All joking aside, I think ArenaNet is making Guild Wars 2 work for its business model. Lost Shores is going to introduce permanent content, but ArenaNet wants fanfare. They want a crush of concurrency to surround the unveiling of that content. This is not a mistake either. ArenaNet is one of the few MMOs that can sustain itself on waveform player concurrency.
Conventional MMOs do have waveform player concurrency too, but it operates usually on huge expansions. It takes months to build up the excitement, and then it takes a month or so to go back down as players eat the expansions content up. Filled, they wander away. Most seem to rely on a plateau concurrency, especially subscription MMOs. Some players call it “grind”; some call it “end game treadmill”. Either way, conventional MMOs want consistency. They want a plateau of player activity even if it is always going to be slanting downhill.
ArenaNet wants consistency. With the Halloween update players got new events, mini-dungeons, and player events scattered throughout the world that would permanently remain. The Lost Shores update is also going to introduce a mid-size zone permanently and an “end game” dungeon. The water level is rising. However, except for the long haul required for an optional legendary weapon skin, there is no content requiring sustained “end game” activity. The consistency comes from playing how you want moreso than a traditional goal to achieve some golden carrot.
It appears that ArenaNet enjoys their ability to spike concurrency more than their MMO compatriots. Most MMOs cannot handle a content designer proclaiming every player in the game should head to one city. Most MMOs cannot handle a mad rush on a single mid-sized zone which players of any level can join. ArenaNet seems to enjoy pushing the idea of spike concurrency forward, but I think that was their intention in line with the buy-the-box business model all along.
I said they like concurrency spikes more in the last paragraph because they could have easily conceived of an “end game treadmill.” Blizzard has been perfecting the themepark endgame for nearly a decade. There is still “new” design space such as Turbine’s Hytbold requiring players to do daily quests for nearly two months to rebuild a personally-instanced town. ArenaNet’s parent NCSoft probably has libraries of information on grind design. ArenaNet decided that designing an endgame requiring plateau-like activity was not what they wanted. Admittedly, many players do want or need that, and lack of conventional “end game” has been a sore point.
I think that their consistent plateau activities will continue to rise similar in style to Guild Wars 1, but for the rest of the year at least I would expect spike activities to be the headliners. Lost Shores will provide a huge weekend event followed by sustained exploration of the new zone and dungeon, which will again raise the plateau activities to a degree. Then Wintersday will be another spike along, assuredly, with gem store offerings hopefully refined from the Halloween items. There are of course business reasons to drawing players back.
Players are used to patterns and for the most part in MMOs the pattern in the water has been having a subscribed interest. Could ArenaNet be training players to play Guild Wars 2 when they want, but to keep checking back for exciting spikes? It certainly seems that way to me in the short term. Then with each spike they raise the water level of more content just a bit. It is an interesting method of snagging player interest. Sustaining those spikes in 2013 is going to be the most telling factor, I think, of how well it works.