[GW2] Player Concurrency – Water Level Vs. Waveform

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.


10 thoughts on “[GW2] Player Concurrency – Water Level Vs. Waveform”

  1. Arenanet must be doing something right, because I’m still playing it a month after I hit the cap with no signs of fatigue. For the most part, and I know Im in the minority on this, new content rarely interests me; mostly because I know it’s just upping the grind, but ArenaNets makes them feel like actual events, not “here’s a new grind for you” type of content.

    1. Yes ditto. Haven’t been in Orr in days but have not had a problem finding something to do either. Recently bought my 2nd bank slot with a $20 gem purchase, and actually was happy to do it instead of coerced like LOTRO seems to do. More clever players make their gem store purchases via playing the market and good on then for it. I do wonder how Anet is going to siphon money their way in the next few months as there is really no reason to buy anything at the moment if you aren’t into the whole costume thing (although Anet does those like no other!!).

  2. And with each spike, there is perhaps more interest to buy gems, for say, special event items or costumes or minis or black lion keys or what-have-you. Yeah, the model might indeed work out well for them. Sub MMOs need plateaus for retention, GW2 just needs to capitalize off players’ gotta-have-it-now desires.

    1. That’s my key question for the game:

      Do player concurrency spikes really increase RMT and box sales?

      Would I buy cosmetic gear or experience boosts if I was just logging in to see a one-off event animation?

      1. If it were just a one-off event animation, perhaps not. But let us say, if each event created new items that people might want to hoard or store, that 600 gem extra bank tab slot might start to look mighty tempting.

        And from the example of Halloween, they’ve created specific stuff to sell in the store that people might want to collect. If Wintersday doesn’t have similar things, I’ll be very surprised.

  3. The “pile everyone into the same city” thing is a bit misleading. It’s not like you will actually see more players in one area, you will just have more overflow zones, and whether there is one overflow or 10, it makes no difference to the players (other than making it harder to play with your friends/guild).

    I’d also keep in mind that GW2 is still in the early stages, where some of this content was no doubt set to be included at release, but cut so ‘frequent updates’ could be made shortly after release. Lets see what the pace is like after 6 months or so.

    1. Yeah, at this point all we can do is speculate about content design timing. I think I take the opposite opinion as you though. Some of the basic underpinnings of this content may have been worked on pre-launch, but my guess is that a large portion of it was started and finished post-launch. Again, it’s just an opinion without much weight, but I guess time will tell.

  4. What surprised me on release was how much content the game already had. They could easily have had an extensive PvE endgame if they’d pitched some of that content at level cap, instead of providing so many different ways of getting there. And much of the levelling content remains largely unplayed now, whilst people scrabble for gold and Karma in Cursed Shore.

    1. But that is their loss. Unless you go for World Completion as the only way to reach 80, as in not killing more than necessary and not crafting at all, you still have half the world or more to discover, not just Cursed Shore.

      “But… the farm!”

      Why the rush? The game is not going anywhere, and you can experience more content that is already there, instead of sitting on a pile of gold waiting for the next patch. The gold and karma will come anyway, and you don’t need full exotics or bank tabs to enjoy the content.

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