In light of the recent patch and of course ongoing criticisms, I thought I would give my thoughts on these issues. There has been a lot of controversy on ArenaNet’s decisions, discontent with the content released or lack thereof, and just dissatisfaction from players whose demands aren’t met. First, change will always be met with resistance as not everyone will agree with them. Second, it’s debatable but considering the scope of the game, ArenaNet has released quite a bit of content considering what resources they have available. Third, not everyone is going to get what they want because they don’t want all want the same things. The customer is always right except when you have many customers and they can’t really agree on what they want.
It’s necessary to consider different viewpoints when looking at things. First, it gives you a better understanding of the issue at hand. Second, it actually makes your argument stronger when you have acknowledged and defeated opposing views. I’ve put together a number of topics that I see coming up quite regularly on the forum. Each of these topics can probably use their own threads but is important here is putting things in perspective.
The New Player Experience
Let’s address the elephant in the room first. A lot of veteran players have expressed their dissatisfaction with the direction that ArenaNet has taken with the leveling experience for new characters. I won’t go in the details of this as there are already numerous threads that discuss this. Just to be clear, I don’t agree with the changes myself but I can see why ArenaNet felt that they were necessary.
Khong Zhong may be the distributor of Guild Wars 2 in China and they may even be responsible for maintaining the server infrastructure but ArenaNet is most likely still responsible for development of the game. It’s pretty well known by now that the Chinese version of Guild Wars 2 is quite different than the one most of us have been playing. Many of you may have come to the conclusion that ArenaNet’s reason for making these changes is not actually to help new players but to make the North American/European version the same as the Chinese version. The question then is “why would they do this?”.
This would allow ArenaNet to consolidate Chinese client with the North American/European client. Maintaining two separate clients would have used up a lot of resources- resources that could go towards creating new content and adding new features. It would not be surprising if having to code two clients at the same time is the reason there has not been much progress in terms of content in the game. It’s unlikely that you will hear such a justification from ArenaNet as it is not very good marketing. However, they most likely made the decision to go ahead with the changes even knowing that they would be unpopular because they felt it was what would be best for the game. Unfortunately, only time will tell.
Emphasis on the Gem Store
It’s probably obvious already that ArenaNet is a business. What many take for granted is that the goal of a business is not only to make profit but to actually keep itself running. I do not know how much money it takes to run a company with 300 plus employees like ArenaNet does but we can probably do a very rough estimate. If we assume that the average employee makes $50,000/year and we multiply that by say 310 employees it would indicate that it takes $15,500,00 (or more than $15 million) per year just to keep everyone employed. We’re not factoring in things like building lease, utilities, infrastructure, and other expenses. It could easily go up to $18 million per year. ArenaNet needs to make at least that amount just to avoid losing money. I’m talking about making profit; that’s how much they need just to stay in the black. Like I said, this is just a very rough estimate but it gives you an idea of what happens on the business end of things.
To keep their cash flow going, ArenaNet charges players for the game client and if players so choose, items and upgrades in a cash shop. They don’t charge a subscription fee so there is no guaranteed revenue. Given all this, it would not be unreasonable at all for cosmetic upgrades to be available for purchase with real money. In fact, it would not even be unreasonable if cosmetic upgrades were only available in the gem store. However, that is not the case as we have seen skins being released in the game and outside the gem store. Furthermore, because they are not relying entirely on the free to play model, ArenaNet has the luxury of allowing players to purchase cash shop items with the in-game currency. This actually reduces the revenue the gem store that would otherwise have been made if real money was mandatory. Let’s not forget that the current largest MMORPG will charge you for the client, will charge you a monthly subscription, and on top of all that has a cash shop with items that you can only purchase with real money. With everything considered, ArenaNet is completely justified in putting so much emphasis on the gem store.