For whatever reason ArenaNet decided to wait two and a half years before announcing an expansion for GW2. Chances are, a full three years will have passed before money changes hands for that expansion, pre-orders notwithstanding.
By contrast, before the first Guild Wars game reached its third birthday, it had received no fewer than four boxed expansions or "Campaigns". All of them were offered for sale both online and in bricks and mortar stores and there was a fifth, digital download only, Mission Pack. Two of the expansions even had premium-priced Collectors' Editions.
Another expansion was in the pipeline when Anet suddenly changed track. That expansion, which would have been called Utopia, apparently grew so out of hand in scale and ambition that nothing but a full new game would do it justice.
The problem came with the bi-annual development cycle ANet had been running up until then. To quote the PC Gamer article in which ArenaNet co-founder Jeff Strain and game designer Eric Flannum were interviewed, "What the team felt it couldn’t do was implement its exciting new ideas in the game’s current campaign-every-six-months plan. While the promise of fresh standalone content twice a year sounds great to players, its requirements have actually caused Guild Wars to become somewhat convoluted from a game-design perspective."
Strain explained the decision thus: "We don’t want to make complicated games. We want to make fun, easy-to-grasp games that are easy to get into and not frontloaded with complexity."
Let's pause a moment to savor the irony...
|First sighting of the Nageling Giant - Beta 2012|
As a result of this new perspective, instead of continuing with the "make a box, sell a box, make another box" routine, development on Guild Wars was effectively sidelined in favor of making a new MMO entirely - Guild Wars 2. Assets from the discontinued project were rolled into the less ambitious, final Guild Wars expansion, Eye of the North. From then on the lion's share of development resources went into the new game.
Guild Wars continued to receive live updates and new content right up until the launch of its successor, at which point it was put into maintenance mode and mothballed. That in itself must have given ANet and NCSoft some considerable data on how much money a B2P game that isn't producing new boxes can be expected to generate.
In fact the change of emphasis pobably generated a lot more data than anyone expected. At the time the announcement was made in the spring of 2007 ANet estimated there'd be a GW2 beta in 2008 and a launch within two years. In the end the beta and launch both had to wait until 2012, twice as long as they'd optimistically anticipated.
Whatever financial metrics were produced during the near five-year gap between the final boxed product for Guild Wars and the one and only GW2 box sale they were apparently encouraging enough to convince someone that a B2P MMO could survive and prosper without producing anything for people to buy. Except, of course, the fripperies of an in-game cash shop.
It did always seem far-fetched. Guild Wars, after all, had more to rely on than just the one original box for those seven years. Chez Bhagpuss, we bought the original game just after release, played it, enjoyed it and moved on. When the buzz around GW2 led us to dip back into the original game again we could just have re-installed from our original discs but instead we both bought the collected edition with all the expansions.
No doubt over the years many returning players re-invested in various combinations of single and combined packs and many new players worked their way through the sequence a box at a time. GW2, by comparison, has had nothing further to offer its 3.5m customers past that initial purchase. Under the circumstances the line on that chart seems to have held up passably well but clearly something had to change.
|Three years and a dozen characters later: he's still there and so am I.|
The dirty little secret that no-one wants to admit is that people like buying things. Yesterday I spent about £15 of my substantial Amazon credit on a copy of The Elder scrolls Online. It's an MMO I didn't even care enough about to bother downloading at open beta because it uses a combat style I dislike and is set in a continuity for which I have little affection. Nevertheless, now I know the subscription is going away, a purchase seems not just reasonable but inevitable.
Pasduil calls such behavior Buy To Not Play and he makes a very good point. I do have no real intention of playing TESO . On the other hand the screenshots do look pretty so I'll probably have fun running around for a while, maybe get a few blog posts out of it so, what the heck, let's give it a shot. Why not?.
In that fashion Zenimax have been able to get money from me they never would have had otherwise. Chances are it will be all they'll get but who knows? If the game gets a hook into me I could end up buying some of the DLC they've already confirmed will form part of their ongoing B2P offer. The B2P model opens up a door the subscription kept firmly closed.
ArenaNet, on the other hand, will have had my custom for thousands of hours before they get another penny from me. They went with a B2P model that was all P and no B. I would willingly have paid them real money, either for DLC or new boxes, long ago but they have stubbornly declined to give me that option. Instead they've chosen to pump out free content of very dubious quality and cash shop offers of very negligible interest. Everyone loses.
After fifteen years of first playing and paying and latterly playing and not paying for this wonderful hobby, y'know what, game developers? Why not let me give you money for content. That way just works. It really does.
I liked that "Buy An Expansion Every Six to Twelve Months" thing you used to do. It was the best of all the myriad payment models you've tried. Why don't you go with it? What's more, now you aren't asking for a monthly subscription fee there's a passing chance I'll buy your new Expansion or Pack or Campaign or whatever the heck you're calling it even if I really don't have time to play your game!
Stop giving away the product for nothing! Make something at least halfway decent on a timely schedule and then sell it to me - in a box or a download I really don't care. I'll snap your hand off. Enough with the all the faffing around. Take my money already!
Carbine? You're up next!