(UPDATED DISCOVERIES AT THE BOTTOM)
So the pre-order for GuildWars 2’s upcoming expansion dropped last night: http://buy.guildwars2.com/store/gw2/en_US/html/pbPage.heartofthorns?cid=90:5::::Global:40:::
The effect of this preorder information getting released resulted in both ‘main’ GW2 subreddits as well as the GW2 / ArenaNet forums getting set on fire by their relevant denizens.
Why is everyone so angry, you ask? Well it basically comes down to a bad choice of price.. and a bad choice of wording. In other words.. ‘marketing’. Lets go over it all step by step and think things through to see what we can figure out.
Set the Wayback Machine
Back when GW2 initially launched, the core game was $49.99. There was a physical copy you could walk into your local store and buy.. as well as a ‘Digital Download’ version purchasable 100% online. They had a ‘Deluxe’ version for $79.99 which boasted some additional perks, as well as a ‘Collector’s Edition’ for $99.99 (I think? Might have been slightly higher.) which even included a statue of one of the game’s most popular characters.. Rytlock Brimstone. Record game sales and very wide acceptance meant that the game’s launch was a general financial success for the company behind it all.
After a fairly successful launch, the company then shifted primarily into ‘maintenance mode’ for the game, squashing bugs and generally trying to make the gaming experience for their players as smooth and pleasant as possible. Then suddenly.. “The Living World” game updates were announced.
Brace for the Living World
A few months after launch an announcement from ArenaNet came out stating that they had a grand plan for adding new storyline content to the game for their burgeoning playerbase. “The Living World – Season 1” was announced, and thus began a regular monthly updating story that took GW2 players on an adventure. (I’m not going to go on about how “The Living World” was deployed / implemented, that’s not the primary objective for today’s conversation.) “The Living World – Season 1” wrapped up, with Season 2 kicking off just a few months later. The storyline in Season 2 would actually be grandiose and overarching enough that one of the primary game zones (Lion’s Arch) would be attacked.. decimated.. and left in ruins. A permanent change to the game world itself. This was a daring risk on the part of ArenaNet, and Lion’s Arch is just now getting repairs and renovations in-game.
Season 2 of The Living World came and went, and a long silence then settled in as Season 3 was .. never announced. Later news would come out from ArenaNet stating that they were actually working on something bigger. Something better than the “Living World” concept. They were working on an expansion for Guild Wars 2 itself! The hype-train started for what will eventually be named “Heart of Thorns” (or ‘HoT’ for short). HoT would add 3 new game zones to the world of Tyria as well as one new class, “The Revenant”. Elite profession specializations were also being added for all existing classes, providing even more content to all of the other classes in game.
Sale! Sale! Sale!
This is where things start to get a little… fishy. About a month ago ArenaNet put their core game version ‘on sale’ for $40 (as it was still selling for $40-$50 in most retail locations) in an effort to start luring in new players for the upcoming expansion. “Buy the game now for $40 and get a head start on your Guild Wars 2 experience in preparation for Heart of Thorns!” was the general sales pitch, and it worked. LOADS of folks came out of the woodwork, finally buying into GW2 and joining their existing friends in-game. This seemed totally fine, and reinforced the concept that when HoT finally came out it would be a lower-priced expansion and not a full price stand alone version of the game. (Back in Guild Wars 1, ArenaNet would actually price their expansions as a full standalone game and include the base game plus previous expansions in an effort to not fracture the playerbase.)
Call the Riot Squad
Last night the announcement was finally made that pre-orders were open for Heart of Thorns. There was a general rush of anticipation and excitement that quickly ground to a screeching halt as folks started to read the pre-order page details:
First up to the chopping block was the pricing: droves and droves of existing players balked at the concept of paying $50 for such a ‘small’ (compared to previous content for GW1) expansion pack. $50? And that was just for the standard ‘no frills’ edition?
Then rage really started to set in as folks took notice of two additional details:
- The fine print “(includes Guild Wars 2 core game)” was noticed on the Standard Edition
- “Additional Character Slot” was noticed on the Deluxe Edition
This is when the crowds’ anger seemed to really hit a fevered pitch. Veteran players who had supported the game at launch, and funded it via “Gem Store” (in-game currency bought with real $) transactions for years.. were getting shafted. Not only was the Standard Edition including the base game (which those players already OWNED and don’t see the merit of paying for a ‘second time’)… but to add insult to injury it wasn’t even coming with an additional character slot for the new class being added to the game. Most veteran players have filled up their existing character slots long ago, with some (like me) even buying additional slots via the in-game “Gem Store” for real-world-money (that goes directly to ArenaNet).
We Didn’t Start The Fire
So why did things derail? Why did they derail so quickly? I want to dissect things one at a time and go over all of the individual ‘faults’ that culminated in this massive crapstorm of grief:
- “(includes Guild Wars 2 core game)” – I see the benefit of doing this, really. ArenaNet wants to make it so that every new player only has to buy one version of the game to join in on the fun. There is merit to that perspective, but doing it this way during the initial ‘transition period’ of new content coming out ends up making existing players feel like they got shafted. Could they have worded this better? Probably not. But having a cheaper priced “Expansion Only” purchase option that was time-limited would have gone a long way towards generating some good will.
- Standard Digital Edition $49.99 – This is where things really started to go sideways. $50 for an expansion pack that is one new class and just 3 new zones (which only one of has been even mentioned as of yet. So ‘officially’ the game is only getting one new zone so far. No additional maps have been talked about or even named yet.) is a meager fraction in size of Guild Wars 1 expansions.. which were usually $40 to $50 themselves. Now lots of folks are going to leap to the defense of this price stating that it includes the core game as part of that purchase price:
No. It doesn’t. The above comment from SEVERAL ArenaNet employees trying to put out the flames of their burning forums, is cut-&-paste identical. They are including the base game for FREE as part of the expansion. This means that they are justifying that $50 price tag for the base version of the expansion SOLELY on the expansion itself. An update to the game that is a mere fraction of a Guild Wars 1 expansion size, much less about the same size (minus the new class) as their free “The Living World” content from a year or two before.
- Deluxe Digital Edition $74.99 – Additional Character Slot – This is really the final ‘misstep’ as I see it. Previous Guild Wars 1 expansions that added new classes… always provided one free character slot to existing players PER new class. If an expansion added 2 new classes, then upgrading players got 2 new character slots. This was done as a sign of ‘good faith’ to their existing player base as a show of appreciation for supporting the game and driving new game sales.
Fast forward to today, we’ve got a GW2 expansion coming out with a new class, but no free slot to all players. To make matters even worse, you can get an additional character slot via the in-game “Gem Store” for $10. This means that the $15 difference from Standard to Deluxe editions is justified via a $10 upgrade of an additional character slot .. and $5 worth of a free in-game ‘pet’ (called ‘miniatures’), a Guild Hall Decoration item, and a decorative skin for your in-game glider.
- Sale! Sale! Sale! – Remember that sale from a month or so ago? ArenaNet enticing possible new players to buy the core-game so that they could get a head start on the expansion? Well those people dropped $40 for a stand alone version of the game.. and now have to fork out another $50 when they could literally have just waited a month and saved half that money. This point alone makes ArenaNet come across as scammy and money-hungry; two traits which are never good to have in the eyes of your target consumers.
FINAL WORDS: I think ArenaNet has screwed up on more than one front with this whole debacle. Between the inflated price for a small-sized expansion, and being cheap with character slots.. much less the ill-timed sales fishing for new players… the whole thing has ended up erupting into a fairly massive mess. Right now the ArenaNet forums are loading loading super slow entirely because of the hordes of angry consumers generating traffic after this fiasco. All GW2 related subReddits are effectively rioting as well.
Yes a portion of their playerbase is happy and content with buying this full priced expansion pack, and is moving on with their life. At present however it looks like, for one reason or another, that in fact be a very VERY small portion of their customers.
I hope you have found this useful in some way. Did I clarify my points well enough? Please let me know in the comments below.
UPDATE #1: According to a press release for the preorder announcement of Heart of Thorns, the inclusion of the base game with the expansion is ONLY a perk for pre-purchasing customers. Once release of the game happens and pre-orders are over, new players will have to buy both the base game & the new expansion (same as most other MMORPG’s out there right now). Footage of this can be seen in a video released by popular GW2 YouTuber “WoodenPotatoes” (https://youtu.be/aUtMGS3ezLI?t=3m16s / See 3 minutes 16 seconds in, you can see the exact press release.) I don’t know where this press release IS on their website, I can’t find it. I will update this article as soon as I find it.