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The Fate of Microtransactions in Guild Wars 2

Updated Mon, Nov 01, 2010 by Xerin

Guild Wars 2 is an ambitious game that should be full of some of the most amazing content we’ve yet to see in an MMOG. However, there are numerous heated discussions about how some of that content will be delivered. We’ve already had a huge outcry over the cost of using the transmutation stones and now we’re starting to hear rumbles about pay for dungeon expansions ala Dungeons & Dragons Online. The quote that sparked this revolution was located in this PC Gamer Interview.

We asked Flannum point blank if they would be releasing more dungeons post-launch that would be purchased as microtransaction purchases. Flannum confirmed to us that they’re definitely open to the idea–and more. “Yeah, we’re going to look at what the demand is. Look at what players want more of and we’re going have to release that stuff, because that’s the stuff that players are going to be willing to pay for, and that’s the stuff that’s going to make our company profitable.”

Once published, once again setting the community into a dervish, Eric Flannum sent a reply to PCGamer to clarify their stance:

“We haven’t decided on what exactly we are or aren’t going to offer for money post-release. We’re open to whatever our players seem most interested in. If, after release, you guys would like more story content, more dungeons, more events, more maps or whatever, it’s something that we have to consider because ultimately making you happy is what makes us successful.  Whether we release that in DLC (like the bonus mission packs in GW1) or whether we do it through expansions (Like Eye of the North) is yet to be determined. As to whether or not there are going to be items like XP boosts available in the in game store, I can only reiterate what we’ve said before (and will continue to say,) that we’ll release details on it when they are available, and that our core philosophy of not requiring you to spend additional money to play the game and not making the game difficult or painful to play in order to encourage you to buy things from the store still stands.”

Now that you you’ve read that you’re probably wondering just what will happen to Guild Wars 2 at launch. Some of you may be screaming “NOOOOOO” as loudly as you can while others may be a bit more rational and thinking “hrm, that’s interesting.” It’s no joke that it seems like Guild Wars 2 will be a game that makes heavy use of microtransactions as a source of income. However, how it will use them is unknown, but the possibility for things such as dungeon packs and XP potions certainly exists. Let's not forget Transmutation Stones.

Before we start worshiping ArenaNet for their glorious decisions or preparing to riot, let’s take a logical and down to earth examination of what microtransactions could mean for GW2. To do that we need to look at similar North American released games with similar profit models. There is no better example than Dungeons & Dragons Online which sells everything from large content packs to XP potions and hirelings.

Within the DDO store you can unlock races, dungeons, additional character stats, bank slots, purchase XP potions, simple weapons and armor, and much more. Many of these items often appeared in eastern MMOs which made the gameplay so challenging that it almost forced you to purchase items from the store. Yet, DDO integrated them into a game that did not need you to buy anything from the start to have fun and they did it well.

You can start at level 1 and get to level 20 without a single hitch. You can buy most of the store items from vendors and what you don’t buy you can snag from the DDO store through the favor point system. The only thing you honestly have to pay cash for is races, stat points, and additional content which are all optional and on an “if you want it” basis.

The game did not suffer at all from this change and it instead blossomed, having more users than ever before. It opened the game up to those who thought it was a cool game but wasn’t worth a subscription fee allowing them to adventure in the lands of Xen’drik and beyond. The results were fantastic, there were no balance issues from the items sold in the shop, and everyone to this day still seems rather happy.


GW1 already has several MT aligned options.

So that proves that it’s possible to have a game with some “extreme” microtransaction options and still allow everyone to have fun. There is another game we can talk about which offers a similar model, although on a much smaller scale. The original Guild Wars offered a free dungeon expansion pack (Sorrow’s Furnace) and then one additional “bonus mission pack” which offered some fun missions that fleshed out the story and gave some pretty decent gear. Not to mention the skill unlock packs which only kept you from having to unlock things through normal PvE gameplay.

This last point is an important thing since the Guild Wars universe is all about the PvP. Offering items that would unbalance PvP would only hurt the game and make it very painful to play. This is where ArenaNet’s promise that they will not make the game “difficult or painful to play in order to encourage you to buy things from the store” comes in.

If we use a bit of logic we can jam everything together and hopefully make sense of it. We know that you’ll take the same amount of time on each level, thereabouts, which means that you will not hit an insane leveling grind once you’re addicted to force item purchases (like many less savory eastern MMOGs tend to do). We also know that they will not sell any items to make the game painful or difficult to play, which means we will not be seeing overpowered items for sale in the shop. We know that ArenaNet loves its fanbase more than (this may be my biased opinion) most other development studios. Finally, we do know that they’re a company which is designed to make profit. So, in conclusion, there will be items for sale in some fashion but they will not ruin the game.

So it makes complete sense that there may be DLC coming to Guild Wars 2 that may be dungeon packs or paid content. In the same realm, we may see that content come as a full expansion requiring you to head out to the store and pick it up. We may also see both. We will not be seeing “Swords of Ultimate Power +10 Insta-Gank Super Power Crazy Long Name Instant Cool” for sale or huge swaths of the game locked off because you haven’t bought that 10th upgrade yet.

On a personal level I don’t mind if they sell dungeons or even XP potions. If I feel the game is worth the money (and I hope it is) I’ll buy them and be rather happy about it. My only concern is just making sure everyone has the same content when I’m ready to play which is why the subscription model is so preferable to me. I’d rather everyone have an equal amount of content than having to exclude people who didn’t choose to buy something.

I also only hope that if we see dungeon microtransactions that the new dungeons are not the “flavor of the month” making the entire player base rush out to buy them and forget the core dungeons, making those who choose not to spend their money suffer. It’s a real concern, but given some of the recent reveals, I can imagine that there will be a lot of reasons to revisit old content if for nothing else but some new rags to wear.

Sardu’s Second Opinion

By and large the most prolific form of DLC can be found on consoles, with new multiplayer map packs for successful FPS titles being amongst the most popular. That said, unless ArenaNet were to create and sell dungeons geared to solo play similar to the Bonus Mission Pack from GW1, it would be folly on their part to release them as DLC.

So far, we know that dungeons in Guild Wars 2 will be very focused on group experiences. But introducing paid dungeons essentially drives a wedge between the players that own them or do not. This creates a situation where you buy the dungeon, but can only experience it with other people who made the same purchase. Attaching a price tag to gameplay that necessitates other players to experience it, outside of the core game which everyone owns, is simply bad game design.

SOE learned this lesson early on with the Adventure Packs for EQ2. Regardless of how well crafted they were, unless enough people on your server purchased them there was literally no way to complete the raid content they included. This essentially meant you spent cash on something you couldn’t actually use in many cases. There’s a good reason why the APs have been bundled with expansion purchases ever since.

This segregation of the player base goes against many of the core philosophies ArenaNet has conveyed to its fans over the years, so I doubt we’ll see group-based content added for the game outside of full expansions. As a gamer, nothing is more frustrating to me than hitting the “quick join” button for an FPS title only to constantly be given a notice that I can’t join the random map selected unless I purchase it as DLC. I’ve seen this on numerous occasions on launch day (I’m looking at you Lost Planet 2) and it’s like a slap in the face to someone who just plopped down $60 for a new game copy.

Somehow I doubt ArenaNet wants to create that kind of culture around their future products, no matter how potentially lucrative it may be.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Do you mind if dungeons are available as DLC or does that make the game unattractive to you? Come to the Ten Ton Hammer community forums and share your thoughts today! 


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