Why Guild Wars 2’s prepurchase deal has the internet raging

On the surface, ArenaNet killed it at E3, kicking ass with a much-wanted and huge expansion for Guild Wars 2, one of the biggest MMORPGs in the market. The studio unveiled a massive new guild hall system, one players have been begging for, one that will satisfy everyone from teeny tiny guilds to classic Guild Wars fans. Those devs were riding high. They built it all up, and then they surprise-announced prepurchase tiers for the expansion. Cheering! Expansion! Woohoo! Take my money!

But then gamers got a good look at the tiers and what’s in them and what they cost… and the cheering turned to something else entirely. By Wednesday morning, the faint hum of discontent that began at E3 had turned into a seething rage across Reddit. Our articles on the subject taken together have racked up well over 800 comments as I write this. A single thread on Reddit exhorting players not to prepurchase is nearing 3000 upvotes, more than the subreddit has ever seen on a single topic. The official forums were offline all day Thursday. And through it all, ArenaNet has stayed eerily silent.

Whether you side with the angry mob or have a more nuanced view, Guild Wars 2 is thoroughly bungling its expansion prepurchase.

Massively OP Reporter Larry Everett came into work this morning baffled at all the outrage. “Am I going to get about 50 hours of fun out of it? If yes, then it’s worth the cost… if no, then I’ll not buy it: End of story,” he declared. “It being a Guild Wars 2 game, I’m pretty sure there is more than 50 hours of fun gameplay in it. I don’t see why people are so hostile about it.”

For his sake and yours, I’d like to shed some light on the many reasons some people are so hostile about it.

One group feels misled and tricked into an unnecessary purchase

Until Tuesday evening, ArenaNet encouraged prospective players to purchase the base game as it would be required in order to play the expansion. You might think, “Duh, it’s an expansion, why wouldn’t it be required?” but it was an important distinction since classic Guild Wars campaigns were standalone. Once the tiers were released into the wild, it became obvious that the base game would be bundled into the expansion and that players did not need to shell out for the base game separately. The misleading FAQ was quietly altered, but not before Redditors uploaded screengrabs and splashed them around the internet, leading recent purchasers to feel swindled.

I don’t believe ArenaNet lied. I don’t believe there was some malicious intent to cheat you out of the $10 GW2 sale price you paid a few weeks ago. I do think there was a serious corporate miscommunication snafu, that the FAQ change was dodgy and a terrible call, and that players have a legitimate complaint here. Redditors report that ArenaNet is refunding purchases made in the last 30 days, but that has apparently been the company’s standing policy (some folks report ANet is extending that back to April). Taking the studio up on it does mean losing your account because why wouldn’t it? If you’re playing now, you’re paying now. Either way, for these folks, it’s not about the tenner; it’s about principle and sticking up for yourself when a company goofs.

One group believes the expansion is overpriced

Fifty bucks gets you in the door with beta access. The $75 tier also grants you a character slot worth $10, and some fluff. At $100 down, you also get a stack of gems worth $50, meaning you just bought the base pack and 50 dollars’ worth of gems and got a free character slot out of it, a meager savings of about 15%.

In other words, the tiers aren’t really all that impressive. Whether you believe there’s value in the upper tiers depends primarily on how much you care about beta and what kind of fluff you like. I love fluff, especially armor and weapon skins, but I don’t give a crap about minipets, gliders, finishers, or guild hall junk, so from my perspective, the upper tiers aren’t worth their asking price at all, and the bottom tier seems a tad high. I am best off with a $50 tier and buying my gems as I need them and my character slots when they go on sale.

For comparison’s sake, consider that we paid $50 for Warlords of Draenor and a level 90 character booster, which alone costs $50 $60. ArcheAge’s $50 founder package came with beta, head-start, a title, a glider, a month of sub, and credits worth $20 (its $100 and $150 packages included $80 and $120 in combined sub fees and credits, respectively). Closer to home, Guild Wars’ $35 Eye of the North expansion preorder package deal included a sneak peek weekend, special weapons, time-limited access to the standalone campaigns, and a free copy of the Bonus Mission Pack’s special missions and skins. In light of competitor pricing, I think that $35, $50, and $75 for the three tiers, intact, would have made far more sense.

I don’t feel so strongly about this that I’m going to join the boycott, but it’s not outrageous to argue that in this market, this product is overpriced. But again, we’re talking about a few dollars here either way.

One group is seriously pissed that newbies are getting a great deal

This is the least compelling argument for me. It goes like this: A newcomer to the game puts down $50 and gets the original game, the expansion, and the five character slots that come with the base game. Someone who’s poured hundreds of dollars into the game over the last three years also pays $50, gets no discount for already owning the original game, and gets no fresh character slots (something the classic GW standalone campaigns did because they added a new class, just as Heart of Thorns will).

There’s always an undercurrent of resentment in the gaming community when games go on sale or reduce in price after launch, and I really, really do not like the elitism from vets one bit. This is how our industry works. Do I throw a tantrum when Skyrim, for which I paid $100 years ago, is five bucks on Steam? No. I had years of play, while the guy finally shelling out $5 missed out when the franchise was in its heyday. Let him in. Maybe he’ll make me some mods. Similarly, there is no MMO in existence that won’t benefit from attracting some fresh blood, especially new players willing to pay for quality video games.

That said, ArenaNet probably should have thrown its loyalists a bone to engender a fresh round of goodwill and soften them up for that $50 price point. That’s a standard way to keep existing customers happy and virally promoting their games. Hey, I know! How about a free character slot so we can roll up a Revenant? Yeah! Great idea, internet!

One group feels there’s insufficient expansion info to justify a prepurchase at any price

These folks are right too. We don’t know when the expansion is launching. We don’t know the full extent of what’s going into the game. ArenaNet will take the rest of the summer to roll that out, and it really needed something big and flashy to get people back into Guild Wars 2 this weekend as Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward launches and World of Warcraft patches. But that’s not our problem; we’re the consumer. And for us, buying something without full information is usually a bad idea, especially if there’s a chance the information, once revealed, might affect our decision-making. Sometimes it won’t; there are people, like my husband and I, who know they are going to get the expansion at some point no matter what and it’s just a matter of when. But a lot of gamers haven’t decided whether to come back yet. This fiasco might help them make up their minds in a way ArenaNet doesn’t like.

Back to you, angry mob

I don’t have extreme insider knowledge about the inner workings of ArenaNet management. But one thing I’m pretty sure of is that ArenaNet is a big, unwieldy beast and that PR fiascos are a way of life there as they are for any large gaming company. This is one of the bigger screw-ups in a long history of big ones for ANet, but it won’t be the last, no matter how much Reddit rages. And the worst part is that the mega-patch coming next week and all the emerging details on guild halls have been utterly subsumed by this argument.

Does a pricing quarrel justify going apeshit on ANet? No it does not. Have some perspective, folks. We’re talking about a few bucks and a video game here. And a lot of the devs at ArenaNet have no hand at all in these decisions, so lashing out at artists and designers and community managers is pointless, never mind rude.

Should you hold ArenaNet accountable? Absolutely. We are all stunned that the studio has made no public statement on the whole ordeal. We’re all still waiting. I don’t think this will go away on its own, and what ANet does next will color the expansion’s launch months from now.

Is this a fair debate for the MMO community to have? Sure. But do it reasonably and rationally. If you’re using the words “entitled” or “slap in the face” or “boycott,” you’re doing it wrong.

And should you prepurchase the expansion?

That, folks, is entirely up to you, your wallet, and your conscience.

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