Those Geeks You Know: Guild Wars 2 Gem Store
Those Geeks You know has a very interesting article about the GW2 gem store. As a follower of the game for years, I never really put much thought in how maybe new players that are coming into Guild Wars 2 now may view things much differently. The Gem Store is a prime example. Without taking anything away from the article and was very well done I will let you make your own opinion of it.
Those Geeks You Know deserves a huge thank you for having this article up. Great work and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Guild Wars 2 Gem Store
ArenaNet has stood firmly against subscription fees in its Guild Wars series of MMORPGs and Guild Wars 2 is no exception. The game has an MSRP of $59.99 and includes an incredible amount of content, providing hundreds (or thousands) of hours of fun for just the cost of that initial investment. But with over 2 million copies sold and servers overflowing, one has to wonder what source of income will provide the funding to maintain those servers, even after the sales momentum slows to a trickle.
It turns out that Guild Wars 2 has a currency called Gems that can be purchased at a rate of $5 per 400. Gems can be spent at the in-game Gem Store for all kinds of things, and at first glance, it seems an awful lot like one of those currencies common to free to play games such as SimCity Social or League of Legends. In those games, players can spend real money on unlocking content, obtaining premium or exclusive items, and finishing objectives that would otherwise take an incredible amount of time to complete. This “pay to win” model is a major risk in a game with a player versus player component, and can lead to questionable practices by the game’s developers to create content that pushes the player towards the real money store.
But Guild Wars 2 is not a free to play game. The back of the box says, “No Subscription Fee: Get the game and play. It’s that simple!” When I saw the Gem Store, I immediately began to worry that it would not be “simple” at all.
The first time the game nudged me to spend some money was not long after starting to play for the first time. I acquired an item called a Black Lion Chest. My choices were to either discard it from my inventory or to open it using something called a Black Lion Key. Turns out those keys are available for 125 Gems (about $1.50). My heart sank. This was definitely not what I wanted to see in a game that I had just paid $59.99 for.
Later, I began to run out of inventory space. Sure enough, additional bag slots were available for 400 Gems a piece. With 3 additional slots available per character, it’s easy to spend $15 worth of Gems. Then there is also the bank, which is tied to your whole account instead of just one character. You get one bank tab with 30 item slots by default, and 7 additional tabs can be purchased for 600 Gems each. Maxing out the bank and one character’s bag slots costs more than buying the game itself!
With a growing sense of dread, I browsed the Gem store and studied its contents. They have character slots for sale for 800 Gems ($10.00). And unlike World of Warcraft which gives you 10 character slots per server, Guild Wars 2 provides 5 character slots, and they are all bound to a single server. If players want to play on multiple servers, they have to either move all of their characters to a new server (which is free for now), or use an upcoming feature called guesting, which allows players to visit other servers as long as they have friends on those servers. But still, 5 character slots in a game with 8 classes? I have to admit, I’m completely hooked on Guild Wars 2. I will absolutely have to buy at least 3 more character slots so I can try all of the classes, but I’m not prepared to spend $10 on each one!
The Gem store also has a variety of cosmetic items available. There are miniature non-combat pets, hats and sunglasses, and entire costumes that provide out of combat skills such as a pirate captain’s outfit (for 700 gems) that gives characters the ability to make a cannon pop out of thin air which can be fired harmlessly by all nearby players to ensuing hilarity. The store also provides boosts ranging from 75 to 150 Gems each, which speed up progress in the game by granting additional experience for killing monsters, bonus points for crafting, a higher likelihood of finding magical items or other bonuses that lasts for 1 hour. And there are time saving services available, such as items that let you access the bank or auction house from anywhere in the world, or a revive orb that brings you back to life after falling in combat instead of having to travel back to where you died.
All of this seems to add up to a game that is far more expensive than the initial cost of investment, a game where players can spend money for advantages over non spending players, a game where you have to spend money to find out what’s in that locked chest. But actually, Guild Wars 2 is none of those things!
Refusing to spend a dime on a gem, I continued to explore the game and after several hours I actually found a Black Lion Key for my Black Lion Chest! Shocked at the sudden generosity and that I wouldn’t have to spend real money on the key, I opened the chest. Inside were a few fun potions that temporarily transform my character into a monster, one of those boosts from the Gem Store, and an additional Black Lion Key, which I used immediately on another Black Lion Chest. That in turn, also contained a key, which I used on a third chest! Without spending any money on Gems, I somehow had a small collection of premium items. Were my fears unfounded?
The boost from the Black Lion Chest was the one that increases experience points awarded for monster kills. Using it, I discovered that it didn’t really speed up progress much at all. The game provides far greater experience rewards for completing tasks and quests than for monster kills. The boosts really aren’t an incredible advantage, so it doesn’t seem like this is a “pay to win” game anymore.
Placated, I took a closer look at the Gem Store. There was a tab I hadn’t noticed before: Currency exchange. “Trade Gems for Gold. Trade Gold for Gems.” Wait… what? That can’t be right, can it? Can I actually spend the currency of copper, silver and gold that I’ve been earning in-game on Gems? I clicked “Trade Gold for Gems” and was presented with a chart of market data showing the current average price of 100 Gems, as well as the 5-day high and 5-day low. It appears the conversion rate is based on a player driven market. At this very moment, 28 silver will buy 100 Gems. Sure enough, I just exchanged 53 copper for my first gem!
The end result is that all premium Guild Wars 2 content can be purchased without spending any real money. Early in the game it will be hard to make enough money to get enough gems to buy anything substantial, but the higher in level you get, the more coin you earn, so earning 800 Gems for an additional character slot does not seem out of reach.
With Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet has set a fine example for how to create a MMORPG without a subscription fee, and how to have premium content available without putting non-spending players at a disadvantage or using unethical means to encourage players to spend money. They should be commended for their efforts, and other developers should be paying very close attention.