Was Going Free To Play A Good Move For Guild Wars 2?
It’s been almost two years since Arena Net announced that Guild Wars 2 will be free to play. The popular MMORPG first launched with a buy to play model and has been very successful with the game. At release in 2012, Guild Wars 2 racked up enough sales to make World of Warcraft’s Mists of Pandaria sales look amateur.
But what has happened to the game since going free to play? Has it actually offered any benefit to the overall quality to the game and its player base? We’ve investigated and taken a look back at the free to play period to come up with some thoughts. Here are the key takeaways from GW2’s new F2P model for one of the most beloved MMO’s of all time.
1. F2P Has Made The Game’s Population Thrive
To get rid of the obvious first, it’s a given that free to play MMOs are always going to attract a larger crowd. Guild Wars hid behind it’s buy to play model for years, but did very well because the game itself was an amazing product.
From an MMORPG point of view, GW2 introduced many features and systems that has changed the way players play MMOs. It streamlined and made gameplay both fluid and convenient, while still being able to enjoy a rich immersive world.
That’s one of the reasons why the game sold very well. Going free to play only offers this amazing game world to a wider audience. People who have always wanted to try it but didn’t want to commit the money can now do so free. In some aspects, that’s genius marketing. I would rather have a great game where players can experience the best of the genre for free and give them a reason to spend money than through petty restrictions.
Today, the game’s player base is as healthy as ever. Early level zones are always filled with players and the chat is never quiet, even after prime time. It’s really easy to find groups for both PVE and PVP too. It’s safe to say that a free model has helped liven up the GW2 community.
2. Revenues May Not Hit The Heights Prior To F2P
The current F2P system only includes the base Guild Wars 2 game. That means free to play players will get access to all the content that has been available since release. That’s a lot to go through when you do the math. There are plenty of zones, starter areas and dungeons from the pre-expansion period that players can sink their teeth into.
What could be a worrying sign is that because there’s so much content being given away for free, players may not need to buy the Heart of Thorns expansion so soon. While the base game is accessible to all, the expansion and living stories are not.
On top of that, the gem store, which is GW2’s in-game cash shop isn’t really stocked with pay to win items. There’s plenty of cosmetics and convenience items that doesn’t obtrude the gameplay. While that’s very commendable, that decision to keep it clean may return to haunt them. If no one is buying the expansions down the road, the cash flow may dry up.
Therefore it remains to be seen if the game can replicate success. Can they hit the revenue heights that it has achieved prior to dropping the pay to play model?
3. We May Not See Expansions Anytime Soon
It’s a simple cycle really. The more money the MMO makes, the sooner they can churn out more content. Take World of Warcraft for an example. WOW is able to crank out multiple content updates each quarter. And that’s down to a steady stream of money from it’s subscription model.
In GW2’s case, they can only make money from the gem store and expansions. When players are done with Heart of Thorns, then what? The expansion offers about 100 hours of PVE content, and in this day and age it may not be enough. So the bottom line is, GW2 needs to make more money. When the cash flow is good, the sooner the expansions can roll out.