GW2’s hybrid business model built around “fun”

Colin Johanson, Lead Content Developer for Guild Wars 2, asked this question on the ArenaNet Blog:

If the success of a subscription-based MMO is measured by the number of people paying a monthly fee, how does that impact game design decisions?

He goes on to say many things that I agree with about the subscription model.  Subscription games are all about keeping people playing.  There’s nothing wrong with giving players a reason to keep playing — that’s what anyone wants in a game — but there’s a point where the mechanics and quality of the game diminish with the effort to keep packing in content.  Unnecessary filler content and redundant gameplay like gear treadmills become a very tempting source of content.

However, the same reasoning can be applied to games that are free to play or have a cash shop, and this has been at the forefront of my argument against the F2P model for years.  Just like developers in a subscription based model have to keep people playing, developers relying on a cash shop for their revenue must keep players buying from that cash shop.  Mechanics, content, and all areas of design can be impacted to achieve that goal.

Guild Wars 2’s content team says they’re focusing on creating “fun” content, and they’re judging the content on a “fun” metric.  I won’t knock them for saying that, or attempting to do that, because that is what I would do in their place.  That doesn’t mean the other teams aren’t hard at work coming up with ways to get you into that cash shop or earn money.  Business is competitive, and there’s no such thing as a ‘nice business decision’.  ArenaNet isn’t being nice by saying “we focus on the fun!” and you get to play our fun game for just $60.  ArenaNet has to come up with a way to earn revenue equal to or greater than that of a subscription service.  We already see the cash shop, and if they keep to their usual operations we can expect expansion packs.   They won’t leave money on the table.

My point is that every business model, subscription or free to play, has at its core a way to make money.  As much as we wish developers would spend millions of dollars to make fun games just because they love making games, that’s not how the world works.  ArenaNet can put down the subscription model all they want, but don’t for a second believe that there isn’t a business model at work impacting design decisions.  Oh, and it isn’t whether or not things are “fun.”

In my experience with MMO’s, the subscription model allows developers to create fun content and minimize the impact of their business model on gameplay far better than any cash shop or microtransaction model.  We’ll see how Guild Wars 2 does with their hybrid approach.

  • I’ve written a longer article a while back on subscription vs. F2P/RMT and my own belief is still that both models have their target audience. subs are generally a great deal for frequent players with consistent playstyles. F2P seems to appeal more to the casual player which picks and chooses a lot, maybe never plays ‘endgame’. if I get to play the way I want and potential cash shop purchases never surpass what I’d be paying for monthly subs a year (it’s actually quite a lot of stuff one can buy for a year’s worth of subs, depending on the game and how one is playing it), there’s not much that is negative about F2P.
    there’s pros and cons here and as you say about the business approach too, both models have potential dangers and upsides.

  • One of my fears with F2P is that design will become increasingly metrics driven and we’ll see more and more exploitative cash shop clones designed to part us from our money as efficiently as possible.

    With subscription MMOs I usually feel that the game comes before the business model. Certainly you can argue they use reinforcement and other tricks to keep you playing/paying, but that doesn’t seem much at odds with the goal of the game itself.

    Unfortunately in many free to play games it seems like the actual game is just a thin veneer over the cash shop. Web and social games are the worst for this but I’m sure F2P MMOs are catching them up fast.

  • Depends so much on what you want out of an MMO and what your playstyle is. As someone who has always preferred low level to high level and played multiple characters in every game, a huge amount of the subscription content has always passed me by. I put in my 30-40 hours a week but almost never do any of the end-game or high-level content that’s put in to keep subscribers paying. Consequently F2P generally means I can play almost exactly the way I would have played anyway only it costs me nothing.

    I play a lot of F2P MMOs but the only one in which I’ve ever spent any money in a cash shop is EQ2, to which I have, and have always had, a subscription. There are pros and cons to all payment models but as far as GW2 goes, I haven’t seen too many complaints about the way Guild Wars has funded itself and it’s been thriving for, what, seven years? Should be fine.

  • I believe GW2 is representative of the process I have been arguing exists for years now, that is the evolution of the cash shop model for a Westernized mindset.

    I appreciate you playing the skeptic, but it feels to me that ANet has given us everything we could possibly want from a quality game play standpoint, with the most economically efficient model, providing us with a cash shop that players want to buy things from because they are fun as opposed to win.

    I think they are correct at being critical of sub models at least as they have been manifested by the AAA’s (

    Yes, we still need to see if they can pull it off, but this IS the game that can be THE long-term WoW competitor, and hopefully they can make a sufficient profit to maintain this equitable box-only style of game play through a massive player base and lower individual player financial outlay over time.

    They can trash talk the sub model all they want as far as I am concerned, and justifiably so if they can accomplish the same “fun” end points at a lower cost per player!

  • The fact that they hired a “Monetization Producer” proves that it is not all about fun for them. Now I do not think that it is published any where as to how high up this person is on the food chain within ArenaNet, but if they are any where near CEO level then you can expect the cash shop to become increasingly pushed.

    The fact that this person hired into this monetization producer position came from Nexon and NCSoft seems to suggest that the weight of this position could be significant. But at this point, this is all speculation.

    I tried to attach the linked-in profile of the producer where it may assist you in making your own conclusions, but it didn’t seem to want to take.

    I would like to add, however, that I don’t think this game will ever feel like it is just a “thin veneer over the cash shop.” There is already so much content in the game that I think it would be kind of hard to ruin it that way. Does anyone else agree with that assessment?

  • I agree with your last assessment. This is why I think it has the potential as a viable WoW competitor.

    There is so much varied content and it is only a beta that I have only scratched the surface of. Add to this the repeatability by virtue of the down leveling mechanism which can help keep zones alive past the 1st 30 days and the promise of new scripted events like their Shatterer demon horde BWE2 finale (yes, it was too short and a bit bungled) means GW2 is content driven. If they keep producing the same creative material that they have currently shown us we should be in for a wild ride!

  • @bcdevMatt Exactly!

    Good content costs money to make and companies need to turn a profit. People complain F2P games make cash shop (or similar money sinks) items optional and not a requirement to play; but if they don’t will they really generate enough revenue? Where else will the money to pay the content developers and shareholders? While I’d love to play for free forever, I’d rather pay a reasonable subscription for unfettered game access than be nickled and dimed by an increasingly desperate game company. I’ve played GW2 and think it’s a good game (though I think there are some good reasons it’s still in beta) and hope they do have a successful strategy with retail copies + expansions + cash shop items (I guess the original GW series argues it’s possible). But for so many other companies, F2P is what they did between their subscription model failing and their eventual sever consolidation spiral to nowhere.

  • Opps, left a word out:

    “People complain F2P games *SHOULD* make cash shop (or similar money sinks) items optional and not a requirement to play…”

  • @Bhagpuss: Regardless of what is more economical for you, since that is entirely subjective and entirely based on the individual, the point remains clear. Regardless of business model, whether F2P or Subs, there will be an impact on the game’s design.

    ArenaNet spent that whole blog entry talking about why developing their game to be “fun” was possible because they didn’t have a subscription model causing them to focus on keeping people playing. That’s one particular side of a multifaceted argument. The same could be said as a bonus for Subs over F2P — gameplay comes before monetization since to play the game you’re paying anyway.

    @Steeldragoon: Shhh, it’s a “fun expert” not a “monetization expert”.

    @Gankatron: I found some of his statements to make no sense. He uses an analogy about going into the GAP to look around and buy clothes. We do the same thing with video games. No one gives you a pair of jeans and says you can have them but only wear them if you pay.

  • GW2 team can shout FUN all they want.
    In the end there is only one way to find out how good or bad their added cashshop will turn out to be and that is afterwards.

    F2p games are a strange phenomena you often end up spending more then you wanted even if you do not notice it in the first place.

    For instance world of tanks: I bought a founder package which gave me a set amount of ingame currency for a discount and a free premium tank.
    That ingame currency is gone faster then I anticipated.

    Yet here I am falling for it again. Bought the mechwarrior online founder package 2 days ago.

    Also what I learned in my F2P experience is that there is one sign that I’m looking out for that is gonna be an instant no no from now on to buy anything.

    And that is buying something early to midgame only to find out the gameplay later on is so frustrating due to people that play 23 hours a day or cheating. Possible just cheating.
    I’m looking at you F2P FPS games. Fun down the drain 2 days after buying from cashshop so not worth it.

    I think I’m done ranting now.

    On a sidenote. I bought magic the gathering 2013 cardgame on steam today. Already liked yugioh.
    This seems like good fun as well. Maybe a bit deeper.

  • GW2 has two things going for it when it comes to development costs versus revenues:

    1. No raid content- this is huge. The amount of developer time and resources needed to come up with and balance new tiers of raiding content is massive. Without that money pit they can focus on items that most of their player base can actually experience. Special events, changing up dynamic events, etc. It’s a better bang for the buck and should end up a lot less costly then raid content. ( and end up more “fun” for the majority of the player base)
    2. Auto scaling to the area. This is related to 1. They can change any part of the game and everyone that level or higher can enjoy it. This allows them to spruce up and adjust the leveling experience for those who play an alt and not have it be wasted effort for those at cap.

    In theory gw2 should be less expensive to run and update the say a SWTOR or WoW. Between box sales, expansions and a tame cash shop they should be able to make ample cash.

    Could they pull an Allods? It’s possible but so far every move I’ve seen arena net make leads me to believe that the people in charge know what they are doing.

  • @Zyler:

    Of course it is worth $10 to most people, even with its limited ability for deck customization, but Astral Masters has it right in my opinion.

    I believe MAGIC doesn’t allow extensive deck customization for 2 reasons, neither of which I like.

    Firstly it makes a game harder to balance; decreasing player options means less options to have to counter-balance.

    Secondly it allows less skilled players to have even a greater chance to be competitive. Limiting synergistic options along with the wild randomness of initial starting hands and draws, evens out the playing field, which means even a remedial player can have a chance to win against a skilled player. The first match I played after purchasing this game had a 1 power card hand, followed by another 1 power card hand redraw, followed by a 0 power hand draw, followed by a 1 power card draw, followed by a “restart duel’ on my part. Everyone has had games with significant frequency that either gave you a vast majority of power cards or virtually no power cards, good luck winning under those conditions.

    It is fun, but simplistic, and I believe that it is intentionally designed this way to allow for “broader appeal” that devs equate to larger profits secondary to a larger casual player base. I bought it knowing all this up front given the price, but again it is an example of purposeful dumbing down of a game to maximize the player base.

    Some of the artwork in the game is really nice though!

  • In the first beta weekend, you could collect your AH winnings from anywhere.

    In the second beta weekend, you could buy a consumable item from the cash shop to collect your AH winnings from anywhere for 5 minutes. Otherwise, you needed to port to the AH NPCs.

    I am not entirely pessimistic about ArenaNet’s cash shop ambitions, but let us not kid ourselves here – if there isn’t anything you want to buy in the cash shop, ArenaNet isn’t doing its job.

  • @Azuriel
    Are you sure about that? I was under the impression that collecting your items from AH wins was only ever gotten from the AH npc.

  • @Azuriel:

    I know you are posting this specific example as proof of concept, but if they keep cash shop restricted to convenience items such as what you are describing it is a perfectly legitimate way to keep the cash flow incoming especially with cheap insta-travel.

  • @Gankatron:

    This is going way off topic, but still fun to talk about.

    Thanks for the info. I’m pretty new to Magic the gathering.
    Still I do not think lack of extensive deck customization is such a bad thing.
    (Keep in mind I have not had a look on how deep the deck building is in the game)

    My reason? As an example I use YuGiOh. People tend to copy the deck of some expert anyway.. someone who recently did very well in some mayor tournament.
    Basicly 95% of the players just pick a deck of someone else, they just get told how to build it themselves.

    And can you really blaim the players? I mean an average deck had no chance of winning in one of the latest DS games where you had to beat 4 guys with great decks in succession without getting your lifepoints back after a win.
    That and people want to be competitively when they play against someone else.

    On topic again:

    I for once am glad GW2 has no raiding. I do not want to raid anymore. To me it gets boring pretty fast.

    Also I think GW2 will get their costs back in box sales alone.
    No need to get greedy right?

  • I hope they make a mint on box sales so that the CS is gravy; with good word of mouth maybe we’ll be seeing Chuck Norris throw Charr transmogrification grenades soon?

    Yeah, cloned deck building is problematic, but multiplayer between friends is still cool where you can make self-imposed restrictions, and one can always come up with creative ways around problems. For example matches that provide you with random restrictions on deck building prior to the match; this would make matches more time consumptive, but I would really dig seeing what I could slap together with a random variety of cards or restrictions.

  • i know its PR but Arenanet can be condescending at times with issues that this that are not open and shut. They are not as bad as the dude from Trion but it can get annoying after a while.

    One reason I like subscription over f2p is simple. In order to make a game f2p you have to splice game mechanics so they fit both game and business. With subscription every game can be made for the games sake.

  • I think if ANet were going to gouge people with the cash shop they’d have been doing it since April 05 in GW, until they prove otherwise I’m happy to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    “Fun” really should be a factor of either business model at the end of the day, I’ve stopped playing many sub based MMO’s because I have no longer found them fun to play and couldn’t justify the continuing cost, but with the model ANet have targeted “cancelling” won be a factor, so I’ll be more likely to just take a break and go back if I do “hit the wall” with it. From what I’ve seen in GW2 so far, they have enough fun, variety and interesting things to do that I’ll be playing it a while.

    I’m definitely looking forward to it.

  • As I said somewhere else, the lack of a sub is very evident in that there is absolutely no hook in GW2. If progression ceases to exist (or doesn’t exist at all) then the gameplay has to be good enough, different enough to ensure that people keep logging in. Mount & Blade, for all its faults, is a game I’ve played almost entirely on the MP side and I have not gained anything other than a greater skill at playing the game, and that’s because the combat is so enjoyable and, although I’m loathe to use the word, fun.

    For all its claims of innovation, GW2 has come nowhere close to changing its combat to such an extent as to be different from the MMO norm to entice me to continuously play it, purely on the merits of fun.

    Every day I regret more and more that such a talented dev team opted to go against the trinity, subs and actually making raiding feel as good as it did in WoW of an earlier era, and instead opted for a gameplay style which, as far as I can see, will favour zerg style tactics above all else.

  • I think a main point here is that one can make money by designing a game to be fun instead of primarily habit forming. The gear grind systems are rat bar reward token economies where people can lose track of whether they are playing because it is fun versus short term intermittent reinforcement.

    The change in AV in WoW is a prime example (feel free to say in unison “Here he goes again with this story”). It often was a multiple hour pitched battle swaying between sides as they collected resources and conjured epic NPC combatants; and then came the honor grind, after which it was common for people to say in chat “A quick loss earns more honor per hour than a long victory” while people AFK’d and fished in the lakes. There was a fundamental shift in game design philosophy from an emphasis on what old school gamers found to be fun versus making crack from coca leaves, and I feel assured that marketing psychology played a major factor.

    SWTOR was much the same for me. Let’s play round after round of Huttball to get tokens that can be traded for gear that make it incrementally easier to earn more tokens in Huttball to be traded for more gear that make it…, well you can continue to peer down that infinity mirror if you choose.

    I like the idea of games designed around fun, but I think many of us have either forgotten or were rarely exposed to fun game play as opposed to ubiquitous carrot on a stick grinds of modern MMO models.

  • @Dril:

    I also love M&B solely for the fun factor. I still recoil in rl every time I get impacted by a lance and love that my sword gets progressively drenched in dark red goo as I hack away.

    I also never was able to get into GW1. Perhaps I didn’t give it enough of a try to judge it properly, but it felt somewhat bland and non-immersive, zoning from instance to instance. Nonetheless, I do appreciate the dev’s innovation in game play style and marketing model.

    On the other hand in my beta experiences, GW2 has a unique community-oriented feel. Perhaps you are being more reductionistic than me, but GW2 feels fresh and exciting, at least as much as an MMO can be expected to.

    I was a survivor in the BWE2 demon apocalypse finale, and I haven’t felt that level of adrenaline rush for a long time in an MMO. Swarms of spawning demonic players trying to kill me as I fought my way, falling back foot by foot, to the mouth of the Citadel. Even as flawed as the execution of the event was, in it I can see the potential of future scripted events that feel much like the good old days of pen and paper D&D in someone’s basement; a story for story’s sake, painstakingly crafted and exciting to partake in.

    Yes, I am completely on board at this point, but solely due to my positive beta experiences; believe me I was no where as sold on SWTOR during their betas or after their launch. It feels good for once to not have to be the perpetual skeptic!

  • I personally have good confidence in the cash shop on GW2. I’ve been through several F2P games, most of them i gave up after a certain time, as any more progress or even success depended on the cash shop.

    At the same time, GW (the first one) was on my harddisc for years, and i kept returning to it, even if it sometimes was just for an evening or two every few months. Take a look at GW, it also has a cash shop. (NCsoft-Store)

    So what do you get there:
    – The different expansions of the game. Nothing special.
    – Different outfits. (Protection is the very same as any other armour of your profession at the given level. )
    – A pack of weapons with unique visual style. (All properties are the same as any other weapon. )

    – The option to turn existing characters of yours into a “Mercenary” of your other characters. Class and appearance are copied, equipment is delivered at default level, so your “Merc” is the very same as the “Heroes” every Character has available, only with its unique appearance. No advantage in terms of power.

    – Additional character slots.
    – Additional bank space.
    – Name change.
    – Appearance change.
    – Gender change.
    – Non-combat pets.

    The biggest “in game” advantage of all of them is the additional bank space, which also doesn’t make your character deal a single more point of damage or survive one second longer than the one without any money spent in the shop.

    Only the last group of items could, in pure theory, be considered an in-game advantage: packages to unlock all abilities of a campaign. So you can just spend real money to learn the abilities, instead of spending 1 skill point (my main character has over 200 unspent skillpoints, so they are no issue) and 1 platinum (farmed in less than 30 minutes) to learn a new skill.

    I wouldn’t know anybody who ever bought those skill packs, while i know enough who run around with custom outfits, thus i consider the shop in GW1 quite well done, a cash shop where “fun” is the selling factor. While i haven’t taken a closer look on the cash shop in GW2, i also didn’t hear of any indications yet that GW2 would sell power. (And i wouldn’t be surprised if the items to change armours appearance would be one of the top sellers in the GW2 cash shop. )

  • The suggestion that sub MMOs pack in grindy content that no one likes to keep people playing longer is wrong. If the content sucks, people won’t sub, no matter how it’s structured.

    The true challenge of a sub MMO is to create solid content at a pace that keeps up with your players. This can either be done by sheer volume (WoW) or by smart design that adds rather than replaces options.

    Or you take the easy way out, go F2P, and hope to catch enough idiots who drop a few hundred in a month to offset everyone else that spends nothing.

  • Of course GW2 by comparison isn’t F2P. The box sales, plus the CS and expacs should support their efforts.

  • The only way around the current sub v f2p business model dilemma will be to move the monetization of a game away from mechanics.

    I suspect this is the direction Blizzard is taking with the real money ah. If WoW were to ever go f2p it would follow the Diablo 3 model.

    Regardless of what the future holds, cash shops will always inherently reduce the value of what a player achieves in game.

  • Raid lock outs exist solely to keep people paying a sub. Having the best loot drop randomly from these raids is another way to string people along. All sub games I’ve played are skinner box random loot treadmills that throw up barriers to slow your progress down.

    To say that the sub model doesn’t impact the design in a negative manner is incorrect.

  • I just wanted to add that I’m not a f2p advocate. I’ve never played a f2p game for more the a few days.

  • I believe any financial model that is poorly executed will feel like a heavy handed money grab. This is certainly true for every F2P Asian MMO that I have ever played and also true for every sub MMO that I have played of recent date (including WoW) as Fergor points out.

    I don’t see the ANet blog as advocacy of F2P models, but as justification behind THEIR specific box + CS approach.

    Giving examples of the failures of F2P games as a reason why GW2 will similarly be negatively impacted doesn’t logically follow, and runs in the face of the success of the GW1 implementation.

  • I’ve been posting this a lot lately but few seem to grasp it, so sorry if you’ve heard this before.

    GW2 is not a F2P, it’s a B2P(Buy-to-Play). There’s a difference. A true F2P is a game like Shaiya: no sub AND no initial cost AND unlimited play. The rub is the game won’t be all that enjoyable for very long unless you purchase cash-shop items, and it effects all levels, not just end-game. That’s the sole place they make thier money.

    The high initial cost of GW2 allows them a lot more flexibility with managing thier funds efficiently, especially since the highly cosmetic cash-shop caters to those who not only have the money to spend, but want to spend it. GW2 is a slightly modified B2P with limited microtransaction elements, but calling it a F2P is plain wrong.


  • Agreed. Plus I would imagine that release of significant amounts of new content will be as expacs, which is no different from sub models, even if it can be purchased as a dl in their CS.

  • “To say that the sub model doesn’t impact the design in a negative manner is incorrect.”

    Only if you count what you mentioned as a negative.

  • It’s true that expansions “could” be viewed as a yearly or 6-month sub, instead of a monthly sub. Although I’d keep in mind that expansions aren’t necessarily required for gameplay, while a sub is. For example, I’ve been playing GW1 with Proph and EotN only, leaving out the 2 add-ons(which are really stand-alone games), for about 8 months now. I’m ok with missing out on some good skills and content if I stay entertained by just those 2.

    I suppose from a dev standpoint it is pretty darn similar to a sub. I mean the end result is close to the same, they just take slightly different paths to get there. It’s a little like comparing gamma rays to radio waves. 🙂


  • Keep in mind that I am not only referring to GW2’s cash shop when I say they’ll find ways to make up for the money left on the table from not having a sub.

    GW2 may do aggressive monetized expansion content. They may even do exactly what they criticize in the sub model and create content that keeps players wanting to play — such a system is inherent to MMO’s.

    Bottom line, knock the sub model all you want but there will be a method for generating revenue in GW2 and it WILL impact gameplay.

  • I’m not knocking the sub model just trying to point out that getting people to play monthly has a massive impact on the game design as well. And it’s not all positive.

    The “money left on the table” will be more then made up by the no raid or gear treadmill at endgame along with more box sales. They will sell more boxes because they are b2p versus being a sub game.

    At the end of the day all we have is conjecture around their profit goals. We don’t know what they are. If they make a million a year will that be enough? 10 million? I don’t know.

    What I do know is the leadership of arenanet seems to understand the tight rope they need to walk with a cash shop. This is based on what they’ve said and what they’ve done. I’ll take that over just taking the stance cash shop = negative impact all the time due to a visceral gut reaction based on poor decisions by other companies.

    If they do go down the Allods route I’ll jump off the ship and move on to a new game. I just have no evidence they’re that stupid. Do you?

  • @Fergor: I was referring to ArenaNet as knocking the sub model.

    I think you’re wrong about box sales making up for the money of a sub model. GW2 simply will not sell THAT many copies.

    And again, it’s not all about the cash shop. The one they have now is fine. There’s more to their business model than cash shops and box sales. They’ll sell content expansions like WoW does, but they’ll also sell the content that WoW patches in for “free” (read: sub model). I’ll go on record saying that because of a lack of sub, content will come at a price. Is that bad? No, not at all. It does impact game design, though, and they leave out those comments when they knock the sub model.

  • “Bottom line, knock the sub model all you want but there will be a method for generating revenue in GW2 and it WILL impact gameplay.”

    Sure, but this is not unique to the CS model, especially one with a box cost. Game companies will try to make money, this is a given. How heavy-handed they are about it makes the difference between a fun game and a grinding game.

    The reason I left WoW years back was because of the end-game gear grind and dailies. They were tediously repetitive and solely designed to keep players around paying a monthly sub via intermittent positive reinforcement, like a slot machine.

    For me the end-game grind through raids and dailies in modern subs has a tremendously negative impact on game play (

    Personal preference dictates what one finds enjoyable, but I still contend that many people confuse having fun with the short-lived thrill of getting a new item or gold piece once in a while.

    I saw it in myself at the end, feeling the need to log on to do my dailies otherwise it was like leaving free money on the ground; so each day I would try to fly around as efficiently as possible, doing the same repetitive tasks, competing for respawns, only to immediately log off as soon as I was done having gotten my fix.

    In retrospect I can assure you that it was not fun (nor was doing the same raids over and over hoping that someone didn’t mis-click on the pedestal and cause us to wipe), but it kept me around until the epiphany moment when you say to yourself (or perhaps your significant other does) “Why am I still doing this?” and you accept that it is OK to walk away from the game even though it means you will lose out on the virtual stuff waiting for you in game.

    I think that this is the point of the idea of monetizing fun. Making a cereal that is intrinsically delicious to eat so you buy more, as opposed to putting collectible figurines in the bottom of a box of mediocre cereal. Both cereals will make money, but only one will leave the consumer with a feeling of satisfaction intrinsic to the experience of consuming it.

  • Wow is a terrible example when it comes to added content. I’d be shocked if arenanet couldn’t outpace blizzard content wise at no extra cost. Adding and adjusting the DEs and running events like the one from the last bwe is infinitely less expensive then working on raid content. It would also add to the fun a lot more for the majority of players.

    Now if you were to compare content updates to Rift then Id agree. They won’t add that level of content Then again who does?

    Its also interesting to note that Trion adds massive amounts of content with a minuscule player base ( compared to WoW) and with much less in monthly fees (they offer all sorts of discounted rates where you end up under 10 a month). Blizzard does not take the massive piles of cash they make and throw it back into the game in the same way.

    Really, other then Rift what p2p game can you really say adds 15 dollars of content a month?

  • You may be added content from a sub model, but do you really get $15 worth? (I realise it is to cover other costs like power, wages, servers etc, but the point I’m making is it’s not for $15 worth of content) That’s like 25% of a full game price, and you sure don’t get a full games content every three or four months. Even with a sub game, you’ll be paying for the “real” content updates (xpacs).

    With the model ANet is using, at least you’ll only be paying when the “real” content gets updated/released, which seems a much fairer deal to me.

  • This isn’t about what is more economical or worth the money. That’s subjective.

    This is about ArenaNet saying that the subscription models impact the ability to focus on making fun content because they have to focus on keeping people playing. My counter to that statement is that any model, and there is a model in GW2, affects gameplay/content. In a F2P it’s to get people to a cash shop. In a subscription model it’s ways to keep people wanting to come back month after month.

    In GW2’s hybrid B2P/Cash shop it may be to get people to buy content and not provide content for free — we simply don’t know yet.

    My point is that if you believe the line about being allowed to focus only on making “fun” content because they don’t have a subscription, you’re falling for a line of BS.

  • Of course the post is filled with marketing speak. The point of the post was to get people to take the feedback boxes seriously by letting us know they take it seriously. Oh and to sell the game even more.

    Regarding their business model, it’s just as likely that it’s based around keeping the world dynamic by regularly updating and adding DEs and events (for free) to keep people invested in the game. Invested people are more likely to buy shop items for convenience, looks or just to support the company. Their purchases along with expansions keep them making money. Like you said – we just don’t know yet.

    What I do know is without having to worry about ensuring the sub rates don’t flag they can focus on content that will cater to my play-style now more then my play-style from 5 years ago (hardcore raider). So in that sense their model = more fun for me.

  • I couldnt read all comments but from the posts I skimmed and from the main blog;
    I think you may be missing the point of ANets blog.

    I dont think they say “money is not important to us, we just want you to have fun”. I think what they are saying is they are aiming to make the goal of players continue playing the game “fun” instead of gear, progression etc.

    If you think about it all mmos make money by keeping you in the game. be it f2p cash shops, monthly subs, expansions, or a mixture of different styles; as long as a player keeps on playing, the company can/will make money.

    They (Colin Johanson) are not stating their dislike of money, they are just stating their intent of game style for gw2.
    At least thats how I read the blog and look forward to see if they can indeed manage a successfull game that is focused on players having fun instead of grinding, progression, etc.

  • Keen – Bottom line, knock the sub model all you want but there will be a method for generating revenue in GW2 and it WILL impact gameplay. […] In a F2P it’s to get people to a cash shop.

    @Keen – Yes, but if the method for generating revenue is graphical upgrades for those that can afford it and expansion packs that expand the game play itself, I wouldn’t say that it would be a negative impact on gameplay. In fact, I would argue that this method benefits both players and developers.

    That said, we can never rule out greed. I think you could say this is a hybrid of a Buy 2 Play and a Free 2 Play model. There is nothing stopping ArenaNet from exploiting either side for more money. But if they play it safe, they could keep the game fun and balanced between B2P and F2P for a long time.

    Btw, I consider still a B2P even after several years because the majority of players will be purchasing the expansion packs.

    Thanks to Obsi for the B2P explanation above.

  • I consider GW2 a B2P as well. I don’t consider it F2P. I’ll go on record saying they’ll release content and want you to buy it instead of patching it. That’s totally fine too. Just bear in mind how that impacts content design just as much as a subscription model.

    Once again my point is simply that they’re knocking the sub model as some underhanded tactic, yet they don’t identify their own tactic. Instead they spin the “fun” line. They have a tactic. Look for it.

  • I think you are missing the point of the article. They do not claim to be devoid of marketing tactics; instead they claim their tactics are based upon player feedback metrics to improve the fun factor, which in turn should encourage people’s continued financial support.

    These are not binary arguments. Obviously WoW needs to design fun content just as GW2 needs to retain a player’s base. The arguments propose that a sub model needs to more heavily depend upon fostering addictive behaviors through mechanics such as dailies and rare raid loot drops; I believe that it is a rare individual that honestly thinks doing the same repetitive dailies and raids for months on end is actually “fun”, as opposed to appealing to their addictive natures.

    I would often wonder why over the course of years that glaringly bad problems with seemingly simple solutions persisted in games like WoW (take AFK’ers in battlegrounds). This line of thinking likely comprises most of the content of your blogs, which is, why do devs let game mechanics pass into launch and persist although they are overtly flawed from a fun POV? I surmise that many of these are based on fears of diminishing their monthly subbed player base.

    The sub model is more prone to have devs make decisions on fostering daily addictive logging than on player feedback. I think the point is lost if one claims that the article states ANet will not make decisions based on financial motivations. I believe the point is that without the primary focus on maintaining monthly sub numbers they have the opportunity to shift away resources from content design primarily based upon addictive slot machine behaviors. So far their actions support this contention with the numerous player surveys, and the elimination of loot chasing by avoiding traditional raids and OP loot drops.

    People should be able to play the game in the fashion they find most entertaining as opposed to the most efficient way published in an online guide to get the most woot. Concepts such as maximizing honor earned/hour isn’t relevant.

    This article contends that they are going to make the tastiest encounters as defined on the basis of consumer feedback, instead of covering up a mediocre product by putting a toy at the bottom of every box. It makes perfect sense to me, and I believe this has been the contention of numerous posters on your blog throughout the years, namely that if devs listened more to gamers, gamers would have more fun, and it turn make the game a financial success, no?

  • Telling people your tactics are based on feedback is a tactic. What are they going to say? They’re not based on feedback? They don’t care what you think? Their content isn’t fun?

    Anyone ignoring feedback, sub or F2P, has erred. To think that Blizzard doesn’t take player feedback into account with the content they add in WoW is ridiculous. Millions of people are happy raiding day in day out or queuing for the same BG to fight to the same people 10 minutes at a time one after another.

    The sub model isn’t any more prone to wanting retention than B2P or F2P, they just do it differently No strategy works if the players do not want to keep playing. If players do not keep playing, they won’t want to continue buying consumables or more content in GW2. If players don’t keep playing a F2P game then volume of sales will never eclipse 15$/m /player and they may as well have a sub. Let’s be real: the only reason F2P is on the rise and devs want to go that route is because they make more money that way.

    I know what the article is saying. The article says they’re doing what every single developer should do, but the article purports that they’re able to do it because they do not have a subscription. I call foul. They never should have brought up the subscription model in that article.

  • What I read in that blogpost is;
    Most other MMO devs will space out content making you have to work “harder” (read grind for longer) to get to the “end” to keep you paying your monthly fee until they release new content, which ofc is made in the same manner.

    ArenaNets model allows them to make content which is fun to play, and doesn’t have to be dragged out for a long haul because they won’t miss out on any subfee should you decide not to play for a while until the next content patch or expansion comes along.

    So basically, they don’t have to make content repetitive to make sure you stick around like other games to, especially since returning to the game is as easy as logging in, no pondering if you REALLY are going to resub or not.

    I can see your point on them releasing paid content to make up for no sub, but if they stay true to how they ran the old game I expect them to release several patches with new content for free. They’ve released a lot of new content to tie in the gap between GW1 story and GW2 story the last year or two (Guild Wars Beyond).
    They’ve released 4 paid expansions in the same time as WoW has released 3, so not much of a difference there (though a big difference is that you are free to buy any or none of them in GW, in no particular order, as opposed to WoW where they rely on having the previous one). In addition they’ve also released a paid “bonus mission pack” which I can’t comment much on since I’ve never played it (it’s basically a singleplayer questline afaik).

    So I can only hope they’ll be releasing free content for GW2 as well, all we can do is wait and see. 🙂

  • Again, they have a fine line to walk so that they do not appear to be too greedy while providing “fun,” but I can easily see it being better than a sub model and I think that’s really what he was trying to say.

    […] you run the risk of sacrificing quality to get as much content in as possible to fill that time.

    He doesn’t say that subs CAN’t be fun, but rather he thinks GW2’s model is better suited to continue supplying fun. Compared to other MMO’s besides WOW, if this game is as successful or even more successful the previous GW, then I think he will have proven his point.

  • Single sentence summation: Sub models design content that heavily relies upon operant conditioning and not primarily intrinsic enjoyment of the experience.


    “One important tenet of Operant Conditioning is that behaviors are not inherently rewarding – they are made rewarding through reinforcement. It is the shaping process in EverQuest that makes the in-game “achievements” rewarding. It is the shaping process that make “achievements” achievements. People who don’t play EQ don’t see the appeal in clicking “COMBINE” in front of a forge for hours. They don’t see why players would camp Quillmane or ice cougars for hours, even days, for an item that usually doesn’t drop. To outsiders, the time players spend playing the game is mind-boggling. But it’s hard for those of us inside the construct to realize this because the game has conditioned us to pursue these rewards.”

  • @Steeldragoon: He may not have directly said it, but it was easily read between the lines.

    @Gankatron: I’m calling complete BS on that one. The second I feel like a game is conditioning me, or getting me into this mode to repeat myself, I’m usually on my blog writing about how I see the pattern and I’m ready to quit. I assume the million people raiding weekly and chomping at the bit to raid in WoW’s next expansion aren’t bothered by it, and probably enjoy themselves or else they wouldn’t be doing it. Now if you mean Operant conditioning like when I say games should have consequences or make you work for your goal, I feel that’s unrelated to this discussion.

    EQ, DAOC, SWG, etc., etc., didn’t have one iota of this “filler” ‘let’s jam in this repetitive crap to always dangle the carrot’ content as their primary method of play, and I certainly wasn’t playing them for ANY reason other than what I perceived to be their intrinsic enjoyment value.

    Let’s call a spade a spade. They’re not talking about the subscription model. They’re talking about the WoW model.

  • Nope, I am referring to the idea that people can chomp at the bit to do a conditioned behavior that is not intrinsically enjoyable, operant conditioning. Note that it escapes the realization of many people that they are being conditioned, and knowledge of the process is not always sufficient to ward off establishment of a conditioned behavior.

    It is pervasive through the MMO genre and is exemplified by WoW, one of the most successful Skinner boxes in the MMO subscription field. It is not BS, it is actually a primary driving force in game design to foster MMO addiction to support this sub model.

    You played WoW for many years and kept going back, while simultaneously decrying the model, that is addiction; you recognized it, blogged about it, and yet kept going back.

    It takes a bit of distance from traditional MMO’s to realize the difference between playing for fun and satisfying an addictive need to play. It sounds like you are missing this level of perspective given that you do not seem to even see the underlying mechanics inherent in the dailies and raids that to me are clear examples of operant conditioning.

    Subs need to keep people around on a more regular basis so players don’t say I guess I won’t pay for service this month and face the threat of those repetitive behaviors extinguishing. ANet is saying that they have a greater flexibility in designing content based upon what players consider fun if they aren’t primarily focused on designing the most profitable Skinner Box with the largest base of conditioned addicts.

  • BTW I don’t claim to be above being conditioned by these models. I think I realized it happening to me most vividly when playing WoW came into conflict with another addictive behavior of mine.

    My girlfriend at the time stated late one night while I was sitting for hours with my headset on in yet another raid, “If you you don’t come to bed right now you can forget about sex”; it soon after that I quit WoW…

  • I don’t think people chomp at that bit unless they enjoy themselves or they’re masochistic. I suppose ignorance is a valid excuse, but then is it really an issue at all?

    I went back to WoW because I enjoyed the content. When I got to the raiding for that expansion, I’d quit after killing the bosses once. I love the leveling, the quests kept getting zanier and more enjoyable. MMO’s aren’t an addiction for me; They are a hobby.

    Dailies are the absolute perfect example. I agree entirely that the underlying mechanics of dailies are to keep you needing to come back every day, wanting to renew to play another day to get that goal at the end. I don’t do dailies, though, and I wasn’t even conscious of them until they became the norm years into WoW’s life. Point? They’re not inherent to the Sub model and dailies can and do exist in F2P and B2P games — I’ll bet GW2 has dailies!

    I think you’re focusing too much on specifics and making an argument based on those specifics. Big picture time. It doesn’t matter what model you use, there’s a method to make money, a method to keep people playing, and a need to have fun content. NOTHING from this philosophy is inherent to the sub model that isn’t present in other models.

  • “I’ll bet GW2 has dailies!”

    Heck, they have “minuties”. You can replay the events back-to-back if you find it (dare I say it) fun.