The short story-
Guild Wars 2 is an up-and-coming Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG, or MMO for short) that is currently being developed by ArenaNet. It has no announced release date at this time, but it has been confirmed that the company plans to undergo closed beta testing some time this year. Guild Wars 2 will not have a subscription fee to play; you buy the box, and can play for free from then on. ArenaNet has confirmed that there will be microtransactions in the game, but they have assured the public that it will be similar to those found in Guild Wars- cosmetic items that do not affect gameplay.
The long story-
First- I need to get a few answers to common questions out of the way. Yes, there is jumping in Guild Wars 2. Unlike its predecessor (Guild Wars or GW), Guild Wars 2 will feature a fully persistent world for everyone to explore together. There will be no subscription fee for GW2. I know I just said that last one last paragraph, but it seems that people have a hard time getting that message. Perhaps the third time will be the charm: There will be no subscription fee for GW2.
Now that we have that out of the way, its time to get to the meat of why GW2 is such a big deal. Being an MMO, Guild Wars 2 has many things that MMO players have come to expect: multiple races, numerous professions (classes), an open world, a form of “questing”, a large level progression, competitive and casual PvP, crafting and many others. What makes Guild Wars 2 so fantastic is that ANet has taken the initiative to step back and really examine the anatomy of the MMO space. What worked well in GW1, and what didn’t work? What parts of MMOs are fun? What parts of MMOs do people hate? What do MMOs not provide that players want, or never knew they wanted? What parts are important, and what parts are simply there because of tradition? And finally, Why?
ArenaNet is not afraid to dismantle common themes in MMOs, and they are not afraid to take big risks. Risk taking in the MMO genre is extremely rare, and it is easy to understand why. MMOs are some of the most difficult games to develop, they are extremely costly, many MMOs have been complete flops in the last decade, and making something that sticks to a formula is not only easier, it is safer. Perhaps that is the problem though. Sticking to the formula not only makes new games feel stale despite their unique aspects, it also drags up the inevitable comparison to that MMO. When it comes down to it, WoW has millions and millions of active players that have been playing for years. Even though people may get somewhat bored with it, the fact of the matter is that they have invested hundreds and thousands of hours and a good chunk of money into one game, and anything that feels like that game just reminds them of how much they enjoyed WoW, and all the good times they had. Why invest in a new world when Azeroth is still there. Perhaps just as important, why double down on subscription fees when it is very difficult to maintain the time investment of two MMOs at the same time?
These are all reasons that having no subscription fee is brilliant. A game with no sub-fee is just like a console game. If you want to take a break, you don’t feel guilty about wasting your money that you have spent this month. Many players have a very hard time letting go of their investments, which is why the monthly fee is so profitable. If you have already spent $200 on subscriptions, it makes it hard to stop paying and potentially lose that investment forever. On the flip-side however, it also means that when a person finally does decide that they are done paying, it becomes immeasurably more difficult to regain that customer. After getting to the point where you say “Enough is enough”, it takes a hell of a lot to bring you back. Take GW1 as a contrast. Many players played hundreds or even thousands of hours of content. Some did it all at once and then stopped from sheer exhaustion. Many people however did it in shorter stints, and kept coming back. Real life intervenes with all these annoying things like your job, your family, your friends, or just plain bad luck and stress. When those things happen, GW players feel fine just putting down the game for awhile and coming back when they feel like it. Even to this day, years after core content stopped being created (after Eye of the North), thousands of people log on once in awhile because they want to have fun on a holiday celebration in game, the new Guild Wars Beyond content, or simply because they miss Tyria.
Subscription fees actually have some fairly insidious aspects to them. As one might expect, they bring in a ton of revenue. More revenue than is necessary to maintain the server administration costs by an enormous degree in fact. The justification that sub-fees are for ongoing costs is a myth, at least in this day and age. Now, I don’t begrudge companies that have subscriptions. I’m not jealous of their success, I want everyone to succeed. That said, I feel that the problem with sub-fees is that they allow you to be lazy with your development attitude because people keep paying even when you aren’t putting new things out. They encourage addictive behavior because people who are addicted will keep paying. They encourage massive time sinks so that people feel like there is so much more to do, so they should keep p(l)aying. All of that is often summed up in one word: Grind. You’ve just spent 100 hours getting that +1 sword of awesome sauce, so now you can spend more time to get that +2 sword of awesome sauce, and so on until you finally get that +1337 sword of uber awesome sauce… then the expansion hits and you suddenly instantly get a weapon drop that is way better than the one you wasted all that time to get, and you can start on the treadmill again.
Fortunately ANet doesn’t agree with this philosophy, and doesn’t need to use it because of the lack of subscription fees. If they want more money, they need to put out content that we, the consumers, think is worth paying for. Now, some readers will be quick to point out that there is “grind” in GW1. I would like to politely disagree because I feel there is a different principle at work. Spending a lot of time to get something purely cosmetic is a way to show off status, but it doesn’t make you any stronger or more viable for any given content, and it certainly doesn’t make you more skilled. It is optional content that you can work towards, and people recognize it. The difference is what is required to function properly in content. If you can’t access content because you don’t have “teh 1337 gearzorz” and you need to spend hundreds of hours getting it just so you have the privilege of trying new content, then that is what I am defining as bad Grind. How much time and repetition is considered to be Grindy? The problem is that nobody agrees.
There are a ton of other reasons why Guild Wars 2 is going to be awesome, but this post is getting pretty long, so I’m going to cut it off here. Further posts will elaborate more on the other things I mentioned here, and many other aspects of the game.