PAX Prime 2015: Guild Wars 2’s free-to-play model and publishing takeover

When I spoke to ArenaNet’s Colin Johanson about raids in Guild Wars 2 at this year’s PAX Prime, President Mike O’Brien was sitting right next to him. Johanson was the frontman for raiding, while O’Brien took a brief moment to discuss the game’s business model announcement and address rumors about its future.

One question on a lot of minds at the moment is whether or not Guild Wars 2 is now a free-to-play MMORPG. And the simple answer to that question is no, according to O’Brien.

“I look at free-to-play as a business model. We aren’t going to go back and redesign the business model. It’s not about monetizing free-to-player players. This is Guild Wars 2. Guild Wars 2 was designed as a buy-to-play game.”

Revenant

Since we were talking about the business model, I also asked about the rumors floating around regarding the change in the EULA. If you look closely, you might notice that all mentions of NCSoft have mysteriously disappeared. O’Brien shrugged that question off and said, “There is nothing tricky about that. ArenaNet is taking over the publishing of Guild Wars 2.”

At that point, Johanson jumped in to comment on another Reddit conspiracy, confirming that ArenaNet does in fact have a base on the moon and that all of ArenaNet’s employees will be relocating there with him.

Massively Overpowered is on the ground in Seattle for PAX Prime 2015, bringing you expert MMO coverage from NCsoft, Trion, PWE, and everything else on display at the latest Penny Arcade Expo!
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Denice J Cook
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Denice J Cook

Bluetouchpaper Chainezomon Telos_

The Everquest franchise is like that, too; they have kronos you can buy in-game with plat that give you a month of play time if you purchase them, and the plat if you sell them.  ;)

Denice J Cook
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Denice J Cook

Peregrine_Falcon

Oh dear God….but you may be right.  NCSoft doesn’t usually do anything for anyone but themselves.

Denice J Cook
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Denice J Cook

And you know what else?  (darn those expiration timers…)

I’ll bet NCSoft still has their greasy little mits in the pie somehow or other!

There, now I feel better.  ;)

Denice J Cook
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Denice J Cook

Oh sure, NCSoft can sell GW2 to ArenaNet, but when they had the chance to sell CoX to Paragon Studios (who tried desperately to get it), they shut it down instead.

Well, it looks like they’re learning a bit from their previous P.R. mistakes.

That, and ArenaNet probably had way more millions to make a deal with.  ;)

But NCSoft still sucks.  ;)

mmoseeker
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mmoseeker

ArenaNet is taking over the publishing of Guild Wars 2. http://www.mmocake.com

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

Bluetouchpaper paragonlostinspace  That’s very true. As long as it’s something like the fluff stuff that Blizzard does for WoW I don’t honestly mind or care. Pets, mounts that sort of stuff.

Bluetouchpaper
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Bluetouchpaper

I thought Guild Wars 2 was rebuy to play ?

Bluetouchpaper
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Bluetouchpaper

paragonlostinspace  But sometimes subscription games have a cash shop too .

Bluetouchpaper
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Bluetouchpaper

Chainezomon Telos_  I consider WoW to be the fourth kind of business model Earn to Play . Similar to EVE online .

SmithBrandy
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SmithBrandy

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breetoplay
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breetoplay

Superbrak breetoplay Joseph Douglas I hear you, but I’m not sure it’s consistent given NCsoft games like Aion and L2. Aion is particularly insensitive to the Asian traditions it borrows from. Or maybe it’s more like when NCsoft says sensitivity it means “for East Asia, and South Asia can jump in a lake.” :P
It’s also a little weird when our GW2 characters are running around with character models and faces and hair that look straight out of a Korean MMORPG.

breetoplay
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breetoplay

SallyBowls1 Siphaed That really doesn’t seem to be NCsoft’s plan for 2015; they just reinvested in NCwest and opened a mobile studio here, never mind the flurry of launches this fall and winter. 2016, we’ll see.

Sascha Grebe
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Sascha Grebe

Brian Paone I totally agree with you. And Bioware is not the only company miling the cow (aka player). Trion Worlds are quite the same with Rift and ArcheAge. They make you want to spend your last penny to progress in the game. Surely GW2 isn’t perfect either but players are treated much better here than anywhere.

Joseph C
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Joseph C

Captain Electric So you’re going to hurt ArenaNet because NCSoft shut down City of Heroes. Are you sure you have the right target in your sights? I realize the fear and trepidation one can have. I’m a City of Heroes player. Tabula Rasa and Exteel were also my jams. I’ve lost quite a bit to NCSoft. However, I still support ArenaNet because they at least TRY to do right by their audience. While this means that, unfortunately, some of that money will be seen by NCSoft, I feel it’s worth it to give to a company that kept me entertained for as long as it did, when most games can barely hold me for over an hour. Sad to think you won’t experience a game world because the publisher is an asshat, not the studio.

Peregrine_Falcon
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Peregrine_Falcon

While ArenaNet, and thus Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2, are still owned by NCSOFT, this does make one wonder if they’re positioning themselves to buy ArenaNet back. Something which the current sale contract does allow for.

Xijit
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Xijit

ArtemisiaWS Joseph Douglas 
That was then, and NCsoft wanted an explicit “asian” setting to sell in Asia to raise the appeal of a risky / unconventional western developed MMO … This is now, Guild Wars is a major title that can / has shifted the market with it’s mass and NCsoft doesn’t want it’s domestic titles getting depopulated by Guild Wars 2. 
GW2 has enough appeal and marketability behind it, toss in a setting designed specifically appeal to Asian players and every MMO in korea takes a sizable player hit; and when NCsoft’s primary platform is “asian” settings ….

It is a valid hypothesis, with the point being that it would be too successful and NCsoft doesn’t want to hand any more power to Arena Net than it already has.

EChondo
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EChondo

Chainezomon 10k gems=~1700G, which you could put up for a buy order on some Legendaries or almost buy the Legendary Trident, which is an underwater weapon and there’s almost no underwater combat at all in the game…

ArbsX
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ArbsX

Enikuo It sounds like they want to avoid the bad rep of f2p. Just like companies try to avoid the MMO tag.

Brian Paone
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Brian Paone

Hi. I popped in on the F2P raft and ended up buying in after 12 levels.

I think, from a new player’s perspective, that ArenaNet is taking a smart approach here. I didn’t feel painfully restricted while in F2P mode. I had access to everything I NEEDED in order to play the game, which allowed me ample opportunity to decide whether or not I wanted to actually plunk down money. 

I’m grateful for the opportunity, because after my experience with Elite: Dangerous I’m not a fan of the traditional B2P model. As a matter of fact, I kinda felt screwed by Frontier on that one. Still do.

I don’t even really think this is a new approach. It’s a lot like the old demos and shareware of the games of yore. Play a stripped down version of the game, decide if you want to buy based on your experience. A good, solid game will be able to sell itself easily on those terms – which GW2 did, as far as I’m concerned.

(One thing regarding Pollyanna’s comment though – Bioware most certainly does market the everliving hell out of its cash shop to subscribers. I played for two years. Spent way more than I should have. :-p)

SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

kgptzac   ” negative implications the term is regarded by the game’s target audience.” I would say that F2P has positive implications for the game’s target audience and very negative implications for PAX and MOP’s target audience.

SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

breetoplay Kaaz Meh. People divide games into “games I like and rationalize for” and “games I don’t”.  I think they are all “F2P” games and every monetization is unique. And some schemes are much worse than others. Now that GW2 is f2p, I was hoping that there would less use of the “f2p is …” generalization.

I think it would be neat to see a table that shows games vs attributes. One to see the diversity of “f2p” and two maybe there is line is as clear as your last sentence.  I have thrown up my hands and said all f2p game monetizations are different. $275 makes CU B2P. Which camp do you put LotRO in?

If we assume all games from this decade are “f2p” with a cash shop, then what are the attributes?
optional sub which may or may not give you ingame currency
can launder RL$ into in game currency (PLEX, tokens, gems)
Loyalty benefits of cumulative purchases (Rift, WS)
cash shop items BoP or BoE (SWTOR) 
trials: none, time-based (EVE), level based (WoW), or …
past expansions/zones: require purchase? free to sub?
current expansion/zone: require purchase? free to sub? goes away w/o sub or stays (SWTOR)

I think all the games are f2p hybrids.

unixtimed
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unixtimed

Captain Electric They are still owned by NCSoft so don’t get excited.

Captain Electric
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Captain Electric

I’m one of those icky City of Heroes fans who has boycotted NCSoft and won’t play any games they have a hand in. Needless to say, this headline got me excited momentarily. But the speculative consensus seems to be that ArenaNet isn’t totally leaving NCSoft behind.
Oh, well. Plenty of other games to play.

SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

In spite of some people not grokking what a wholly owned subsidiary is, replacing NCSoft with Anet as publisher seems like a non-event for GW2. The place for the tin foil hat discussions is re #BladeAndSoul   At the time it made one of its mobile investments in April, NCSoft outsourced some support staff and duties. Today’s move looks like further shrinking of NCSoft West ex ANet.  

It could just be the usual corporate getting leaner with fewer people. However, at some point, is having a separate Anet, Carbine and NCSoft (or whatever B&S will launch under) brand and organization worth the cost?  My guess is there will be Nexon accountants sharpening their pencils and making that case.

SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

breetoplay Eliandal deekay_zero Re “And honestly, Anet already operated fairly independently anyway,”  Do you have *any* basis for saying that?  If could be that NCSoft is a net “investor” in ANet, anet is spending more that their P&L would dictate.  Or it could be that the majority of ANet’s profits are not spent at Anet but used to fund Wildstar/China or L3 or more likely mobile and mobile acquisitions.  A “cash cow” division might get one developer per million dollars in contribution margin.  A “star” division might get 6.  There are a very few numbers, contribution margin %, capex budget, IRR rate, that I presume are set in Korea that will have a huge impact on ANet.  I don’t see how you or I would know what those are or how frequently they change.

Siphaed
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Siphaed

breetoplay Leilonii Dnote deekay_zero Eliandal 
Sadly a really, really, REALLY bad one. 
Remember the taxi cab adverts?  https://youtu.be/2Epn6ZZResk

How about the “Our time is now” commercial?  https://youtu.be/HGRMWxg9ZcM

The promotion with rock and roll guitar music for the Tower of Nightmares.  How awful and completely unnecessary was that thing?

They need to get a better PR/marketing wing.   The only ones that ever did any good was the Fractals one (which was a trailer that released with the new fractals over a year after the first Fractals actually opened) and the trailer shown at theaters during select movie showings.
Fractals Trailer:  https://youtu.be/mGZPSBod6d4

Theater trailer:  https://youtu.be/M6bHAIx2gBQ

SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

Damonvile breetoplay Chainezomon Koshelkin Amen.

SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

breetoplay Wratts doctordake ArbiterLibera Oh, I thought we were talking about PC titles.  Of course NCSoft, like everyone, is expanding mobile. A large increase in Western mobile gaming needs to be funded from somewhere, and Western PC seems like an obvious candidate. There are three acquisitions/investments in mobile that even I have heard about recently.

In fact the April announcement of the This Game investment was coupled with the layoffs in the PC Area.

This falls in line with NCSoft’s statements late last year that it was laying off staff as part of an ongoing restructuring effort geared towards focusing on “new business segments like mobile and tablet games,” and GamesBeat reports that the company’s mobile expansion won’t stop with This Game Studio. 

“This is part of our desire to work with some of the best mobile game developers in the world,” NCSoft West exec Michael Chang told GamesBeat. “You will see us become more active on investments and acquisitions in the West.”

While NCSoft has been active in the mobile game market for some time, it is best known in the West for operating MMO games like WildStar and Guild Wars 2.

The company seems to be paring down its Western MMO game operation expenses in favor of expanding into mobile; news broke yesterday that NCSoft laid off support staff in Austin in favor of outsourcing its customer support efforts.

SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

bryanjturner As independent as any wholly own subsidiary where the owner can fire anyone and shutdown or sell the subsidiary at any time.

enamelizer
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enamelizer

Silverbourne Well fuck you too, buddy.

Grimmtooth
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Grimmtooth

Polyanna Very well said

enamelizer
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enamelizer

Polyanna enamelizer Great point. I wait for Steam sales since I feel dumb paying $60 for a game I know will be discounted in a few months. I encourage others too as well, but people enjoy the feeling of being caught up in the hype of a new release. Growing up in crushing poverty makes you think differently about how you spend your money I guess.

Mikey Moo
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Mikey Moo

Joseph Douglas Veldan breetoplay If I remember correctly, a lot of it had to do with how the different Asian cultures didn’t respond positively enough to Cantha having a mixture of architectural influence from all of the Asian-Eurasian cultures in GW1. The rumour was perpetuated by actual developers who designed Cantha in the first game, on the GW2 forums, and the Canthan district of Divinity’s Reach which is now the Royal something or other that Queen Jennah commissioned to fill the hole that was there for so long….And the hole was there because NCsoft stipulated that they had to remove the Canthan district, and they couldn’t convince them otherwise….SO the hole was actually an inside joke out of protest from ArenaNet.

This was also supported by data-miners who found development era versions of Divinity’s Reach which did in fact have that district built up and labeled as the Canthan District, then later turned into the Culture & Arts district, and then into an empty hole.

Polyanna
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Polyanna

enamelizer Make sure you also demand a refund on all those single-player titles you paid $60 for at release, that you now can pick up in a bundle on Steam for two bucks.

IT ENDS HERE.

Telos_
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Telos_

Chainezomon Telos_ Technically, yes.  Anyone can access their servers with a Starter Account.  There are many restrictions such as lvl 20, mailbox, chat, etc.  Not only that, but you can now buy a WoW token bypassing the monthly fee.

Chainezomon
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Chainezomon

Telos_ so wow is f2p?

enamelizer
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enamelizer

Chainezomon enamelizer Polyanna I got the “opportunity” to give a company my money for three years before they relegated me to nearly the same status as someone that paid $0. Yay for me?

I am honestly not that upset about it, it was a good lesson. Don’t support MMOs with box purchases, wait for the inevitable F2P transition. That’s no problem for me, I usually enjoy more mature MMOs better.

Just offering my opinion of why “Core” tier players are feeling slighted by this whole thing. You are free to feel like I should feel better about it. But I don’t, so I am going to spend my money elsewhere. Maybe I will come back when HoT inevitably becomes free, it would be stupid to buy it now.

Telos_
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Telos_

I don’t know why people always confuse the three different MMO models.  Each model is based on ACCESS to their servers.  That’s all it is.

Subscription = $15 to access their servers.  (monthly fee varies)

B2P = one-time fee to access their servers.

F2P = no payment necessary to access their servers.

(There’s a mixture of all of the above and/or with tiers)

With that out of the way, GW2 is now F2P, and no longer B2P.  A purchase is no longer necessary to access their servers.

Once again, each model has traditionally been about access to servers.  Nothing more, and nothing less.

Chainezomon
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Chainezomon

enamelizer Chainezomon Polyanna you also got to play it for up to 3 years earlier. some games you prepurchase and you only get it a week earlier.

enamelizer
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enamelizer

Chainezomon enamelizer Polyanna The difference between account types even seems more minor when you spell it out like that. To think of how much I paid for that handful of features you listed (and never even used personally) makes me feel even worse about the whole thing.

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

Craywulf Right, it always has all been marketing. There really is no real big difference between the F2P and B2P business model, not really. Useless Loser just remarked on what I’d forgotten and that is soon that GW2 from 0 to 80th (all the original content) is going to be F2P per the very definition of it. Much to do about nothing and just splitting hairs. Shitty business model regardless.

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

Seriously, it’s splitting hairs. F2P and B2P are pretty much the same thing. Both have cash shops, neither has subscriptions and those are the main points. So you bought the box, if you waited you paid 10 bucks for it. It is splitting hairs, get over it.  I don’t see a hell of a lot of difference between the two business models.  Having played and do play GW2 I see no tangible difference between how it operates and the F2P mmos operate.

SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

GleefulGrognard Greaterdivinity Who knows but I would assume the money would be flowing the other way, with profits from GW2 going to fund L3 and more mobile acquisitions.

SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

Siphaed SallyBowls1 US and EU combined were 12% last quarter.  That is both their biggest opportunity for growth and small enough that some pruning could happen in really tough (and unexpected) times.

Damonvile
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Damonvile

Siphaed SoMuchMass Roke Craywulf That’s not really the point. Regardless of what % it actually works out to be, if they gave the base game away today it would be the entire game for free. The day after the expansion comes out suddenly it’s not good enough to be considered free anymore ?

Sounds like more free isn’t free enough crap to me.

kgptzac
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kgptzac

Obviously the only reason why O’Brien said that was to avoid the negative implications the term is regarded by the game’s target audience. It’s all PR speak; like how developers call GW1 and World of Tanks “MMO” when they really are not.

SoMuchMass
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SoMuchMass

SallyBowls1 Good points, it does seem weird this whole publisher switch.  I am sure there are some internal reasons behind it which we aren’t privy of.

Damonvile
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Damonvile

breetoplay Chainezomon Koshelkin I really don’t believe a very large section of the posters here..or anywhere actually understand or believe that to be true. The avg p2w commenter seems to think money comes from your mom, all games should be 100% free and the only things it’s ok to charge for are things ” I” don’t want.

Chainezomon
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Chainezomon

enamelizer Polyanna so you have no access to mapchat, only 2 character slots, can only wisper every 30 sec, cant mail people items and cant convert gold to gems?

Siphaed
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Siphaed

SoMuchMass Roke Craywulf

Really?  You’ve played the whole expansion and all its content? All 9 Elite specs?  Revenant class to 80?  All 4 new Maguuma maps? Both guild halls?  The stronghold?  The desert borderlands?  The new raids?

Ya, didn’t think so!

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