Flameseeker Chronicles: Fear not this night – there is hope for Guild Wars 2’s future

    
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The last two weeks of February were devastating to the Guild Wars 2 community. Guild Wars 2 developer ArenaNet announced the layoffs of nearly one hundred and fifty developers, some of whom had been with the studio for well over a decade and were well known to players. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an overwhelming flood of support across social media in response to studio layoffs, both from players and from those at the studio who are left behind. I think it shows how tight-knit this game’s team was, and how great its fans can be.

I’ve been fortunate enough never to have been on the receiving end of mass cuts, but I have been one of the people left behind, and it’s not a good feeling. There’s a kind of survivor’s guilt that makes it really hard to get your job done, and that’s on top of the massive amount of institutional knowledge that leaves with those people.

But as terrible as all of that is, I don’t think it’s time to panic yet. Here are three reasons why we can have hope for Guild Wars 2’s future.

The team is refocusing on GW2

Guild Wars 2 game director Mike Zadorojny recently took to the forums to deliver an update on the layoffs and mentioned “welcoming back some familiar faces to the Guild Wars 2 team that had been working on unannounced projects,” which we know from other official and unofficial sources included a mobile game and a console game. As unfortunate as it is that this meant letting people go, I think that focusing on Guild Wars 2 is the best thing for this company right now.

While NCsoft’s mobile games seem to be printing money, that’s mostly coming from the Asian market. The mobile gaming market is precarious at best in the West, where the brand recognition for a Western MMO studio like ArenaNet is going to be strongest. I don’t think, for instance, that Turbine is stronger for getting out of MMORPGs and into mobile games. I would rather ArenaNet played to its strengths and put the full force of its development team behind the full-fledged, desktop MMORPG it’s known for. Diversification is not a bad thing, but spreading yourself too thin is.

The game is still making good money

According to NCSoft’s latest financials, Guild Wars 2 brought in the equivalent of nearly 70 million USD in 2018. That’s almost as much as it made in 2017 when its Path of Fire expansion launched, and better than 2016 in between Heart of Thorns and POF. That may not be as much money as it was making at its peak, but it’s nothing to scoff at.

I’m also aware that it saw a steep decline at the end of 2018, but so did most of NCSoft’s PC MMORPGs. And they’re not alone either; a number of other companies in the MMO space were also hit with layoffs at the end of 2018 as the gaming industry suffered investment market downturns on a broad scale.

Finally, Guild Wars is a long-standing brand with a lot of loyal followers, and NCsoft can count on those people to continue bringing money to the table every time there’s a new expansion or shiny thing in the cash shop. Even if it’s not raking in Fortnite-level piles of cash, NCSoft would be foolish to throw away that kind of loyalty flippantly.

This is not your father’s NCsoft

Speaking of throwing away loyalty, I am well aware that the company I’m talking about here is NCsoft, the company that tragically shut down City of Heroes well before its time. There is still, to put it mildly, a lot of ill will toward NCsoft because of its mismanagement of the City of Heroes sunset.

But I think NCsoft learned something from that experience: that players, especially Western players, are a lot more attached to their virtual worlds than it perhaps realized in 2012. Paragon was shut down in an attempt to cut loose a company that the Korean corporation saw as costing it too much money, but that ended up costing it players (and by extension the money they would otherwise have spent in NCsoft games).

I believe that’s an experience NCsoft doesn’t want to repeat, and the best evidence of this is WildStar. I loved WildStar, but even I saw the writing on the wall long before the game was closed. I was predicting that it was going to sunset at least a year before it actually did — everyone was — but NCsoft kept the lights on until it was abundantly clear there was no more life left in it.

So even if Guild Wars 2 were not living up to expectations right now, we can reasonably expect NCsoft to give Guild Wars 2 a real chance to redeem itself. And I do believe that Guild Wars 2 can redeem itself.

Now imagine you're dragging a sack.

Please don’t take my positivity as blind, Pollyannaish optimism. Cuts and downsizing are never good signs for a live game. It needs a big win, preferably soon, and for that it needs to make some changes.

But that doesn’t mean that the game is dead or is going to disappear in the next year. Mike Z has given us his assurance that we can expect new additions to PvP and world vs. world, a new living world story, and the return of Super Adventure Box, the latter sooner rather than later. In other words, development isn’t going anywhere.

However, he also set realistic expectations that the speed at which these things come out may not be what we’re used to. Personally, I’m OK with some delays if it means not sacrificing content quality.

I really believe that Guild Wars 2 is still one of the best MMORPGs on the market today, and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon. It won’t be the same without much of the talent that made the game what it is today, but there are still a lot of talented, passionate individuals working on this game. My condolences and well-wishes go out to everyone affected by the layoffs, and I hope they land on their feet. To those left behind, I know you will do your best to keep bringing us the kind of quality content we’ve come to expect from this game for years to come.

Flameseeker Chronicles is one of Massively OP’s longest-running columns, covering the Guild Wars franchise since before there was a Guild Wars 2. Now penned by Tina Lauro and Colin Henry, it arrives on Tuesdays to report everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see explored, drop ’em a comment!
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Kherova

First of all: welcome! Is GW2 worth it if you’re just starting now? I’ve tried GW1 way back when and didn’t like it. Should I give GW2 a chance?

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snacky

Absolutely!

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Anton Mochalin

GW2 is my “main” MMO and I think it’s THE best one (though I just started to play Neverwinter again and have a lot of fun so far). I however think we shouldn’t be too attached to MMOs because when we do, we begin to express our attachment to some particular view of that MMO (current state or some state in the past or some aspect like PvP or dungeons etc). And this means a message to developers “we want more of THIS” but we already have THIS. That’s how “WoW clones” begin to appear.

We’re told ArenaNet was working on several games before layoffs and now will refocus on GW2. Is that a good thing? Let me tell you a personal story. I was charmed by WildStar and played it several years before it shut down. However I noticed that I don’t feel too attracted to WildStar even though I felt I like the game very much. I felt something in game mechanics was not enough to make me want to play more. Lack of pace or something like that. It had a ton of things to do, that’s for sure, but the feedback loop was too weak. When WildStar shut down I thought I can try GW2. And I just realized that GW2 is all things I liked in WildStar but better. I still like WildStar’s setting and visual style more but the GW2 has gameplay done right. And I also realize WildStar borrowed many things from GW2 which work so well in GW2 and worked well in WildStar too. So what if those other games ArenaNet worked on would turn to be even better than GW2 in some aspects? It’s out of question GW2 could shut down in several years from now so we have GW2 anyway.

We understand that the constant supply of new content for the Living World is the effort necessary to keep GW2’s playerbase playing… but what if that effort would have more impact in some new game?

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Skoryy

Welcome aboard! A little bit of optimism is nice to have around here. :D

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Paragon Lost

Actually spending some time in GW2 currently, slowly leveling up my Necromancer. I’ve always wanted to better understand that class. :) It will be interesting to see what ArenaNet does in the next couple years in regards to GW2. I’m just not sure they know what they want to do with the game. :/

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Skoryy

Necro is nice and tanky, though the damage is very, well, tanky to start with. The fun really begins once you unlock the elite specs, you really can’t go wrong with either through reaper is easier to gear up for.

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Paragon Lost

I’m enjoying it quite a bit currently. I tend to get distracted with various projects so I’m trying to stay on target and continue to level up my Necro.

Godnaz
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Godnaz

I’ve loyally logged into GW2 for most of the past 6 years. ArenaNet has talented developers but needs a new Studio Head / Game Director imo. Mike O’Brien is not going down without the ship though.

The fantasy MMORPG genre continues to be stagnant. I’m looking forward to the next big thing.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

For GW2 sake, and my former Co Players I wish nothing but the best.

I just wished they made more straightforward encounters like the story bosses in ESO where I can go in do my rotation and move on with out having to use some special action key at just the right moment, while hopping counter clockwise on my left foot, while repeating the alphabet backwards like some sadistic sobriety test.

miol
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miol

-“Paragon was shut down in an attempt to cut loose a company that the Korean corporation saw as costing it too much money…”

?

https://massivelyop.com/2016/05/02/former-city-of-heroes-artist-hosts-an-impromptu-reddit-ama/

“At the time, NCSoft seemed to have this ‘go big, or go home’ attitude about their franchises. They would have rather completely shut down prematurely than let it linger on, even it if was profitable.”

https://massivelyop.com/2018/10/13/the-game-archaeologist-the-death-of-city-of-heroes/

“Lead Designer Matt Miller later said that all indications were that this deal was going to happen, especially considering that (according to him), the MMO was more profitable post-F2P than it was before.”

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

I’m not sure what you’re asking. It is well-established that CoH was making money, but Paragon was losing money because of its second game.

miol
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miol

It only seems a little confusing to me, as in the archeoligist article it didn’t find Paragon losing money as the reason for COH’s shut down, but rather says a little earlier before above quote (and aside from the “‘go big, or go home’ attitude about their franchises”-argument):

“Paragon Studios was well aware that NCsoft had wanted to get out of the City of Heroes business even as the studio was developing two additional IPs for the publisher.”

But I don’t want to waste any more of your time to reexplain old MMO-history, if it’s only a contradiction in my mind! /bow

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Barnoc N'Draak

I think Colin’s assessment is spot on.

It sounds like GW2 was supporting too many other projects. It’s very common for a software company to take developers off established software to develop the next thing. I suspect it was taking to long and hurting profitability too much. I think GW2 will do better now, but arenanet might be in more long term trouble.

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blah blazh

Such negativity in almost all of the comments.

I still really like the game. Hopefully by refocusing they can get some more enthusiasm from the fans that left after the layoffs. They even rehired one of the devs that got let go (Cameron Rich).

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Barnoc N'Draak

I’m also a little surprised at the hyperbole.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

My feelings are mixed, I have nothing but good will towards the health of the game, but absolutely hate their boss design because the encounters make me feel like an 80 year old man with gnarled fingers and dementia.

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Bruno Brito

Uh, yeah. When you’re a member of the most neglected part of the game, you get negativity all over yourself.

That being said, i actually want GW2 to succeed. I just finally accepted it’ll never be the game it should be.

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Vorender

After the news dropped about the layoffs at ANET, I uninstalled. I don’t bother with “struggling” NCSoft titles, as they are very quick to pull the trigger on sunsetting games. Good luck, ANET.

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Akagi

I didn’t like the game even before the layoffs, it’s definitely not my type.