What we pay for a game is often the most important part of choosing to play one. This is a major factor in why the original Guild Wars was so successful. It had a very simple payment scheme: buy the box and then you’re set to play for as long as the game remains up without any necessary DLC or subscription fees. Guild Wars 2 will have the same basic business model in which you buy the game and play for free for life. However, rumors have been circulating that it will have a much bigger and more robust item shop that will encompass far more than those items that typically fall neatly within the “services” category.

The latest blog post on loot (which you can read our analysis of here) gave allusion to “transmutation stones” being for sale in the item shop. GW2 devs later reaffirmed that the item shop mentioned will be a microtransaction item shop. The community immediately began posting feverishly everywhere with all kinds of strongly worded comments. The most frequent comment being that this is a slippery slope into a world of unfair item shop items and a high “real” cost to the game due to the amount of necessary items you may have to purchase with real world cash rather than in-game currencies.

Paying the Bills

It does make sense that if someone sells one thing in an item shop that they could easily sell another. That other item could potentially be the best weapon in the game, free levels, or even gold. After all, it would make sense that those items would sell very well and make ArenaNet a lot of money. Yet, I don’t see how selling a single cosmetic item is going to turn the game into an item shop required fiasco.

You hear the same argument every time a new game is in development that offers an item shop. If the game has a microtransaction powered shop then people will be buying a $100 +10 Sword of Amazing and soloing all of the content while those who don’t throw that kind of money down will suffer. Yet, in most cases the game is released and the item shop almost always has cosmetic items, bags, and at the very worst XP potions and scrolls (which are only a bad thing when the game is so grindy that you need to buy them to gain a single level within a week).

The current Guild Wars shop is inexpensive and has nothing that imbalances the game.

I’ve yet to see a game released for North America that had an obscene item shop that was completely unreasonable. Not to mention the fact that the item shop for the original Guild Wars had a few cosmetic items, storage space, and skill unlocks (for skills you could already unlock in the game if you wanted). So there is already a strong history here that ArenaNet will not be going crazy and selling +10 Swords of Amazing and gold in the shop.

We, as gamers, do have to understand that companies exist to make a profit and they make that profit off of us. We work hard for our money and then use it on games to entertain ourselves. So we should never demonize a company that tries to make a profit off of their hard work as long as what they charge and what they provide is reasonable. As it stands now, there is not a single thing out there that says otherwise about ArenaNet being reasonable and decent with what they could potentially offer in their item shop.

So with that in mind the best advice to all would be to just sit and wait to see what the official item shop will contain and don’t worry about it. In the meantime, though, we could theorize pricing.

How Much for that Costume

We don’t know how much transmutation stones will be sold for, but the most logical guess is $4.99 each. That makes a lot of sense giving what items are usually sold for in other games, but may be a bit too pricey if you had a set of gear you’d want to keep forever but you keep getting new items in with better stats then a big problem arises that it would start getting very costly to keep that look around negating the use for the feature.

It would be nice if the pricing was to apply the stone to one item, converting it into a costume, meaning that whatever gear you placed into that slot would apply its stats but would look like the gear you “transmuted.” Think about it, if every slot had a costume slot and if the item turned gear from an actual piece of gear into a costume, then there would be no need or worry about transmuting it again making the price worth it for dedicated players.

Some feel that transmutations should be free or limited to being bought in-game only.

Over the past few years, cosmetic item slots have become a standard feature in other triple-A MMOGs. So the natural concern here is that if game mechanics that we take for granted in other titles will have a price tag attached to them in Guild Wars 2, is a line being crossed in terms of what the general gaming public considers to be acceptable microtransactions? Not necessarily in this case, since cosmetics don’t really alter your base ability to play a game based on your own motivation or skill levels. Even adding things like additional storage space is largely considered to be a “service” so long as the base space being offered in the game isn’t so limiting that it necessitates constant trips back to town to make room for loot which can greatly bog down a player’s overall enjoyment of a game.

Of course, it would also be really nice if items such as the transmutation stones were also available in the game as loot from events or obtainable by other in-game means. That would make the feature accessible to those who don’t want to or are unable to pay the money but at the same time make it worth it for players who need a stone now but don’t want to pay real world cash to get one.

We won’t really know what the prices are, what will be for sale, or how it will all work for awhile. However, with ArenaNet’s commitment to providing an amazing and fun game there is no way I could see this being the disaster that some foretell. It’s unfortunate that the concept of microtransactions for anything other than the accepted norms of character slots, server transfers or similar “service” items continues to spark controversy at the mere mention of their inclusion in an upcoming title. But until we have all of the facts, perhaps we should save our tinfoil hats for more important things like alien abductions or the impending zombie apocalypse.

What do you think? Will GW2 jump the shark over a cosmetic item or are people overreacting? Come to our community forums and share your thoughts.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Guild Wars 2 Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Xerin 1
Get in the bush with David "Xerin" Piner as he leverages his spectacular insanity to ask the serious questions such as is Master Yi and Illidan the same person? What's for dinner? What are ways to elevate your gaming experience? David's column, Respawn, is updated near daily with some of the coolest things you'll read online, while David tackles ways to improve the game experience across the board with various hype guides to cool games.