Working As Intended: Guild Wars 2’s new mount licenses are still lockboxes, but they’re not the worst lockboxes

Pretty much everyone assumed that back when Guild Wars 2 planned out mounts, it did so with its cash shop in mind. The game is already not-so-jokingly known as “Fashion Wars,” so it’s got a playerbase primed and ready to splash out for sparkly mounts, especially cosmetic upgrades to what is very likely the best mount system in any MMORPG to date. The first set of mount cosmetics arrived for Halloween, a whole pack of skelly skins that players could buy directly. The second set, however, has now landed with a new sales scheme, and it’s caused significant controversy just as anticipated.

As we explained yesterday, ArenaNet has added 30 new mount skins to the game, but instead of selling them directly, the studio is selling them in a hybrid sort of lockbox: You buy one of the mount licenses, which unlocks one mount skin on your account that you don’t already have. You always get a mount skin, and you never get repeats, potentially all the way up to 30 licenses for 30 skins.

Unless you get the one you want sooner. That’s a big unless.

Our editorial team has been debating lockboxes of this particular nature for a long time. I first learned about the format last year when my husband grudgingly bought a bunch of this type of lockbox through SMITE. He really wanted the Ratatoskr squirrel-in-wolf’s-clothing skin for his main, and so he bought the 10 hybrid lockboxes to ensure that he got it (along with nine other guaranteed unlocks). He was willing to spend that much money for one skin, so he was even happier to spend that much money for 10, particularly in a game that is aggressively generous with unlocks. I ribbed him about it at the time, but since then, he and MOP SMITE fan MJ Guthrie have convinced me that this is really not the worst way of doing business if you’re committed to RNG in your cash shop.

That doesn’t mean it’s a great way of doing business.

A regular lockbox/lootbox of the MMORPG variety treats players – you – like a mark. Like a wallet. Like an idiot with neither self-control nor economic acumen. Most of the time, you will spend your money and walk away with the digital equivalent of scrap paper. Buffs. A minipet everyone already has five copies of. Junk. Not only did you not get what you wanted to buy, you got nothing useful at all. You got the random crap that studios dole out to buffer them from the gambling complaints they very much deserve.

Guild Wars 2 already has gambleboxes like those, and they suck. The only redeeming feature of the system is that (for the most part) you can take your claim tickets, trade them for one of multiple skins of your choosing, and sell it on the open market as you like, meaning that many skins acquired through traditional lockboxes are buyable for in-game gold, even for peeps who refuse to buy lockboxes.

Mount “licenses,” on the other hand, can’t be sold or transferred, and you have no choice in what you get. The key difference is that you do get something better than digital lint. You do get a mount skin. It just may not be the one you want.

Where you side in this argument, I suspect, depends on how entrenched you are in fighting RNG as a whole, whether you have your heart set on any specific skin, whether you hate cash shops on principle, and whether you think value mitigates potentially exploitative systems.

Here’s what I mean: These mounts are freakin’ cheap. Each mount skin unlock is 400 gems, so $5. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of an MMORPG cash shop where you can get a guaranteed mount skin for a fiver. So if you are sick of rapty and bunny et al., you can buy a few unlocks and get something different. If different is all you really wanted, this is a really inexpensive way to get it. It’s much cheaper for you overall than if 30 new mounts suddenly popped up on the cash shop for the traditional sparklepony rate of $25 bucks apiece. Likewise, if you wanted all of them anyway, $120 for 30 mounts is a steal. If you care most about value, this system will appeal to you.

(You could argue here that most of the mounts are filler and lack value in and of themselves. You’ll have to make that call for yourself. Maybe flip through them all first.)

If it’s the RNG of lockboxes that enrages you rather than the booby prizes in traditional lockboxes, you’re still going to be pissed. The stakes and payouts may have changed, but it’s still a form of gambling to you. You didn’t want a cheap random mount from some undisclosed drop-rate table; you wanted to buy a specific thing for a reasonable fee, and ArenaNet is still playing games with your tolerance for bullshit. In your mind, cheap random mounts are no better than booby prizes when you were after the one. And look, you’re not wrong to be annoyed about that. You could look at it the way my husband looked at SMITE – you could figure that you’re just paying $120 for the mount you want, and the other 29 are just along for the ride – but I can’t fault you if you hunker down on principle here. (And if you do, you can pay about $25 to buy the one direct-purchase mount that went live yesterday: the Reforged Warhound. Anet thought of you, here, too.)

If you hate cash shops and think all content should arrive through in-game means, even purely cosmetic content, then you will be angry no matter what and Guild Wars 2 is already probably not your game.

All that said, Guild Wars 2 is still my game, for all my criticisms of it, and while I find plenty to frown at with this new system, I’m also feeling encouraged to see ArenaNet seemingly taking player feedback into account and trying new ways to make money that are less bad – and less about getting away with as much gambling as possible – than the rest of the industry with its lockbox-infatuated debauchery. I’m also really heartened to see a fast way of injecting the game with a ton of new mount looks all at once that doesn’t culminate in everybody moving from the same free look to the same paid look. Whether I’ll pay five bucks for what’ll likely just be a fresh set of horns on Rapty? That’s another story.

The MMORPG genre might be “working as intended,” but it can be so much more. Join Massively Overpowered Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce in her Working As Intended column for editorials about and meanderings through MMO design, ancient history, and wishful thinking. Armchair not included.
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Fenryr Grey

What a disappointment. One game more on the black list. I’ll still play it but there won’t be any gem store purchases until this is removed. Cheers

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Reginald Atkins

the only good side to this new type of lootbox is that you can never draw a dupe item, but it’s still FAR worse than just putting the things in the store and letting people get exactly what they want.

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Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

I wanted a griffon and got 3 jackal skins-2 of which I don’t like-and it doesnt matter because I didn’t want a jackal at all. I also got a skimmer skin and didn’t want that either. ArenaNet has done crappy stuff like this time and again.

Remember when they didn’t offer specific gem amounts for gold conversion? They reversed that after much ballyhoo so maybe they’ll do the same thing here. They should.

I tweeted about what Rubi and Liz and Toli would have said about this if they were still writing Flameseeker. I tweeted it so that they’d think about what they’d write. Instead I was told I should care about what TIna thinks about it and I do. But I want those that work at ArenaNet to think about it.

How do you release garbage like this when game podcasts and publications and fans of gaming in general are all pretty much in agreement that this type of thing SUCKS.

It shouldn’t be hard to understand that when I give a company money I should get the thing I want in return.

Suffice to say, I haven’t booted up GW2 since. Releasing one-armed bandit style skins is hot garbage. Just let me buy the one I want like you do with weapons, armor, outfits and gliders. What’s so fricking hard to understand about me desiring that?

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TomTurtle

It was probably a decision made by an economist and higher-ups, not the developers or community managers. I don’t blame most of the developers because chances are, they had no choice in the matter and probably agree it’s bad but can’t really say anything about it.

And unfortunately, it’s not that ArenaNet doesn’t understand it’d be better to allow us the choice, they simply want to make more money and are testing the waters to see if they can pull it off or not. Companies are always pulling this kind of thing, pushing boundaries if possible.

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Mithrán S. Arkanere

$5 is NOT cheap for a skin. There’s people in the world who can eat for a week for that.

$0.20 is cheap for a skin. $1 average. $2 acceptable. $5? That’s the price of a skin pack. A bonus mission. A full armor set. An outfit that looks different for each race. But not a single skin.

Skoryy
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Skoryy

“I want items below cost.” And yet there are those who still wonder why publishers are turning more and more to the whales.

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Greaterdivinity

Do you know how much time and work goes into a lot of these skins? $5 for a skin is absolutely acceptable, and very much on the cheaper end of things as many MMO’s generally charge far more ($10-20).

If you’re in a part of the world where $5 feeds you for a week, somehow I doubt you’re playing a modern MMORPG online, you’ve got more pressing concerns like day-to-day survival. These are luxuries (online games), and skins are added luxuries on top of that.

Line
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Line

It’s not the worst, but it might be the worst time to put in those lockboxes, right after everyone else gets shit on because of those mechanics.
That’s ton of negative press for absolutely no reason.

And of course, the easiest way out of that was to put a direct buy option (for more money certainly, the budget $5 for a random guaranteed mount is an acceptable price, I think).
The other way would be to let them be a consumable to be sold on the auction house. Wouldn’t be too different from the rest of their lockboxes, but damn if that isn’t helping the lack of rewards ingame.

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peor togs

I still play but dang… Cold, anet, cold!

My respect of anet dropped b a factor of 10.

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Ben Stone

I’m far more likely to drop cash on a guaranteed item. In fact I can’t remember ever paying for a lockbox or random chance at an item. That being said, it is a game with no monthly fee, this isn’t an essential power item, and you do get something each time.

Back when I played I complained that there was nothing interesting to actually drop money on in GW2, the cash shop was terrible and dull. This looks like a nice money maker for them, so well done.

miol
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miol

That being said, it is a game with no monthly fee, this isn’t an essential power item, and you do get something each time.

But since this game is being called Fashion Wars, new skins are actually one of the few metas of it!

And asking to farm ~3120 gold in that limited time of its sale, while at the same time asking for another ~1800 gold every few weeks for the next time-limited exclusive skin of the other lockbox system (IF you’re lucky enough), is simply a tall order by ArenaNet! It’s slowly but surely getting out of hand!

Btw, that’s ~$190 total, for people who wants to “play” that meta with their wallets, if someone cares!

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rafael12104

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rafael12104
kofteburger
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kofteburger
Skoryy
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Skoryy

I also agree.

That said, Take Two’s quarterly report came out and they stated that 48%(!) of all revenue came from ‘recurrent consumer spending’. I.e. microtransactions and lootboxes. As a bank robber once famously said, “That’s where the money’s at.”