The last Guild Wars microtransaction released was the Mercenary Heroes item, where players can purchase mercenary hero slots to fill up with their own alternate characters. In other words, you can have a full party of, well… yous. ArenaNet even made sure to double-up the worth of all those costumes sitting in the wardrobe by making sure the mercenary heroes could be decked out in all the various regalia.
Previously I saw only unicorns and rainbows from this offering. It’s way more personal than elite. I’m the only one that’s going to care if my nearly six-year old man necromancer is in every party I use. It’s luxury, and it feel like it. This ties in with personalization; I can only analogize it to the difference between grilling a chuck steak and grilling a porterhouse. No one else cares what goes in your mouth. Finally, it wouldn’t affect gameplay…
Wait, what?! Ravious, you idiot. Can’t you see that people that pay ArenaNet’s tithe will get to roll a seven, count them seven, necromancer AI party? They are going to faceroll everything beacuase now the Guild Wars cash shop sells power! Well, my one-buttoned friend, the Live Team meme-god, Stumme, has a response. At the Guild Wars Wiki he writes:
[P]eople that purchase Mercenary Heroes are able to set their party lineup as they wish. That is true, regardless of how advantageous that is in actual execution. However, advantages like these are nothing new: it’s just the feature that is new, and thus the current song for a dance done many times before. The player that purchases Storage Slots has an advantage: most of the “true” wealth in our economy is held in items (ectos, Zaishen Keys, etc.) and thus being able to hold more means that, technically, you can amass more wealth than another player. Likewise, the person that buys additional campaigns enjoys numerous advantages: new professions, skills, and content. The person that owns only Prophecies is at a distinct technical disadvantage in the competitive game against someone that owns all campaigns. This, however, does not mean the person with all campaigns automatically wins, it only means they have access to more options than the Prophecies player. And yes, these are options that they paid for.
Stumme goes on to even contemplate that selling a profession in the Guild Wars in-game store would follow this precedent as long as this profession was not “empirically better” than the others. He briefly touches the slippery slope concept, but I felt Stumme went for the easy “sinister” target of selling “mandatory” powers. The next shade of gray, such as giving people the option of buying consumables, rather than constructing them in game was not discussed.
Yet ArenaNet has cash shop precedent. Tons of it. They’ve largely stayed away from nickel and dime purchases. Instead ArenaNet has focused on bigger purchases. Some of the items, like costumes and mercenary heroes, I feel are fairly priced, and others like storage panes, I feel are a bit overpriced. Looking at other MMOs with cash shops, it might be that with more nickel and dime purchases in Guild Wars, prices could afford to go down. Still, I would rather ArenaNet hold course (especially since I don’t have to buy their cash shop currency).
For Guild Wars 2 I would expect all the usual Guild Wars cash shop items like character slots, appearance changes, and storage. We know from last year that transmutation stones were going to be purchasable as a luxury item, which allowed players a one-time use to transfer stats from one armor to another. I would also bet, with good odds, that dye sets will be purchasable in the cash shop. I wouldn’t be surprised if some Guild Wars 2 dye sets might also be cash shop exclusive.
The buy-the-box business model is my favorite MMO model, but it requires sustainability for the business model to spread. My gut feeling is that Guild Wars potential as a sustainable service was not fully realized, and that is why their business model has not caught on. It feels like only in the last year or so ArenaNet has started to get cash shop sea legs thanks to the Live Team. My gut also thinks that Guild Wars 2 is going to be much more aggressive both in terms of optional purchases and content purchases. Now my gut wants that porterhouse…