Well the day has arrived. Many people have been saying that Guild Wars 2 will eventually become a free-to-play game simply because that's the only way any new MMO survives. However, when it takes 3 years to do this, I really do have to wonder how much satisfaction these people can have in "being right." But it has come to pass as yesterday a news article announced that effective immediately, Guild Wars 2 no longer requires you to buy the game before you can play it.
Now this news certainly does bring up multiple responses. Some people are immediately celebrating the company crumbling, especially some of the people already in the game who were pissed off when they found out that new players wouldn't have to buy the core game at all. Instead, the upcoming Heart of Thorns expansion will include everything. They see this as shitting on the audience who's been there for them since the beginning and want something extra for themselves in return for such loyalty.
To these spoiled brats, let me say this right now. Fuck right off. You have been playing the game for 3 years already, many of which got to play the Living World as it happened for free. Everyone else was forced to buy that content, if it was even available when they got there. You have already been cared for, and to throw a tantrum because "OMG! SOMEONE ELSE IS GETTING A BREAK IM NOT!" is just pure assholishness on your end. Besides, I suspect you are not seeing the crumble you hope for, but I will get to that in a moment.
Others will be a lot more reasonable and understand this is done in much the same tone as it was to give the core game away with the expansion... it's actually very simple economics... no gamer is going to spend $80 or more to buy a game which is what would be expected if they required both the game and the expansion. And as with any MMO, people will play for a while, have fun, and leave. This is expected of everyone eventually... and an expansion will not bring everyone back. As such, especially where Guild Wars 2 does not charge a subscription fee, this game requires new players to keep going. Giving the game away with the expansion was a cultivation effort, and ultimately, so is this. I believe Mike O'Brian's own entry can best explain the motivations for this move:
"Expansions are the one place where the buy-to-play model gets a little tricky. When you’re coming in as a new player to a game that has a bunch of expansions, what exactly should you buy in order to play with your friends? The base game and also every single expansion? We’ve seen examples in the industry where that kind of thing has gotten out of control. It doesn’t seem right, and we want to do better. As we get ready to ship our first expansion for Guild Wars 2, we want to ensure that we keep the business model friendly and simple. So let’s be clear that when we say Guild Wars 2 is buy-to-play, we’re only asking you to buy one thing: the current release, Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns.
To accomplish that, we’ve already included the core game as a free bundle for anyone who buys Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns. And today we’ll go a step further: we’re making the core game free for everyone. For anyone who’s been curious about Guild Wars 2, now you can just go to guildwars2.com, download the game, and start playing."So you see, the idea here is not to just give the game away, but to keep the price of entry at the point where it was when the game launched. In addition, the original content is now being treated almost like a demo with the hopes that you will like the game enough to want to buy the expansion and get the up-to-date content the game has to offer.
That is not to say you are getting the game free AND unrestricted, however. Just like any "demo" (or perhaps more appropriate for those who remember it "shareware version") there are things you will be held back from if you don't buy in.
- Fewer character and Inventory bag slots: Basically, this is going to be the biggest pain for free players out of all the changes, but it was to be expected. As I mentioned above, you are basically expected to treat this as the demo or as shareware and if you want the full experience, you will have to pick up the full game. (Which will grant you the full setup those who bought the game have.)
- Chat Restrictions: Free players will basically be unable to use Map chat. This has to be done or else free accounts would just be a welcome-in sign to gold-farmers who would just completely over-run and ruin it's use for the rest of the players already there. In addition whispering between players is quasi-limited in that while you can do anything you would be able to do with a paid copy of the game, you can't start a new conversation in them more then once every 30 seconds. Again, this seems to make sense to avoid farmers spamming individuals with a script to get around the Map chat.
- Trade Restrictions: Dammit real-money vendors! Once again, this seems to be to prevent these people from getting a good nest in the system, but free users seem to be limited to using the trading post for common items and can not mail out gold or items to other players. All I can say at this point is it looks like they are doing all they can to keep 3rd parties from turning this game's economy into Diablo 3 at launch.
- Location restrictions: This seems to be more about PvP cheating then anything else. After all, if you can get in for free, what's to stop someone who wants to screw with someone else (or throw a fight for their real character) from making a burner email and just making a free account to do it? While the game will let a free player level up to max level, they will be unable to access certain areas until they reach the appropriate level:
- Level 1-9 will not let the player leave the beginner areas.
- Level 1-29 will not be allowed to use Looking For Group functionality
- Level 1-59 will not be allowed to use WvW.
Oh, and by the way, Heart of Thorns arrives on Oct. 23rd.