There is a lot that was said in what will likely be a seminal blog article by ArenaNet’s co-founder Mike O’Brien. Fans are going to point to this piece for years, I would imagine. There are two major encircling themes in the post “philosophy” and “market.” O’Brien does a good job showing how ArenaNet envisions that the two will entwine in Guild Wars 2.
Philosophy is a hard sell. ArenaNet has been in the favor of “showing, not telling” for a long time. they continue to do so by letting press film video and discuss the experiences of Guild Wars 2 during the beta events. It’s tough when they are not ready to show, but feel pressed to tell, as is the case here.
O’Brien says that early testing of the Guild Wars 2 microtransaction system will be in this month’s beta test, so many NDA’d brethren will be able to see it. I am not sure if press will be able to discuss what they see. We can guess and argue all day as to what a “time-saving convenience item” will be such that it will not cross the pay-2-win “unfair advantage” line. Another philosophical debate better saved for another time.
What is important is that Guild Wars 2 will have a robust microtransaction system instead of an afterthought. ArenaNet is designing a full array of microtransactions from the get-go to launch with Guild Wars 2.
Whatever the microtransactions will be, there will be a gold-supported market to buy them from. ArenaNet will sell gems, the microtransaction currency to players for real money. Players can sell gems on a market for gold from other players. Gems and gold can be used for whatever. As is noted in the blog post, EVE’s PLEX system is very similar. The gem market is both fundamentally unexpected and interesting.
In most F2P MMOs the players with the most time spend the most money in the cash shop. ArenaNet turns this around and now the players with the most time can actually share this “time energy” with people with less time but some more money to burn. There will never be parity, but I would guess that this change actually has that most active, most vocal minority spending less money on Guild Wars 2 than another F2P cash-shop driven MMO. It will have the base of the pyramid spending more money than the top, which is quite a refreshing change, in my opinion.
The other thing is that players control the gem market, which controls the price of gold to real money, instead of real-world gold farmers. This change will not erase a black market run by gold farmers, but it will make it a lot harder for them to get real money for their wares. They have to work harder for less money, but this also puts account at higher risk. Hopefully ArenaNet is amping up account security measures because even if the accounts are harder to butcher, they also will appear
There is one critical difference too between PLEX and gems. In EVE, gold is vaporized every second. Inflation is critically controlled. Yes, miners mine all day turning time in to gold, but at the same time pirates and wars are turning gold into stardust. Except for WvW, I have seen very few gold sinks in Guild Wars 2.
I must say in Guild Wars, inflation has been pretty much kept in check with simple consumables and appearance items. The inflation constant is going to be higher in Guild Wars 2 as people are going to farm gold for gems instead of gold for… stardust. The gold will merely pass to the gem seller, who will be the one charged with using it or inflating the economy. I would say guilds with high-end gold projects would be something that could easily keep inflation down.
The philosophy of ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 microtransaction system is sound and can be very player empowering. It all comes down to execution. Some will see glimpses of it in the upcoming beta. Some might have to wait until after April 10th. That isn’t so long. To those that must debate, money is far stronger in telling someone what your money will do, instead of what it won’t.