GW2 Microtransactions

Microtransactions are a polarizing subject.  Some people equate them with a “Free to Play” system, and some view all microtransactions as a pure form of evil. Others, like me, view them as a line that can be walked gracefully.  If done correctly, I believe that microtransactions can be a great boon to the player’s experience and the developer’s bottom line.

Mike O’Brien of ArenaNet wrote very broadly about how microtransactions will come into play in Guild Wars 2.

Here’s our philosophy on microtransactions: We think players should have the opportunity to spend money on items that provide visual distinction and offer more ways to express themselves. They should also be able to spend money on account services and on time-saving convenience items. But it’s never OK for players to buy a game and not be able to enjoy what they paid for without additional purchases, and it’s never OK for players who spend money to have an unfair advantage over players who spend time. [Source]

Aside from the part that says “time-saving convenience items” being very ambiguous and possibly exploitable by ArenaNet, this explanation sounds solid to me.  I am 100% in support of companies creating cosmetic items/upgrades/enhancements for purchase.  I see this as a different skin for your League of Legends character, or to be more relevant a cool glow for your sword or emblem for your shield.  These things make players feel unique and look how they want; they add a ‘specialness’ that creates a sense of fondness for the player.

Blizzard sells mounts like the sparkly pony, cute non-combat pets, and account services such as name changes to their players.  I find these forms of microtransactions acceptable and in no way related to the types of microtransactions found in Lord of the Rings Online’s Cash Shop.  Turbine sells advantage to players, and that would be the line I mentioned earlier.  That’s why microtransactions can be such a devious monster.  When first implemented, they can be truly cosmetic, but later the insidious side slithers in to corrupt the game.  I hope ArenaNet is true to their word.

Another side of a microtransaction system like this is the ability to sell the currency used in the shop on the in-game market for gold.  Mike mentions the similarity to EVE’s plex system.  I like this idea and I think it will help keep the GW2 economy alive.

My fingers are crossed and I have my hopes up that ArenaNet is capable of sticking to their convictions.

  • It will be interesting to see what else they sell besides the cosmetic stuff. I loved the minipets in the first game & would gladly purchase at least one.

  • What about cosmetic items that need to be unlocked through gameplay? That could be frustrating…if you get a certain acievement that is very difficult and rare and you unlock an item that you can purchase but which is just cosmetic…

  • @Argorius: Cosmetic upgrades through gameplay are something I also support. I’m a fan of doing away with gear treadmills and implementing cosmetic rewards instead.

  • Just to clarify because I think wasn’t clear hehe…I meant purchasable cosmetic items that you unlock via gameplay. Imagine you play WOW and at the end of the season you are No. 1…your reward is that you unlock this cool armor set…but you actually have to buy it in a microtransaction. Gameplay just unlocked the ability to buy it.

  • From what they have in the GW1 shop I’m not overly concerned with what they will add. Especially with people like me that are altoholics. Though I can’t see my needing an additional 27 character slots (which I read that 35 was the maximum amount).

    I guess we’ll see though when we get into the game at the end of April at least or with some data that “may” come from the beta at the end of this month.

  • Cosmetic, fine, time saver, not fine. . .anyone play Allod’s at launch when the only way you could get rid of the rez debuff was thru the cash shop? That was technically just a time saver, I uninstalled Allod’s Online 2 seconds after I realized that you couldn’t get rid of it any other way. Even though they caved and took it out later, no 2nd chances for design decisions that dumb, never played Allod’s again.

  • “anyone play Allod’s at launch when the only way you could get rid of the rez debuff was thru the cash shop? That was technically just a time saver”

    You won’t be able to buy anything you could not earn through spending time. That’s a little different from just a straight time-saver. That would mean Allods would have to give you some way to earn that rez debuff in-game in order to be a GW2 equivalent.

  • @Arg: I am fine with that. It still will be a player’s choice to buy it. I am all for providing money to ArenaNet to keep providing content. The main difference here from other MT games (Allods comes to mind) is that I would feel good about spending my money on frivolous items at my discretion as opposed to feeling manipulated into the purchase to remain competitive. If there is an item I want through an achievement then I can choose to pursue that knowing ahead of time that I want to buy it with rl $.

    @Keen: I assume that by “time-saving convenience items” they mean exp-boosting items and potentially specialty mounts.

  • As pointed out in a comment over at GWInsider, time saving convenience could be stuff like access to your bank from anywhere in the world (look at the 5 use item in the prepurchase package), access to AH from anywhere, etc.

  • I really hope you are right on this one, Keen. But the quote itself can easily be interpreted to be exactly the same as Turbine’s policy in LOTRO.

    In LOTRO, you can earn turbine points to spend in the store in game without spending real money. Furthermore, most if not all of the items (like permanent stat boosts) that you can buy in the store which give your character an advantage drop in game. The chance may be ludicrously small, but they technically can drop.

    Like it or not, spending money on ANYTHING in LOTRO is a time saving convenience. Anything that you can buy with money you can also buy with time spent grinding points in game. In that sense, Turbine’s model fits with a reasonable interpretation of the quote in your post.

    I’ve noticed that a lot of people are reading this to say that the GW2 microtransaction system won’t be anything like the one in LOTRO. I really sincerely hope that is the case. But I don’t think this quote materially affects the likelihood of that outcome in any way.

  • Let’s be cautious. That’s exactly what Turbine promised when LOTRO first went “free to play”. We all know how it ended (today, you buy armor and end game boosts (notably for legendary weapons) with the in game shop).

  • One big concern with the system is that it essentially allow people to spend real life money to purchase things like guild influence (which can make you better in both WvW and PvE) and rare skin drops that is supposed to take long time to get.

    For me, that really does give people who spend money an advantage beyond just cosmetic stuff.

  • The GW2 cash shop will not introduce an Allods-esque disaster…if I recall correctly that was a significant rez debuff in-game that required you to purchase pots from the CS in order to simply be able to play your character effectively. It was a blatant cash grab that would have forced players into dropping $30-$50 a month just to maintain a competitive toon within the game.

  • Overall, I think it’s going to be interesting to see how the Gems to Gold conversion rate turns out…remember that there is only a single AH for the entire game (cross-server). In theory pending demand someone could spend quite a bit of money on gems, turn that gold, and then use that gold to manipulate the economy/overall gameplay in a number of ways (cornering the market on crafting resources, buying WvW vendor items, etc.). Arenanet may need to implement some controls on how many gems can be bought from the cash shop on a monthly basis and/or make sure that the items contained within the cash shop are pure vanity thus making sure the demand does not get out of whack (driving up prices). I like the model but it will be interesting to see how it plays out within the game.

  • Proximo beat me to it. There was a good discussion over on Gamebreakers Guildcast about this. I think there will be a lot of people purchasing the digital deluxe edition and having a quality of life item like the golem banker by your side will make it easy to not ever worry about running out of bag room for a while, then your 5 days are up. Already used to such an item I could see the want to purchase it from the store.

    The question then becomes… Will it be a permanent item that you can buy account wide for yourself, just your character or will it actually be a rental of 5 days for $.99c for e.g.? Just speculating. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  • Sorry Keen, but starting a “f2p” mmorpg with the buying/selling of in game gold does not look good.

    This reeks of LotRO. I’m expecting you to man up on this one.

    I know you’re excited about GW2 and I was too but don’t make me have to take your man card away on this one.

  • Don’t you have to differentiate between a subscription based game selling items on top of their subscription like WOW and the F2P games, who sell items instead of a subscription like LOTRO and EQ1+2. I don’t see that LOTRO and EQ -subscribers- are forced into a pay-to-win situation.

  • @Gank

    From what I read no plans for mounts in the near future. The fast travel system pretty much makes them pointless for the most part.

  • @Jim: I’m speaking 100%, without any deviation, at a system designed to sell ONLY cosmetic upgrades. The moment you deviate one iota from that system, I will have a HUGE problem and I’ll be the first to froth at the mouth.

    And, as I pointed out, if they exploit the “convenience items” terminology, I will have a problem.

    GW2 is not “Free to play”. You have to spend $60 to buy the game. You are paying to play. There is no subscription fee, though. I think it’s important to note that WoW makes millions and millions and MILLIONS from their shop and they only sell cosmetics. ArenaNet will undoubtedly sell paid expansions and make millions and millions more. They’ll be profitable without having to abuse a cash shop system.

  • @Dawn: Oh wow (excuse my language) interesting. Now that you mention it I remember something about ports; does anyone know how these work? Would a mount still be beneficial to get around between ports or can one just click in a hearthstone fashion from on the map to travel to a port?

    @Jim: What Keen said… 🙂

  • @Gank

    I “think” that once you travel to a place that the icon goes on your map to do quick travel. I seem to remember it on one of Gamebreaker’s videos that came out of the Press Beta weekend.

    I also remember that there was a dev interview somewhere where they mentioned it because I know the dev stated something to the effect that if you fast travel you take the chance at missing all the stuff happening in the world. As in special encounters, xp gain, and dynamic events and such.

    Actually it might be the same interview where they stated that mounts wouldn’t be in the game right away due to fast travel but may go in later just as a “trophy” type store add-in.

  • I’d like to point out one significant difference to the LOTRO scheme, and that is that in LOTRO you have to earn the Turbine Points directly through play. You cannot BUY the TP in-game. To be equivalent, you would have to earn the GEMS themselves through play in GW2, and that is not the case.

    If you could buy TP with gold in LOTRO, AND if subscribers did not get a “free” 400 TP each month (because GW2 doesn’t have a subscription option so again, TP items wouldn’t be able to be as inflated in cost), the comparison would be more apt.

    That said, – and I could be wrong – it is very likely, IMO, that there will be things like XP boosts sold for gems, but I invite people to think about how much impact such a thing could possibly have *in GW2*, not LOTRO, not WOW, not any other game, but *in GW2* specifically, given the leveling curve, sidekicking, level scaling, structured PvP, WvWvW bolstering, dynamic event scaling, lack of mob/resource tagging, etc.

  • @ Arnzen

    In theory pending demand someone could spend quite a bit of money on gems, turn that gold

    You can’t turn the gems into gold, though – you have to sell them for gold. If players don’t have enough gold to buy the gems at your asking price, you have to keep dropping the price. Buying loads and loads of gems will not introduce a ton of gold into the economy; players have to have the gold first.

  • Basically it comes down to Arenanets interpretation of “unfair advantages” and “time saving convinces.”

    This game is not F2P but it is also not sub. I am still wary of a cash shop because of that. The game could easily veer towards lotros direction as it could WoWs.

  • The fast travel concept is ONE WAY, i.e. you are a 10 minute run out in the wild, your bags are full, you can zip back to town in a flash to sell/AH/bank, but now you have to RUN back to where you were.

    The Golem Banker, and I would imagine another consumable item that acts as a Golem Vendor to sell trash to, would allow you to continue playing/grinding/farming without the need for that travel interlude.

    I very much expect they will keep those items on a limited charge basis, (i.e. Golem Banker 5 days) rather than make a permemnent item, since people will be playing a long time, it is better for both the players and ANet to have ONGOING revenue to support operations and development, rather than upfront cash followed by years of lower income opportunities.

    I for one, really like the system in its conceptual form. I can see great opportunity in the economic meta-game, with there being many dynamics and potential for all types of players to gain access.

    To those who said market manipulation might be possible, remember its a cross-server AH, and the law of large numbers comes into play… It would be near impossible for one player or even a large guild acting in coordination to manipulate a market driven by millions of concurrent transactions. I think this will be a driving force behind balancing the economy, plus ANet will have the tools to manage and throttle the economy as needed to maintain balanace… think of ANet as the US Federal Reserve, implimenting monetary policy to control inflation and interest rates.

  • If gems can be traded or sold for gold, what keeps people from buying advantages? For instance their is a whole slew of WvW buffs that are sold for gold.

  • @ wufiavelli

    Others have pointed out elsewhere how guild influence, which can be purchased with gold and spent to buy benefits for the guild in WvW, has a time delay – advantages must be built over time, say 24 hours, after purchase. During this time, due to the volatile nature of WvW, any number of things could happen, such as a guild losing their keep (and thus not being able to benefit from increased influence gain in order to fortify said keep), etc.

    Similarly, blueprints for siege weapons can be bought, but require supply to build. Players can only carry 10 supply at any given time. And so on. I’m sure someone can explain it more thoroughly than I, but that’s the gist.

  • Randomness its nice that went and balanced it out somewhat, but at the end of the day those are advantages that are bought with real world money.

  • It always sounds good, until they need money. I don’t see them starting up a subscription service after the fact, so they will do what they need to to keep things running.

  • @ wufiavelli,

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but they are advantages bought with gold, not real world money. You can’t buy buffs with gems (which can be bought for gold anyway, not only with RL money).

    The question really is – and I agree it’s a concern but we have yet to see how it will work out – whether it will be possible to spend a ton of real world money ON the gold, but you don’t buy gold with gems, you SELL gems FOR gold, so if players don’t have the gold to begin with, gems will be devalued.

  • The problem with items like cosmetic items/upgrades/enhancements that you can buy with real money is that it takes away collecting those items ingame.

    Collecting such items might be considered just as valuable to someone, as that special flaming sword of epicness another player hopefully collects.

    Why stop there and not charge for all kinds of “extra” features. A house, furniture for the house including a yard and profession related workbenches, npc vendors, pets, an assistant that picks up drops for you, extra playable races and or classes etc.

    Box sale should be all inclusive untill another box in the form of an expansion makes its appearence.


  • First of all, 25 bucks isn’t a micro transaction. That’s a transaction.

    Secondly, a game company can’t make money selling unnecessary cosmetic crap. That’s all well and good as far as it goes, but charging for speedier advancement is where it’s at as far as FTP goes.

    The reason hardcore MMO players don’t like this is because flips the tables on them and makes them pay based on their level of engagement with the game, making it much more expensive than a flat fee. Instead of being subsidized by the casual players who pay 15/mo and barely play, in a F2P game they subsidize the casual players by running through $100 worth of services every month. This pisses them off. Because they are willing to lavish time on the game, pay to advance threatens their status in the game world when people who would normally be their bitches are competitive with them. It strikes them as unfair, when other people having families, jobs, and other engagements that limit their ability to advance as fast as them is how it should be. Basically the hardcore MMO players have been getting food stamps for the past 15 years, and the idea that they won’t be able to get a subsidized meal ticket off of less dedicated players scares and angers them.

    As long as PVP is well matched so that you are always playing against people who are reasonably competitive with each other from a power perspective, I have absolutely no problem with F2P models, and I can’t really see why anyone would, except out of a self-serving desire to maintain a system that benefits them at the expense of others. If the people paying to advance aren’t using that advantage to harm other players, it’s really none of anyone’s business what they do.

  • OK i am going to back off about the Gems, they post was mostly right in the fact it does not add any money to the system. Sadly though some of the things I have heard through the grapevine about what they are selling in the shop is getting me worried.

  • I could see them releasing new things fortnightly. Such as hairstyles, weapon and armor skins, helms, sunglasses, facial hair… all of which people may buy or not. If it was $5-10 for a really unique hairstyle, animation or tattoo, many people would pay it. They do in LOL.

  • @Toxic:

    “Secondly, a game company can’t make money selling unnecessary cosmetic crap.”

    I wouldn’t be so sure about that. I would actively spend up to $15 a month on microtransactions. If a purchase of something I thought was cool was ~$4 that would be one transaction a week. I spend more than that on a single drink even in a cheap place like New Orleans at a classy cocktail place during happy hour (

    A got a Facebook notification that offered a George Takei “You Are A Douchebag” voiced ringtone for $1.50 which is nothing to spend on a frivolous purchase. Now realize that he has 1,380,895 fans. A few ringtones can really add up…

  • @zyler – re cosmetic items.

    In GW1 you could get the prestige armor and weapons, by buying the materials with gold, which of course encouraged gold farming. But, in Guild Wars 2 the gold/gem system is separate from the Karma reward system, that is mainly used for quest rewards. Although ANet haven’t specifically said so, I think the intention is that there will be no way to buy Karma with gold/gems.

    Assuming the above is correct all the hard to get cosmetic items that are most valuable to players (cash shop cosmetic items get devalued as they easily obtainable) will come from drops, Karma rewards (and possibly other currencies not exchangable for gold). This would be a better system than that in GW1, since it eliminates any connection between rewards and real money transactions.

    What this does is it puts prestige cosmetic rewards on a par with achievements; and ANet need to do something like that, if they wish to have an attractive reward system that works past level cap – people won’t want to play hard content, where the only reward is the ability to change a single title above their head.

    So, I reckon that whilst they will have some cosmetic items in the cash shop, as GW1 does, there will also be many such items that you can only get by playing the game.

  • I’m nervous about MT in GW2 after that statement (it really is open to interpretation) but I will play it and see for myself unless there’s some concrete info in advance that puts me off!

  • Yeah, if the bags and boosts are also available in game, it’s ok.

    But if the ONLY way to upgrade your bag space is the shop… then sorry, but it’s “pay to win”.

  • A ringtone is a bit different than an MMO. You make said ringtone. You are done. You don’t have huge monthly overhead costs to maintain the ringtone. And once you buy it, you have it forever, which means a company needs to make 15/mo in cosmetic crap every single month, and have everyone buy it.. that’s not going to happen. There’s only so many sparkle ponies one person will buy.

    And while you would spend 15 a month on cosmetic stuff, F2P relies on the 10% (if that much) who will spend money on the game. So if you spend 15/mo, and there are 9 people spending 0 a month, they would be making about a 1.50 a month per sub. That’s a bit low.

  • Hmmm I’m mostly ok with it. I think its going to be important that the Resurrection Orb/Perfect Salvage Kit/Mystic Key is obtainable (same goes for most of this; they should be attainable by gold).


    Mystic Key

    “This key will unlock one Mystic Chest. Mystic Chests can be found randomly on enemies or in hidden places in the world”

    At has been pointed out at the link wufiavelli gave above; it would be terrible to finish a long difficult puzzle or see that awesome chest drop to have to purchase gems to open.

    Surely Anet wouldn’t do this and I’m just speculating. I just won’t stick my head in the clouds and ignore it. I just look forward to further details on this.

  • @ “But if the ONLY way to upgrade your bag space is the shop… then sorry, but it’s “pay to win”.”

    It was possible to get bags as karma rewards for DEs in the press beta, but it may be necessary to unlock the slots they fit into using gems and also bank storage panes, since there are items for both of those in the cash shop. Hopefully you’ll get a reasonable amount of storage in game, so these will be extra items – as bank panes are in GW1.

  • re: mystic keys

    I understand that the “chests” these open are more like WoW lock boxes, that you can carry around and that drop from mobs etc., not static chests – so if that’s the case it isn’t so bad, especially if the keys are also reasonably common drops.

    I don’t think the chests at the end of a long jumping puzzle will be locked at all, since they are rewards for doing the puzzle and if they were locked with cash shop keys that would really detract from the fun of those puzzles.

    I think you have to give ANet some credit: making the gameplay worse for a short term profit would be a rotten long term strategy for them. They don’t need to cash all their chips immediately, I think, but are more interested in creating a game that will be viable over an extended period. Anet != frogster.

  • Thanks for the reply Roq. Kind of reminds me what I heard about GW1.
    Hope and see I guess.

  • “time-saving convenience items”

    IMHO, being able to buy
    – Experience Bonus items, so a character reaches max level faster, Fine.
    – Some epic sword that you can also possibly loot by doing ~1000 raids, Not Fine.

    While both (max level and sword) can be aquired by either buying or just spending time and effort, I do hope they wont see the latter as a convenience item 🙂

    I’m fine with spending money on buying MMO’s and a monthly subscription. So spending ~15 bucks a month for ingame purchases instead of a sub, does not bother me at all.

    If they stick with selling items/slots like in GW1, things should be fine.
    (havent checked that game in over a year or more)

    Wait and see I guess 🙂