. In addition to his ongoing war against early access titles.