Chris Lye of ArenaNet has done an interview hosted on theverge.com where he addresses ArenaNet’s rather unusual pricing model, the same they used for the original Guild Wars. This is in the context of the sometimes heated discussions about subscription vs free-to-play, a discussion that was really ramped up by Turbine’s freemium model and has recently reignited with Bioware’s announcement of a similar model for SWTOR.
I actually really like the pay to own (P2O) model, it speaks to me as a PC desktop gamer of many, many years. You investigate a game, maybe play a trial, then buy it and play it – that’s it, no money-syncs for content you don’t necessarily even want. This whole subscription trap that we’ve ended up in – thanks to Blizzard, SoE and others – seems to me to represent ever decreasing value.
With the sub model, I buy the game, sub-up and then play – at a minimum the company should keep the servers running and fixes bugs. But there’s also the implied expectation with MMORPGs that as part of the sub we get new content regularly too; updates, patches, mini-expansions whatever you want to call them. That’s the problem I have with the current status quo. Many MMO companies such as Turbine or SoE have had a tendancy to miss their own content release especially in more more recent years. Blizzard have had a laughably lax content release schedule for WoW since late in the TBC era, with fewer and fewer patches containing progressively less quality content. Yet these companies continue to take money from subscribers on a monthly, quarterly or longer basis. We can ‘vote with our wallets’ and quit if a developer doesn’t deliver on content but then with few exceptions all developers have been all pretty much as bad as one another.
In my limited experience Trion is the only company currently running a subscription MMO that is actually delivering regularly on content and most importantly has continued to do so after the first 3-6 months after launch. Some may argue about the quality or balance of features in those updates, in my case the content took a radical departure from the core gameplay and thus away from why I liked the game in the first place (open world public content), but I must admit that Trion has set new records for reliably regular content releases.
How Guild Wars 2 continues post launch will be very interesting. Guild Wars 1 does have a pretty good pedigree regarding free content patches, a whole host of nice festivals to offer cosmetics and time-limited daily activities and of course the paid for expansions (called campaigns) that added a whole new setting and storyline to the game each time.
Will GW2 just have updates or will there be expansions in the future? In a sense I hope that GW2 really shakes up the industry, I’m not expecting a ‘WoW-killer’ here of course. But I want their payment model to continue to succeed, and in this case be seen as a financial success based on the investment they made to make the game. Why? Well because companies churning out subscription MMO games and very lazy follow-up content schedules AND, equally, free to play companies spending just a little too much of their development time on expensive ‘sparkle pony’ or ‘random lock-box‘ content for the item shops could both do with a wake-up call.