MMO Week in Review: Guild Wars 2 navigates its own straits of devastation

    
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Both hands!

If you thought ArenaNet and Guild Wars 2 were immune to NCsoft’s recent corporate tinkering, you were in for a rude awakening this week, and I don’t mean the kind where you spend two grueling weeks in the Crystal Desert with Orion and Alesia. NCsoft and ArenaNet announced this week that they were planning large layoffs for the Guild Wars 2 studio, reportedly canceling two secret projects along the way, though both have suggested the core MMO will continue operating as planned. This after a year when Guild Wars 2 pulled in over $70M US and immediately following the reveal of a sweet new mount type and new love for Classic Guild Wars.

In happier news closer to home, Massively OP is currently hiring for some specific columnist positions. Maybe you’re the writer we’re looking for! Read on to catch up with the very best of this week’s MMO news and opinions today as every Sunday in Massively Overpowered’s Week in Review!

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Every week, get caught up on the MMO genre’s latest news and Massively OP’s best content in our MMO Week in Review! Want more roundups of content? Try Friday’s Betawatch for MMO testing highlights, Saturday’s Make My MMO for MMO crowdfunding updates, and Sunday’s The MOP Up, which mops up all the bits of news we didn’t cover anywhere else.

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Mewmew
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Mewmew

As long as it only really is affecting the “two secret projects” I don’t really mind. Heck, without ever hearing what those projects were I can’t have been excited for them in any way.

It would be a shame it actually took away from GW 2 development in any way, as it needs that development to continue in order for the people to stick around and keep pumping money into the game. But if it’s really just people working on other side projects outside of GW 2, while I feel bad for them losing their jobs (more than just bad for them really), I would be relieved that GW 2 itself wasn’t being affected much.

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Toy Clown

I think GW2 will be okay, now that their team won’t be all over the place working on several different projects. It still saddens me about the lay-offs, but as Marc Jacobs explained it, most of them probably live in an area where they’ll find work easily. I’m hoping!

Reader
Bruno Brito

“GW2 won’t have any xpacs, instead focusing on periodic chapters.”

Yeah. No pity from me.

velimirius
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velimirius

Anet brought it on themselves, having 400 employees and mustering only 2 expansions in 8 years while failing on a couple of new projects within the studio due to mismanagement probably.

GW2 team is probably still standing mostly intact but those who were on the other projects are gone for sure. And now unless they make some big buck with new content for GW2 they wont last for long under NC before another wave of layoffs.

K38FishTacos
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K38FishTacos

Anet got in bed with the devil, so it was only a matter of time.

Edit: I mean any dev who does business with EA, Activision, NCsoft, Tencent, NetEase, etc. can’t be surprised.

Pepperzine
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Pepperzine

Tencent hasn’t been horrible to PoE, if anything the game continues to greatly improve every league.

K38FishTacos
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K38FishTacos

True so far.

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Fenrir Wolf

I’m still sad about ArenaNet

I mean, it’s clear that Path of Fire is slowly working. They didn’t make enough of a big deal though about what kind of direction they were taking Guild Wars 2 in after Heart of Thorns. I only bought their latest on a whim, just to see how they were doing after their prior failures.

The problem is, though, that by the time the management realises what kind of audience is their money, they’re too cowardly to push as hard as they need to to ensure they bring that demographic back. So it’s always too little too late, even if they do bother to try.

And thus, to their bosses, the increase just isn’t enough. Even though it’s getting more healthy over time as their original sources of income realise that the game is catering to them again, it’s not enough to sate the avarice of the corporate figures.

You’d need a pretty big leap to talk in suit-encrusted tongues. This is why most favour calculated, cut-throat plans which risk (or even sacrifice) long-term gains for short-term ones, or only slowly veering from the status quo to keep what money they still have.

It’s why brands are so important, now. Everyone’s so obsessed with being or having a brand. No, you can’t have an identity, you have to have a brand. If you have a brand you’ll be able to focus on short-term gains with each new sequel, thus it’s better to reboot than make anew.

You’ll have that big net of nostalgia and familiarity. Sigh. This makes me sigh a lot.

Anyway, ArenaNet is opting for the latter. They’re terrified of losing what money they still have so their shift back to a profitable demographic is slow and painful. Like steering a very large, unwieldy ship.

They’re afraid of alienating the people they tried to appeal to in Heart of Thorns too much. Even though that demographic simply isn’t profitable. They said as much.

I mean, management could be sensible and spend a little to advertise and innovate to ensure long-term sustainability with proper demographic targeting, but that’s just too sensible and it spends money rather than bringing it in immediately. Sigh.

Corporates are like dogs with balls. No give ball! Only throw ball! No give! Just throw!

This kind of business is why the industry is just going to explode spectacularly, soon. It’s the way every big studio does business and it can’t keep going that way.

This is what I was talking about with Kotick in a prior comments thread. He’s perfect for the job the shareholders want him to do. Reboots and overly safe, homogeneous things! The ones that’ll bring in short-term windfalls, cynically expecting that the industry will meet its end soon, so hurrying along its demise doesn’t really matter.

Well, to them.

I don’t know why but there’s enough mismanagement in the games industry that I could call it a cavalcade without hyperbole. I mean, my favourite MMO, Free Realms, lost its way thanks to excessive Smeddling. I swear, every time Smedley opened his mouth, it was so obvious he had no clue.

No clue what he was doing, or what his job was supposed to be. He was as oblivious as a British politician to the ways of the world outside of his little bubble.

He was like Agrabah’s Sultan.

And that’s feeling I get whenever I talk to any management figures. They’re so out of touch.

It’s like a case study on how to do capitalism wrong.

I guess I don’t know if I can blame ArenaNet too much because they might’ve brought a plan to NCSoft to set things right for all I know, and were given an edict to keep the ship steady instead. It’s possible, but I’d guess they’re not free of guilt, either.

Just… video games management across the board. So many examples of how to do it wrong!

Then you have indies, doing it right.

Big companies with no clue how to capitalism! Small and indie devs seeing ever greater degrees of success because they’re handling business responsibly!

I don’t want to typecast myself as the comic book guy from the Simpons with how utterly exasperated I sound, but… I feel like a few years ago I woke up in Bizarro World and I’ve been there ever since.

It’s a gosh darn peculiar time to be alive.

~~ Edit ~~

It might be idealistic of me, but I’m actually wondering — if a company had a really worthwhile demographic — whether it would be possible to go with non-exploitative cash shop offerings (like cosmetics, content packs, animations, and things that allowed players to express themselves more) and put up a page showing their profits and whatever goals they’d need to reach per month to stay profitable.

If you have the right demographic, they’ll know the value of money. And they can help make sure that a game is sustainable. Funny thing is, though, that I could see an indie try something that responsible, but for a corporate shark it might mean lost profits as people might stop paying when the bar is full. Couldn’t have that!

I don’t know, it just feels like there are projects out there — fan run servers et al — who run things like this and put their fate openly in the hands of businesses. Why can’t actual MMO developers do the same?