[GW] Cash Shop Thoughts

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…

–Ravious

15 thoughts on “[GW] Cash Shop Thoughts”

  1. My brain and my gut would like to agree with your assessment. I fear GW2’s shop will indeed be much more aggressive in the way you described. I hope they don’t go close to or over my pain treshold! :(

    I hope GW2 does not go LOTRO. LOTRO has become a very expensive game and some lifetime VIPS felt the permanent Turbine Point popups to be much too much. Besides the really high prices for most items in the store.

    ArenaNet should still take a look at Turbine’s shop model, but then I would like them to rather go the DDO route. I can’t go into detail without making this a posting of its own, but DDO’s shop is a lot better realized than LOTRO’s, despite being from the same company.

    And while I am not fond of the LOTRO store, it cost me already quite a lot of money and does what it is supposed to do very well: to make money for Turbine.

    1. Turbine’s shop is somewhat good and somewhat sloppy because I feel that there is too much nickel and dime’ing. (A much better, cleaner cash shop I feel is W101’s.)

      I can imagine it being frustrating to not know exactly what you have to buy to play. You have to buy content. You have to buy money caps. There are power items to buy. Etc.

      ArenaNet has been very forward with what to buy and what to get. It’s simple and clean, and I hope that even with GW2 being more aggressive that it doesn’t go that sloppy nickel and dime’ing route.

  2. The mix I like to see is Content>Cosmetic>Convenience, and if the game is set up that there is no need for convenience items then all the better. As soon as the balance swings in the favour of convenience items, then it gets messy. I don’t know what it is, but if the offerings can be seen at a glance and the player is not left overwhelmed by the myriad of options, it’s kinda equivalent to clean, streamlined interface.

    Turbine seems to have gone over board with the cash shop in Lotro, there is so much convenience items to remove some of the worse grind that it overshadows all the rest, and they oversell it at every turn (I swear the new buyable LI tabs were positioned so near the close screen button on purpose, on account of the ammount of times I’ve accidently pressed it). One recent example of how not to do things was to make the relic removal scroll cash shop only, in the process removing functionality from the game that was readily available previously.

    As for Arenanet, at the moment I want to give them some money but nothing is really compelling. I don’t think having all necros in a party is that much of an advantage, because having at least 1 or 2 mesmers, or a paragon, or a smiter, or ER prot, or some dervishes are great too. I’d say having all the campaigns or access to all the skills is a greater advantages than mercenary slots.

    1. Well, most of the ‘OMG OP’ I’ve seen associated with the 7-merc builds in GW are actually x4 or x5 mesmer builds. The 7 necro build is so widely agreed to be overrated that it might not be overrated anymore.

      1. Meh, you can already do 4 Hero mesmers (a mate and I trashed Destructions Depths with this combo). The only difference is that now you can do it with a single PC rather than two.

  3. I’m playing LOTRO and quite enjoy it; I don’t think the cash shop is horrible, I do think it’s much better than Runes of Magic. I do feel the quest packs are overpriced, though. What I like best about the LOTRO model is how the cash shop currency is earnable IN GAME. (I also think the subscription is a decent deal with the bonus points per month.)

    Having said that, I’ll agree they put too many store buttons all over the place.

  4. I dunno, I hope that we won’t see basic things such as dyes, being b2d, hope that they’ll just push up the price on “rare” dye’s, black `n white in gw.
    but nevertheless, I think that we’ll see a much more aggressive ingamestore as well, but nothing that’ll be a game changer. one the things that I thought would be really limited was the character slots, but in an interview, anet said that they didn’t want people to worry about not having enough slots.
    and considering that the skills system is different, (character obtainable wise) as well there won’t be heroes/henchies/merc, and no exp boost sh*t,
    it actually makes me wonder, exactly what kind’a cash shop it’ll be

    1. You actually unlock dyes account wide in GW2, then can use those colors on all your characters unlimited times (dyes are no longer items).
      N.B. They are aiming to whittle down to 254 hues (from 3,500!) for release, so the black dye/white dye craze will be a phenomenon of the past. ^_^

      I think the most likely cash shop implementation would be short-cutting the process, so you can just acquire the most expensive (be it karma or tokens) or elusive (e.g. obscure collection reward) sets on day 1 if you like – similar to buying a PvP skill unlock bundle in GW1.

      Some implementation seems assured, since the Live and Let Dye blog entry says “dye hues themselves will be unlockable through various means, both in-game and out” – I cannot think of a more likely out of game avenue than the cash shop.

      As to what’s likely:
      * T-stones [confirmed]
      * Dye sets [confirmed-ish]
      * Character slots (even if initial allocation is generous there’ll still be demand)
      * Make-over credits/extreme make-over credits
      * Character re-name credits
      * Possibly guild re-name credits, if guilds have levels etc this time
      * Costumes, though likely not at launch

      1. I was simply using gw as a reference, as I have read the dye blog.
        as in rare dyes might just be very hard to obtain

  5. I’d have to admit, that quote from Stumme does feel to me to be a little sinister. It’s true that additional campaigns and expansions grant advantages, but these tend to be something you have a reasonable assumption that the players who care abot that would be buying regardless, while not presenting the opportunity to milk customers the way microtransactions can. From a purely economical side they tend to represent better value for money for the customer, too – consider what you get from an expansion and think about what that would cost using microtransactions pricing. With costumes pricing at seven dollars a pop, buying the armours available in a GW1 campaign alone would probably cost more than the asking price of the campaigns under the microtransaction model, even with a bulk discount. The noises coming from ANet makes it sound disturbingly like they’re positioning themselves towards going entirely to a microtransaction-based model after the initial release… and unless the prices come down from the precedents the GW1 shop has shown, expect that to prove significantly more expensive for the same content than an expansion-based model.

    Where the line gets drawn for me is when the presence of microtransactions leads to game design decisions being made in order to push players into hitting up the shop. For instance, if ANet was deliberately making it so necromancers were better heroes than other professions to make mercenaries more attractive, that would qualify. Disturbingly, whle it’s unclear if it’s deliberate or the result of other decision-making processes, there are some hints that they have started down that slope in the plethora of stuff-to-fill-your-inventory that’s come out since it became possible to buy more inventory space – zaishen coins, for instance, could possibly have been implemented more simply as another type of faction that can be exchanged for the rewards, but instead we get the coins taking up inventory space while generally being more “fiddly” then a different way of doing things might be.

    1. there are some hints that they have started down that slope in the plethora of stuff-to-fill-your-inventory that’s come out since it became possible to buy more inventory space – zaishen coins, for instance, could possibly have been implemented more simply as another type of faction that can be exchanged for the rewards, but instead we get the coins taking up inventory space while generally being more “fiddly” then a different way of doing things might be.

      But then in a stroke of genius, they enable you to buy more space with those same coins, in the form of equipment bags. I’d agree with you completely if it weren’t for that fact.

      It’s going to be a tight rope to walk, for certain.

  6. I have avoided games with MT shops up until coming across GW2… although I’m very anxious about it, I’m willing to make an exception for GW2 because everything I’ve seen so far about it’s development is basically what I’ve been wishing for in an MMO.

    However,

    They are on an incredibly SHORT F***ing leash, and the first time I see anything for sale that is even remotely ‘pay to win’ or makes me feel that I’m at a severe disadvantage because I haven’t purchased it then that will be the last day I log in.
    (I actually plan to try to support the company by making regular purchases in roughly the amount I would spend on a subscription even though I couldn’t care less about the cosmetic crap… just make sure it STAYS cosmetic…)

    (MTs were created by people who enjoying torturing puppies in front of small children… I’m willing to sell part of my soul for GW2 and use earplugs to deal with the sound of puppies crying… but only up to a point…)

  7. What I’d like to see in the cash shop would be real life usable items which you could buy on line based on in game acheivement.
    For example.. After leveling up in bar brawls and beating so many pple it would unlock the ability to buy an epic beer mug which would be shipped to your house. Only those who did the in game achievement would be able to buy the real life usable trophy (beer mug).

    1. now that would be cool. i remember Anet did the survey of what to sell and for whatever reason they still haven’t implemented any of the real life stuff people wanted. They really should take a look at that.

  8. Wonderful article as usual and since nobody mentioned it I will reply with bon’ apatite well deserved :)

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