Guild Wars 2 is an MMORPG with PvE and PvP, with some distinction for World-Versus-Word being separate from PvP, as the core game play elements. Did I mention PvP? When it first launched, I found myself at maximum level very quickly. The next task was dungeons and gearing. I was disappointed at the lack of content at that point in time, but I was able to get ‘exotic’ gear almost as quickly as I leveled. Then, I put the game down for well over a year. I recently came back to a still developing world with plenty of content.
The end-game currently can be grind heavy for the top tier Ascended gear since you need both the highest crafting skill per type of item you want to craft and the needed account-bound materials. Core of the materials needed to craft these high level items have time-locked refinement with only 1 output for a 24 hour period. The account bound nature and time-lock mechanics are interesting since you can be fairly competitive in non-ascended gearing, thus curtailing power creep to some degree.
In other ways it is like Archeage, except there is an admission fee of buying the game. This is a more traditional sort of experience and expectation where a player is buying a finished experience; however, the developer ArenaNet did post early on that the world is ‘living’ and much more content would be added over time. This sort of claim is kind of like a traditional game’s expansion, but typically this is not done in a ‘living’ world format but in discrete expansions. To my mind, this may be parts of the best of both worlds as players could reasonably expect small amounts of new content fairly frequently with larger expansions every so often. More to the point, this allows for ArenaNet to have some flexibility because they can have sale figures, profit projections, and continual funding from micro-transactions that enables them to continue to make content for players.
Still, there are quite a few items which can be bought as micro-transactions within the game itself. Some offer rather critical ability to equip more bags, buy more bank slots, and unlock additional character slots. Still, note that these are optional and not required to play this game at any level. But they are helpful to say the least, and will probably be targeted by any long term player for acquisition.
As previously highlighted, GW2 does have periodic updates, expansions, and new story lines that are micro-transaction based in a tiered pay system that allows players to choose the amount they want to pay for the content. Higher prices will give the same core game access as the lower tier purchase, but will typically include certain items and reduced price cash currency. Again, this does fit with the pay-for-entry model established at the launch of the game. With no clear end in sight, as long as I am playing GW2, I could see myself buying these updates for the enjoyment of new content. Again, it is not a necessity to pay any more than basic admission fees to play the game, but certain portions of the game will be offered to those willing to pay as content expands.
What I think GW2 does right are the extra utility and style options available for sale by micro-transactions. They are mostly superfluous and by no means need to be bought. These are items that you buy because you want to buy them. Even though they confer no bonus besides looking cool, I see a lot of people sporting style items. You could buy temporary buff items for a percentage gain of stats, most important being experience gains, but again, these items are completely optional. Best of all for those who want to play for free, with the exception of bags, bank, and character slots, most of the content can be earned or eventually accrued in the game by playing the game.
More interesting to me is the addition of gathering tools that are unbreakable sold in the micro-transaction marketplace. This is more of a convenience sell, much like the bags, bank, and account space, than a power sell to players. I don’t know how many times I was wandering about, found a resource node, and then realized I had run out of the harvesting tools. These convenience items are what other-than-style micro-transactions should be about: a small purchase that players can make that enhances game play without unbalancing it. I am fully behind these buys as players can choose to make them when they are ready and on their own terms. Or more importantly, they never have to purchase these options. Most importantly, these are choices that players should not feel compelled to make but rather choose to make freely.
In Archeage, to stay competitive, I was faced with decision to try to maximize my gearing to do better and in doing so was compelled to spend real money to keep up. In GW2, I picked it up after being absent from the game for over a year without feeling powerless or needing to purchase items to be competitive again. I even decided to buy the optional gathering tools because it was enjoyable to play the game and I do not mind spending money on things I enjoy. The best case for micro-transactions and something all game with micro-transactions should strive towards.
One of the more interesting systems in the game I have to write about is the conversion of cash currency directly into gold. I could see this as a valid attempt to limit gold selling in game or an option for those without time to get the most enjoyment out of the game. The other side of the coin is yet another method for getting money.
Still, I can appreciate the market-demand and feed-back loop that happens for the cash currency to gold and gold to cash currency in the market. Both sides of the exchange are taxed and balanced against the other. The buying of gems with gold creates a demand which is reflected in the gold value that gems can be sold. This mechanic also allows players who do not want to spend money to potentially buy typically micro-transaction-only items. While the needed amount of gold would be difficult to gather, it is conceivable for a player who wanted to play without paying beyond the price of the title to do so.
GW2 does micro-transactions right in many ways. When you buy something, you buy what you want with the cash currency without having to hand over money out of necessity. It is in my experience enjoyable rather than an agonizing extortion event. As I said before, I do not mind spending money on things that I enjoy. But stay around for my next post on micro-transactions as pure style elements and status symbols.