Tobold's Blog
Thursday, August 30, 2012
The Secret World vs. Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 reportedly already sold over 1 million copies. But Funcom had to reveal they sold only 200,000 copies of The Secret World. I am reading comments like Bronte's: "the ugly truth is self-evident: The Secret World has failed to garner the following that it frankly deserved". I'm baffled. How exactly does a game "deserve" a following?

I am a firm believer in the homo economicus, the economic theory that people aren't completely stupid, and buy exactly what they want. I believe more people bought Guild Wars 2 than The Secret World because Guild Wars 2 is the better game, and costs less to play. I generally don't post screenshots, but there are so many of the around for both of these games that you should easily be able to find representative selections; and I'd bet that if you showed somebody who doesn't know anything about these games just a pair of screenshots and asked him which game looks more interesting, most people immediately would go for Guild Wars 2.

The other major problem of The Secret World is that it has a horror/conspiracy setting which already at its base is less popular than a fantasy setting. Furthermore horror games tend to work better as single-player games, because zombies aren't scary if they are outnumbered by heavily armed players. The one thing that The Secret World does better than Guild Wars 2 is that it has less bugs, which is something I thought I would never say about a Funcom game.

Both The Secret World and Guild Wars 2 offer new variations of the old "kill 10 foozles" quest mechanics. But the Guild Wars 2 version manages to be both innovative and still very appealing to the mainstream. Highly innovative quests in The Secret World like investigation quests having you surf fake websites for clues are far more niche. This is not what the majority of players want to do in their MMORPGs.

I do not think that The Secret World "deserves" a larger following. It isn't as if by some error of marketing the potential customers failed to notice the game. The Secret World had over 1 million beta players, and if less than 20% of those then went and bought the game, that has fully rational reasons. It was a typical case of "He's just not that into you" times a million. If Guild Wars 2 has a much better beta player to customers conversion, it is clearly them who "deserve" that large following.

I would like to note that your 'GW2 has a better beta conversion' statement is flawed. Unless people were extremely lucky and scored a beta key (like I did), the only way to participate in GW2's 'open' beta weekends was to have pre-purchased the game. So, can't really say that people converted, when they had to pay the money upfront to even play the beta.

I think TSW's biggest issue is indeed that it's a niche game. Those who love the horror setting will praise it, those who prefer high fantasy will run screaming. Me, I vastly prefer TSW to GW2, and wish TSW had a much better pricing model. I don't think they'll be able to sustain a subscription model much longer.
As Kadomi said, the beta-to-paying-customer conversion rate for GW2 will be very close to 1:1, because if you pre-purchased and were following the game for months/years, chances were you were already heavily invested.

That said, TSW does deserve more recognition that it is getting and I feel like it pushes the genre forward, more than GW2 ever does. Plus, it's probably the only MMO in the market that considers the player to be an adult smarter than the chair he's sitting in which is both refreshing and directly responsible for the abysmal sales.
So you are saying that the 5 out of 6 people preferring Guild Wars over The Secret World do so because they are idiots?

I tried to argue a similar point on D&D 4th edition being less popular because it required smarter thinking, but funnily enough the idea didn't fly with my readers.
It's a technical but it's important:

GW2 doesn't have many bugs, it has overloaded services that are turned off completely or partially.

Also - i tried both and i couldn't say TSW is less buggy.

Would you use this "it sold more so it's better" argument for all art? Is the best-selling MP3 download of the week always the "best" song available to buy that week or just the most popular? Or maybe you don't consider video games to be art?

The scripting and voice acting in TSW is, in my opinion, superior by a good margin to that in GW2. The art direction is on a par. On aesthetics it isn't at all clear that one game is five times better than the other, which is what you would conclude from the sales. On the other hand, GW2 is massively larger in scope and content, with a breadth and depth that exceeds TSW by far more than a factor of five.

As for whether TSW "deserved" a bigger following, by far the most relevant factor there is probably the niche it has chosen, combined with the sales model. Conspiracy theory/horror with a monthly subscription vs high fantasy without is hardly an even contest. I think they've done well to sell 200k boxes, frankly.
Would you use this "it sold more so it's better" argument for all art? Is the best-selling MP3 download of the week always the "best" song available to buy that week or just the most popular? Or maybe you don't consider video games to be art?

I think songs are a bad example for comparison, because at 99 cents for the song with a length of 3 to 5 minutes people will tend to impulse buy without deeper consideration. If you plan which game with you'll spend the next months, and it costs you upwards of $50, you're more likely to think about whether this is really the product you want.

Note that I wasn't just talking of better, but also of price. It isn't the "best" car that sells best in any given year, but it depends on how good a car is for the money it costs. GW2 clearly gives better entertainment value per dollar than TSW to most people, which is why they are making a rational decision when preferring it.
Hey, look, science.
Science only applicable to music.
Because trends, marketing, hype, discussions amongst peers, rumors, Funcom's bad reputation after AoC, PR, etc have nothing to do with this. Nothing at all, no no.

I am not saying one of the games are "better" than the other (they are too different for that, I believe, and I enjoy both). But I find your logic flawed and fail to take in the entire picture. It does not only come down to a "quality" factor.
Rumors, hype, PR, marketing, and a companies reputation are important factors when people are required to buy a game blind, without having the possibility to test it first. I doubt any of these factors has anything to do with over 80% of TSW beta players deciding not to buy the game.

And frankly, I've seen more TSW marketing in the computer magazines I read than Guild Wars 2 advertisement. That might be just Europe, but nevertheless I can't detect a big disadvantage for Funcom on the marketing side here.
Tobold unless you finished both Solomon island and Egypt, I do not think you have a good picture of the questing system in TSW. My understanding is that in Beta you visited Norma in Kings Mouth and got turned off after seeing sheer number of kill x of type y of quest she offered. That was an exception not the norm in TSW.
But how many of the TSW beta players already knew they were going to go for Guild Wars 2? Considering the major hype surrounding that title, many had already made the decision going in blind. Hard to know exact numbers, of course, but that is one aspect you are not taking into account.

And as stated before, many of the players in the last couple of BWEs had already bought GW2. They already knew which game they were going to play. Among MMO-fans there was probably a large overlap of people having bought GW2 and trying out TSW anyway, knowing they wouldn't buy it anyway. Hey, it's free!

The setting is also important, as that could turn people off straight away - no matter how good the actual game is. When playing a beta, you can easily log in, realize it's not for you and log out without feeling you lost anything except time.

Another thing - Mists of Pandaria. Again, overlap. And here business model comes into play. If you know you're going back to WoW for the xpac, do you want to pick up another sub-game or go for the B2P one?

The marketing perspective is a bit odd, and I have heard more different things from different people. I've seen a lot of TSW ads, while some of my friends haven't.

Your stance on this matter is way too simplistic. Something went wrong for Funcom, that much is clear. But what was it?
I honestly believe that besides the setting, the company reputation played a huge factor.

I was in beta and talked to a few people who simply had no faith funcom could pull off a decent release and once you've made the decision to not buy at launch it's easy to wait a little more because a)something shiny comes up (gw2/mop) b)you read some news the game is underperforming sales-wise and today that probably means f2p is coming, so why pay now?

It's simplistic to say that TSW "deserves" more sales. But it's equally simplistic to say that Guild Wars outperforms TSW because it's a better game.

While marketing may not be unequal, the hype has been. Far, far more people have been talking excitedly about GW, for almost a year now.

And finally, TSW is much more niche. It's also more difficult than World of Warcraft is at this time (outside raids), how does GW compare?
Something went wrong for Funcom, that much is clear. But what was it?

My explanation is that they made a game that was too niche, and not all that great. I have yet to hear a better explanation that doesn't sound like something a crazy paranoiac from inside the game would say. Why blame other games for the lack of success of The Secret World instead of looking at the game itself?
Niche game
Large client to install
Monthly fees

I could go on all day of why TSW was a fail...but, I think my point becomes clear when you read between the lines...
A certain amount of the lack of success for TSW and large success for GW2 is the hype machine.

As stated people have been talking Guild Wars 2 up like it was digital Jesus for ages now. It could do no wrong, it was all powerful, it will cure your acne, balance your chequebook and reinvent MMOS.

The Secret World? "Eh Failcom, I'll wait for f2p".

The strengths and merits of either game aside, the perception of Arenanet being the right hand of God boosted GW2 and the perception that Funcom was just waiting to steal your money and shit in your cereal hampered The Secret World.
I know, right? Trying to analyze the whole situation using a lot of factors that might have impacted the sales of TSW makes us crazy paranoiacs. Sorry, I need to hide from the UFOs now.
I like vacuums, they suck, kind of like the argument that GW2 is better than TSW simply because it sold more... because that argument assumes that all of mankind lives in some kind of non-complex vacuum of ignorance and disconnect about a variety of issues.
"So you are saying that the 5 out of 6 people preferring Guild Wars over The Secret World do so because they are idiots?"

Do you always see thing in Black and White?

TSW got less sales for numerous reasons, which may include:
a) people being too invested in the imminent releases (GW, WoW)
b) the harsher difficulty
c) the deviation from the DIKU model in several aspects
d) the setting
e) people not willing to spend a sub when the sub-less GW2 was around the corner
f) lack of marketing and/or hype
g) people not enjoying the combat/animations/pvp
h) Funcom's terrible reputation from AoC


I could go on. All these are valid reasons to pass on a game, and because of several design decisions, the game can be considered "niche" but not bad.

And besides, your "homo economicus" model pretty much ignores all current marketing and promotion techniques.

Case #1: SWtOR sold 10x as much and will be known as the prime example of an inferior product, to the extent of creating memes (TORtanic comes to mind) and at the same time is responsible for putting Bioware's reputation in the gutter.

Case #2: Diablo 3 sold 30x as much and yet according to Diablo fans it has destroyed the franchise.

PS. People are perfectly capable of playing both TSW and GW. These are not naturally exclusive groups.
Eh, the hype machine, it is ever the fault of the hype machine...

Everytime I hear about the GW2 "hype machine" I want know: where this "hype machine" is coming from?

Because I don't see any multi-million marketing campaign at TV or game sites.

Can the "hype machine" be coming from players that tested the game?

Tobold, the real diference between TSW and GW2 is simple: GW2 is more fun!
While I agree that games don't "deserve" a following, I find it sad that so many people are discussing a like or dislike of a genre as why they will or won't play a game. That seems rather close-minded to me, to be honest. I've never played a horror/conspiracy game before, and I'm not a big fan of horror or conspiracy books. I like fantasy: high, low, or otherwise, but I thought the innovative (for an MMO) setting of TSW was a selling point. It turns out to be a detraction due to the unchanging nature of gamers: they play what they've played before because it's easier.

Now, to be fair, GW2 may be a vastly superior game. I haven't played it and can't comment. I just wanted to point out how depressing it is that a well-designed game may (will?) fail because people resist trying something new.

If bloggers made a case that it was about the subscription system, I'd probably agree. If it was about the bugginess, I'd nod thoughtfully. If it was about the current difficulty to min/max because of the complexity of the skill system, I'd say fine. But if the setting or genre is really it's failing, then that to me is more a failing of the players to be willing to try new things.
The internet trolling rule for sales/revenue is that it only applies to games selling worse than your game. When posters are talking about EVE's long and impressive sales (I accept that characterization), ask them if sales is a metric then what does it mean that WoW has 30 times as many customers. In the case of GW2, what if it is a huge disappointment and only sells three million boxes? Does the fact that it sold dramatically fewer boxes than D3, that D3 oldsold it by 3 to 1, mean that GW2 is horrible and much worse than D3?

We are in a transition with what Beta means. It is now a marketing tool. So I disagree with Joao that many people tested GW2 (or MoP or SWTOR) in Beta. In fact, I would say the money spent on Beta is part of the "hype machine" for any game and what well run gaming companies do. So I don't think the beta conversion is as valid as it use to be. If company1 has a bigger promotion budget, they can afford to promote their beta more and so get more people in it. And the easiest hundred thousand Beta testers to acquire are True Believers and nearly 100% conversion. The millionth easiest to acquire BT is less commited but still more committed than the two millionth.
Hmm, to tie this back to a previous post, the "deserves" seems like a more economic, i.e. American, than European: does a footballer with anger managament, substance abuse and fidelity issues "deserve" more income than three dozen policepersons, firefighters, hospice workers et al? Economists would say yes but a lot of the population might disagree. I interpreted the "deserves" as being that there is benefit to gamers and hopefully sales rewards in trying something innovative rather than being another WoW/D3/CoD clone.

I didn't particularly care for GW1, so as a result, I had and have absolutely no interest in GW2.

TSW being in the horror genre I also wasn't interested in, until a friend told me it was going for a skill-based system, and that was enough to hook me into trying it out. Still not terribly fond of the setting, but I'm enjoying the game quite a lot.

Based on this, my opinion would have to be that TSW is better simply becuz I'm enjoying it, and GW2 isn't as good becuz it can't interest me enough to even try it.

But that's just it -- it's opinion. Subjective feeling. No facts involved.
I'm not really sure whether it's only me and the way I receive information about games, but this is how I got to know about the two games you mention:

The Secret World: The first time I ever heard about this game was about 3 months before release, by sheer chance. It might've been on some blog that covers a lot of different games? Can't remember. Completely flew below the radar for me.

Guild Wars 2: It's been at least 10 months that I heard people talk about it. I don't think there were many weeks in which no post about that game showed up in my feed reader, not even 9 months ago. In the last two months before release, it's been a massive, massive, MASSIVE amount of posts by all sorts of people. It was literally impossible for me to stay two or three days without any news about the game.

I'm not sure about the reasons for this, but I at least want to give my anecdotal evidence of why I think your point that "It isn't as if by some error of marketing the potential customers failed to notice the game" feels completely wrong to me.

You raise some other good points about the mainstream compatibility, but this one point just screams "wrong!" to me.
It's been at least 10 months that I heard people talk about it. I don't think there were many weeks in which no post about that game showed up in my feed reader, not even 9 months ago.

Sorry, but that is hype, and not marketing. If you read MMO blogs, you are not representative of the mainstream. You need to look at advertising and print media to say something about the marketing effort of the different companies. I've seen TSW ads plastered in every print game magazine I touched this year.
Hmm, fair enough. I don't touch game magazines any more, even after upgrading from a 10-feet to an 11-feet pole. German game magazines and their "writing" and "journalism" were the most pathetic thing I've ever seen wood be misused for.

That was 10 or more years ago, maybe there has been a sudden age of enlightenment. But even today's massively is better than what I remember from them.
I guess it also doesn't help that I run NoScript... though that doesn't filter all advertisement, obviously.
I think gamers are often far too unforgiving with games. They get one bad impression and it sticks with them forever, no matter how many improvements the game makes.

I played GW2 in beta, didn't like it, didn't buy it. I didn't play TSW in beta but bought it when it released and am glad I did.

I discovered that a lot of what people complained about in the TSW beta were things that got fixed. Funcom hurt themselves with the beta since so many people were turned off by the beta and didn't buy the game, despite the fact that the released game was apparently much better than beta. Those beta players then spread their opinions all over the internet, absolutely killing TSW's word of mouth.

On the other hand, I was sorely disappointed by my experience in the GW2 beta and as a result of that (plus my research that has told me the things that I didn't like haven't changed), I didn't buy GW2 on release and don't plan to buy it anytime soon.

If you can point to a multi-million marketing campaign, you arguments will make sense. If you cannot and if you don't accept that hype is coming from players, maybe we be forced to think the hype is coming from alliens trying invade our world...

And take note: if GW2 sell 3 million copies (and problably it will make it at the first month), it will be a sucess greater than SWTOR, that sold 2 million copies.

Take note that SWTOR if a huge and very well know IP, and GW... how many people out the MMO market know it?
Bhagpuss said...The scripting and voice acting in TSW is, in my opinion, superior by a good margin to that in GW2.

Agreed...the voice acting ive seen sofar in tsw is top quality imo. On the other hand the human starter area nearly killed gw2 for me..I tried on of the other races (with the floppy ears) and that one clicked better. Still, its no match of what ive seen in tsw. On combat: i dont see that much difference with any other mmo ive played. It is said that tsws combat is "bad" and gw2 is "good". Its probably a hardcore player thing, which i dont get:) For example i like the ability wheels of tsw a lot. It offers a lot of (perhaps illusionary) tweaking.
As for gw2 being "a better game" i thought this was subjective Tobold? :) Of course ROI wise you are definitely right since funcom is in bad financial shape right now ( i hope they can keep tse running and generate some income from that). Fun-wise though, i like tsw better, but will also play gw2 (and many other games).
You can't necessarily determine success of a form of entertainment in the first few months. Pre-hype (or lack thereof) can be overcome by word of mouth.

The TV shows Seinfeld and Modern Family were both slow starters, but proved to be game changers.

Despite marketing efforts, hype, and sexy book covers, people like what they like and will run like lemmings when the right chords are struck.

I still remember a friend from New York telling me I HAD to watch Seinfeld because it was so great. He was essentially saying that the show deserved a bigger audience.

It almost seems like you are saying that it's not OK to voice the opinion that game X might in fact be "better" even though fewer people are playing it only a few weeks after release. To say nothing of the possibility that it might be true.
I was very interested in TSW till I played it. Why I didn't purchase it has nothing to do with what most folks have issues with, but rather a medical/physical one.

I ran into a few fights where the screen shook and lights flashed. Games like this make me pretty sick, like a bad case of motion sickness. There's some pretty good games out there I can't play due to this (Halo, Bioshock, Half-Life single player). There's no way in the game to disable screen shake which marks it off my list.

Some games just have that effect on me, and there's little I can do about it. I hate it, even more so when I've dropped money on a good title. Now I try to be very careful when purchasing a game to try to look at game footage to see if it has those elements in it that will make me queasy.
{Raises hand} Count me as one. They're both fantastic games, though neither is perfect. The one I'm skipping is MoP.
So the original GW was 6 or 7 times better than GW2. I can buy that.
Well, I definitely agree that GW2 was destined to be more popular for exactly the reason that fantasy is a more popular genre than the horror/conspiracy focus of TSW....although I'm also not sure sure TSW doesn't have more (and crippling) bugs, especially its chat issues. What amazes me to no end is that TSW's apparent goals were out of proportion to what was realistic; I love the game, as I am a big fan of the horror/conspiracy genre, but it feels like someone dunked Silent Hill into an MMO zombie mashup...and frankly I'd still be playing it if TSW was a single player focused experience. Meanwhile, I plan to buy GW2 sight unseen (I don't do betas, they always spoil it for me).
@Ixyltrixl --

"I ran into a few fights where the screen shook and lights flashed. Games like this make me pretty sick, like a bad case of motion sickness."

You can disable the screen-shake in the options in TSW. I don't suffer motion sickness, but I don't like the scren-shake effect, so it's off for me.
For what it's worth, I prefer TSW to GW2. It rarely 'talks down' to me intellectually, trying to hold my hand through things.

If I get killed, it’s because I was in over my head or made a stupid mistake – such as not reading the text on the buff icons on hard monsters to tell what special effects they have, then draw some conclusions about what type of build to use. If someone complains in chat about a quest being bugged, more often than not it’s because they’re doing it wrong – went to the wrong location, leapt to conclusions, made incorrect assumptions. The quests which ARE bugged are able to be advanced through GM intervention which has always (in my experience) arrived within 10min or less. Say THAT about GW2’s bugged events/chests/scripts. I couldn’t even get the GW2 team to do a username-find/password reset for me after two days of waiting.

Also the graphics are more impressive than GW2’s (on my machine, at least – TSW pushes it harder and makes better use of it) and the environments too, for their grounding in reality. Anyone can put floating platforms or cubes somewhere and start a waterfall off the top of one and call it pretty, but to take a somewhat ‘mundane’ landscape and warp or twist it into something ethereal and sinister yet strangely beautiful? That pushes my buttons.

The combat is more fun – less spam in a huge group, more deliberate small-party/solo challenge. It works beautifully with the synergies system, such that combat feels almost like building a complex Magic: The Gathering deck, then going and playing it to see how it pans out. The skills system is infinitely more complex, and more deeply satisfying for figuring out interesting synergies, feedback loops, chaining bonuses together in a way that none of GW2’s can (…yet. Traits could be fiddled with down the track, so who knows.)

The cosmetics system has me spending happier in TSW than in GW2, too, because in TSW your gear doesn’t affect your appearance. It’s a stroke of brilliance, allowing me to decide what my character looks like, through their adventure, unlocking the more ‘badass’ pieces through achievements or cash, as opposed to pinning it to whatever gear has the bests stats at the time and hoping it’s not too hideous, or having to transmute an old favourite piece every time you get an upgrade.


My opinions are just as valid despite being almost opposites of many GW2 fans, and a great indicator of ‘different strokes for different folks’. The things I consider strengths in TSW, other people consider weaknesses.
The fact that more people feel differently to me is something that I can quite reasonably consider to be ‘a shame’.
I didn't try TSW because I had just been burned on SWTOR. Had SWTOR not come out, I might have tried it.
The Secret World "registered" 1 million beta testers, but some number lower than that actually played the beta. I registered for the beta, but didn't get an invite. So the beta-subscriber comparison is unreliable unless we know precisely how many played the beta then subscribed.

Also, why does every MMO need to appeal to the whole population? TSW appeals to me, and I intend to subscribe. GW2 doesn't appeal to me, so I'll give it a miss.

There are enough gamers out there with different tastes that we ought to be applauding the development of niche games, not reinforcing the fallacious notion that There Can Be Only One MMO.

So "deserve" is not the right word. However, I hope does TSW succeed, because I want to play it. If Funcom has made one error, it is that it also fell into the There Can Be Only One MMO fallacy itself, and believed it had made a WoW-beater.
@Jaoa - I already pointed to a multi-million dollar marketing campaign - the beta. For better or worse, the motivation for game developers, and not just GW2, is for marketing/presales/hype/promotion whatever term you wish to use. It does not have the technical meaning of what "beta" meant 20 years ago. My claim is that GW2 spent over a million dollars setting up the infrastructure to let the world know about the beta, register for the beta, download the beta, forum about the beta, and play the beta. WoW has well over a million players in their beta and there was not even a "report a bug" button.

I also think that when I read a mention of GW2 or most any AAA game anywhere outside a blog it is most likely because a paid employee of either the publisher or more likely the PR firm hired by the publisher. I think I am more likely to see mentions of a game at fansites, the more community managers a company hires to support the fan sites. How much you read about a product is greatly determined by how much the company spend on you hearing about it.

I know how expensive travel is and how very expensive it is to do conventions. The above linked event I am sure cost six-digits. And it certainly was not the only one and they were doing it two years ago. Game developers spend more on promotion than they do on programmers.

GW2 is not for me but I am not saying it is a bad game. A lot of people will like it and it will have a significant and positive impact on competitors and successors.


GW2 selling 3mm copies, some of which from retailers who got a cut is a lot less revenue than SWTOR's less than 2mm sales after factoring in the subscriptions. There is a reason all the other publishers try subscriptions.
Most of the games since WoW have the "merge into a single stream very quickly" problem, which kills games for altoholics. GW2 represents the more old style "multiple early roots which eventually merge into a single stream" way.

So one of the things TSW needed was three different starter zones like Kingsmouth, one for each faction imo.

I'd still play it myself (if i could run it properly) because i particularly like TSW's niche but otherwise i wouldn't bother as linear from the start games don't suit how i play.

TSW vs GW2 in pictures...
"WoW has well over a million players in their beta and there was not even a "report a bug" button."

But there was the option to report bugs in the forums.

In GW2 there was option to submit bugs and I know for sure that one of the bugs I addressed with this feature was addressed. This does not mean my bug report was read, but at least the bug was fixed.
I'm playing both games and enjoy both. But there are plenty of reasons TSW failed to sell that have nothing to do with GW2 being a better game - Funcom's crappy marketing for example, or the ton of release reviews that just reviewed the crippled beta. Most people just haven't tried TSW because of negative word of mouth, which is a shame.

Far as how the games stack up, my opinions:
More Innovative = TSW
Better PVP = GW2. Fusang projects sucks compared to WvW.
Better PVE = TSW. I'd argue with the cinematic presentation/writing, it has the best questing in any themepark MMO ever created.
Better $$$ Value = I don't know. GW2 is a one time fee but then they nickel and dime you on essentials like bank and bag space. TSW is sub but the game is cheaper and they have monthly content updates
Better launch = TSW
Better Game Engine = GW2
Better Theorycrafting = TSW
Feels more like a grind = GW2
More of a niche game = TSW
World feels more alive = GW2
Most overhyped feature = GW2 Dynamic Events, which are basically WAR Public Quests made more complex to give the illusion the world is changing. Nothing's changing, it's just the same 3 zone states cycling over and over. Plus you end up getting DE drought, where you run around looking for DE's, none get triggered and gameplay momentum just dies. This DE drought is the thing I hate most about the game
Biggest nonsense = GW2 kills the trinity. All they did was just make every class a WOW Shaman hybrid.

Don't get me wrong - I like GW2 a lot and recommend it but GW2 and TSW are polar opposites. GW2 is overhyped and is not as innovative as people keep proclaiming. Meanwhile TSW is undervalued thanks to bad PR and a lot of people are gonna miss out.
Honestly, having not even glanced at GW2, because I was involved in the TSW ARG three years ago, I think I qualify as a TSW true believer.

On the merits the most puzzling thing to me has been watching the same reviewers write about both games. TSW sucks because I can only have six missions at a time (one story, one dungeon, one action, three side). I want moar missions! GW2 is awesome because I am able to really focus only having one mission at a time!

TSW breaks the mold on so many levels, people just don't get it. I watch it happen all the time. Take the first mission from a mission giver, finish it, run back for the second mission, repeat. That is how most games have conditioned us to behave.

In TSW grab a mission, go do it, when you finish it and turn it in with your handy dandy mobile phone, start looking around. Very close to the exact point at which you finished the mission, usually less than 50m in game, is another mission. Go do that. When it is done you will be close to another mission. Pick up one close to where you end up. Do that, continue to roam grabbing and finishing missions until some mission takes you to within 50m of that original quest giver. Then pick up their next mission. This way you travel the whole zone and do everything, with only six quests in your log.

The ability wheel, if I had a nickel for every idiot who has screamed about a respec because their deck sucks I would have a lot of nickels. You have five hundred ways to approach the wheel. Buy what looks cool, buy all impairs, buy all afflictions, buy one wedge at a time, just to name a few. All of them work. Personally I filled out chaos before doing much of anything else. I wanted to play a Chaos Mage. Then I started grabbing other things that worked with chaos. Now between Chaos, AR, Fists, Blades, and Hammers, I have decks that will do anything. There are no wasted purchases. Just abilities you have not found a use for yet. Some of the abilities that people yammer about being the biggest dogs have prime spots in my decks because they bridge other abilities and make the deck work.

So you don't like TSW. That's cool, TSW has a fantastic retention rate. They moved 200k units? Must be an old number, last I saw was 400k (or perhaps domestic vs. international) their player retention is extremely high. People who buy the game keep playing. Didn't work out that way for TOR, and retention is where the money is in a subscription MMO.

GW2 is another f'ing fantasy game. I am so done with fantasy. TSW gives me something new, something with a brilliant story and complex system. Something that requires me to engage my brain cells on both real and fictional web sites. I already love that I can tank, heal, and DPS. I love that I don't dick around with bag space. I love that I can tune my deck to do what I want, regardless of the "accepted and safe" solution.

But hey, I'm a true believer.
Appreciate the attempt here, but agree with many posters who are saying it's overly simplistic, and is missing some important points.

Guild Wars 2 is a sequel. Why this wasn't factored in to your argument is a bit baffling. Guild Wars was a ridiculously successful game (and I'll agree that the price-point, i.e. no monthly fee is a huge determinant). Hence GW2 brings in an already strong player base. To me, this is a bigger factor than all the screenshots in the world.

The screenshot argument is shaky at best. Both are very nice looking games, and screenshots do them both justice.

There is no research data that suggests that a fantasy theme for a MMORPG will automatically trump a horror theme, as a horror-themed MMORPG has not been tried up to this point. It is always possible (since we're all just speculating here) that players are tired of the same theme in almost every MMORPG and that could be a bigger determinant than merely going with the theme that has sold almost every other MMORPG in the past to date.

Bugs exist equally in both games. Mostly they are non-bothersome and being fixed on a near-daily basis, and I don't see this as a factor, given this is the name of the game with any MMORPG rollout.

Having played both betas, I found both equally successful and intriguing. I was interested in playing both games fully after having played the betas. I don't think this argument carries much water.

To some other posters' points - the argument that TSW deserves more recognition because it pushes the genre forward more than GW2 does is ludicrous when you realize that the mere act of offering a triple-A MMORPG game without a monthly cost was more innovative and daring than anything else that's been done in MMORPG's in the last decade. And it is for this reason, I will argue, that GW2 is going to win this war. Most players get bored of MMORPGs over time (any of them), but the ability to re-join with your old characters, for free, a year later, is something only GW and GW2 can claim as having founded (and thus revolutionizing the industry in this market).

In the end, which do I prefer? I prefer Guild Wars 2, because it costs me nothing per month but offers me 100% of content for the price of the boxed game. Period. And I think this is the single biggest factor in which game will dominate. Both are well-made games, both are fun in their own ways, and both push the genre forward with their innovations. But only GW2 will be there, for free, with full content, in a year, two years, five years.

It will keep fans coming back even as most of the population of other games (including TSW) have dried up.

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