Tobold's Blog
Friday, August 10, 2012
Will not having a subscription hurt Guild Wars 2?

One of the arguments I've heard repeatedly in the discussion of Star Wars: The Old Republic going Free2Play was that people play subscription games more intensively, due to a desire to "get their money's worth". And I was wondering how that would factor in the upcoming battle of the titans between Guild Wars 2 and Mists of Pandaria.

Many people, me included, are looking forward to Guild Wars 2; much more than to Mists of Pandaria. But this is now, before the release of Guild Wars 2, where GW2 appears to be new and shiny, and MoP just another expansion. Will that still look the same on September 25th? Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and I consider it perfectly possible that on September 25th Guild Wars 2 will be yesterday's news, and Mists of Pandaria will be new and shiny.

I do believe that some bloggers are a bit too quick to write off World of Warcraft. Yes, the game is down to 9 million subscribers, having lost another million in another quarter, but that was also yet another quarter without any significant content update. While the absolute peak of WoW might be behind us, I'm sure that Mists of Pandaria will add at least 2 million subscribers to those 9 million. The main flaw of Cataclysm was lack of content, lack of updates, and nothing fixes that better than a new expansion.

People might buy Mists of Pandaria to have a look, and when they have both GW2 and MoP installed on their computers, the fact that World of Warcraft has a subscription might make it appear more "urgent" to play. Guild Wars 2; which is free after the initial purchase, might appear to be more easily put on hold. What do you think?

Our gaming circle discussed this issue. The conclusion was that everyone is quite excited to play GW2 and most people said: Pandaria? Really? And yet I think that several of those - myself included - are going to at least buy Pandaria and check out the new features. I've been there from day one and I miss the good old times we had ... so I'll stay curious where they are going. This in turn will lead to at least a couple of months of subscriptions from each of us. Where I might not even log in - like during my last subscription period -.-
Considering GW2 has no discernible endgame progression mechanism, it may be that many people simply "beat" GW2 by the end of September and move on. I mean, even the idea of alts is compressed since you can run all the quests you missed on the way to level-cap via your (de-leveled) main. And unless you want a PvP alt to be functional in WvW, you can run BGs at 100% efficacy on a new character in approximately 5 minutes after rolling.

By the way, I'm speaking as someone who has pre-purchased the game and participated in all three beta weekends. Once the XP and gear faucets of leveling are turned off, I'm not sure how long 24/7 Isle of Conquest is going to sustain me.
That 9 million is a strong over-estimation. Lot of players were tricked into annual pass who now can't cancel subscription despite not playing.
"Considering GW2 has no discernible endgame progression mechanism, it may be that many people simply "beat" GW2 by the end of September and move on."

That's pretty much my thought too. It'll be Diablo 3 syndrome, a lot of people will play it and like it and then move on. Although I think it'll keep a fair core.
Well, you have to consider the real thing with MMOs and making money:


What is better? An MMO that has a subscription which are played intensely enough that 1 month later most people are quitting. After 3 months the MMO is most likely forgotten. The sub creates a barrier thick enough that players don't even LOG IN. So right there, you lost market (someone to market to)


An MMO which are played "over the long term" . Maybe people don't play it as intensely in the first month, but they play it longer, say over a 6 month period. Hell, even if they log in once in awhile, they will REMAIN a potential for
a] Creating word of mouth
b] Marketing (cash shop / new content )

In terms of "marketing" . Which one is going to win? Surely the one with the most "buzz" after 6 months is going to win.

That is exactly the problem Blizzard now have, they only create buzz ONCE a year. So people finish their content within 2 months and WoW will be showing a downward trend until the next release.

Compare this to say Turbine (LOTRO) with their focus on keeping people paying for stuff. It sounds to me, they would prefer players "extending their stay" , because then you remain viable to market the cash shop to. No one is going to buy stuff in the cash shop if they are not playing the game or logging in, but if you log in "every now and then because you don't pay a sub" , there is a likelyhood you will buy that new flying mount for a few hours of fun.... the "intensity" might actually be the whole problem here. That's why i think SWTOR messed up , people burned through the content faster than Bioware can improve things , if everyone wasn't in such a rush to beat the subscription , don't you think SWTOR would at least still be somewhat relevant now?

Even The Secret World, same thing, subscription game , finite content. Watch how this game "fades" , not because it's bad , but you can't play the game with "low intensity" and pay a sub...despite it actually having the perfect setup for "low intensity" play once a month.
@ Gevlon

...what do you mean tricked into an annual pass? Was there something deceptive about the annual pass I wasn't aware of?
There wasn't anything deceptive about the annual pass. For me it was a "wrong" judgement on my behalf. I hoped to get more out of D3 than I actually did (one playthrough and I lost interest to keep playing).
I was a hardcore raider until I beaten Deathwing (guildleader in a server 1st raidguild).
Once we defeated Deathwing, I found that there was nothing for me left in WoW. For the past few months I haven't logged in other than to talk to the guildies (sometimes even just on Mumble without actually logging into WoW).

"Tricked" is a big statement. I expected to continue play for at least a year (considering that I continued raiding until the day that WotLK was released during TBC and logged in daily during WotLK until Cataclysm). The deal just didn't offer the enjoyment I was expecting when I signed up for it.
@Sine Nomine:
He may be referring to how it wasn't made clear how the Diablo 3 - WoW Annual Pass interacted, particularly in the case of cancellation. At the least, it is worth noting that players on the Annual Pass have had the cost subsidized by Diablo 3, so that you could do the accounting to say they aren't paying for many of the months that they are nevertheless subscribed and counted as active, regardless of actual activity.
People that play on regular schedules will plan their gaming time so that they do the content they enjoy the most, obviously. They will have no qualms on putting WoW on hold because they won't care to jump into Pandaria at 00:01 launch day.

The 'locusts', the people that consume all the content in a week by playing 12+ hours/day, will aim to finish everything by the time the month is up. In which case they will move to the next game and do it all over again. Arenanet isn't missing out by not being able to hold on to those customers, if nothing else they want them to leave so that the server loads will ease down a little.
Have in mind that if I live in Asia and I buy a 10 hours card, played 9 hours and then stopped playing for months, I am considered an "active subscription".

I don't want to bash wow, but my personal experience is that the game is in much more dicline than the subscription numbers we see. I had signed the annual pass and every now and then I log in to check my characters or any online guildmates - friends. 99 of 100 times I am friends online, no guildmates online.

I do believe also that gw2 at 25th of September will be yesterday news. I mean, how long can you login and just fight, fight, fight continually over hundreds of dynamic events...and then there is the thing that gear doesn't matter, or it does matter very little. Sidekick so I cannot go back and farm an old dungeon alone and generally it seems fun and relaxing but, expect if you want to do serious pvp, you don't have any worthy goal except to play for fun as they say and kill right and there..

Not having a sub will not hurt gw2. the may sell lot of million copies because it doesn't have sub. I have a fear that this is their goal, a one time sell and then who for fun if you like
I don't want to bash wow, but my personal experience is that the game is in much more dicline than the subscription numbers we see.

Well, this is pretty much obvious. After something like 9 months without any content update, our guild looks like the sahara desert as well.... :) It'll be interesting to see what happens with MoP, and I don't mean the first week, but 6 months later.
Remember that they used the same subscription model very successfully in Guild Wars 1. They also released 4 expansions for GW1, and had a pretty constant population the whole time.

Guild Wars 2 doesn't need a huge population, nor does it benefit from one. Those who pay for the game and defeat it in a month will get their money's worth, and those who play slowly will still be able to enjoy the game because it will not fall apart when populations decline like SWTOR did.

I think comparing GW2 to a multiplayer Skyrim is a much better comparison than comparing it to WoW. Just because you can beat Skyrim in a month doesn't mean that you got less out of it than someone who played it over a year.
It will temporarily boost subs, sure. It's the same people who pop in and play a few months every expansion.

Given Blizzards propensity to pump the sub numbers, and the annual pass thing (which I don't think Blizzard would have felt it needed to do in 2007) who knows how many subs are left. It's been two years since I played WoW, but even then it was really damn hard to find a new player. Even in lowbie zones it was simply assumed that everyone was an alt and that was almost always correct. That's a sign the game is late middle age.

GW2 might be old news for a while, but the flip side is that it will still be there when people are done with Pandera. The fact that the vanity pet system is one of the major selling points of expansion is telling me they are about out of ideas. It's cute and all, but that shouldn't be a main selling point of a two year expansion.
Some points:
1- GW2 don't have subscription: so, why you use the date 25th september as a mark for the downfall of GW2, when the game don't have a free month that causes that "one month" syndrome we saw at all other MMO?
2- GW2 don't have a conventional endgame: all game, from level 1 to level 80 is the endgame.
3- GW2 have a very good WvWvW PvP, be warned that the big PvP guilds are moving to GW2 from SWTOR and WAR.
4- Whatever the big raid guilds from WoW are saying, only a minority of players are raiding, most players don't have time or don't have gear for it: GW2 don't have raids and don't have that problem for a majority of players that are casual.
5- Cata was more of same and focused at end game raids, so players get bored at one month: MoP is more of same and fosus end game raids, my guess is that players will get bored at less time than happened with cata.
6- Players were really tricked by the anual pass and D3 deal: and they are pissed off because D3 is not a good game.
7- IMHO, it is correct assume that when the anual pass expires we will see a higher subscription drop at WoW.
8- Be warned that if Blizzard is rushing MoP launch, we will se a bug (in)fest(ed).
9- The GW2 is more than the "new shinny" game thing: it is coming from players that tryed the beta weekends and, after get some hours confused with the chaotic enfironment of a new PvE gameplay, liked the dynamic event system.
10- Dynamic Events, as "change" the world and move over time (a player will need more than one run at a zone for see all DE), are more dificult to make the player feel bored than the traditional quest system.
11- IMHO, players are bored from WoW game style and WoW-clones: SWTOR failed mostly because it is a WoW-clone (WoW with lightsabers).
12- The quest system is old, it was created at EQ: the future is dinamic events (that started as public events at WAR and that we see at RIFT as rifts).
13- WoW never had a real competitor, SWTOR and other MMO failed at it: it will be interesting to see how WoW will trive with a real competitor at teh market...
14- Finally, "players will play both games" is being overrated: time is a resource and time is limited, few people have time for play TWO MMO at same time.
why you use the date 25th september as a mark for the downfall of GW2

Mists of Pandaria release date.

Yes you may be right. Its been a very long time since they released DS, although I think that if they were introduced another raid at May for example, I can't say for sure if my guild would return to do it..probably not. But I am sure that once MoP release I will get a phone call from a guild member to tell me to login and to play again, but for how long? Probably not for more than 3 months, time will tell..

@Joao carlos

Dynamic Events are not different from the quest system. The way they "sell" you the quest is different. Either you see a ! above an NPC to ask you to kill 10 rats or you move next to him and your quest log/Dynamic events UI update and ask you to kill 10 rats is the same thing. The only thing that is different, is that everybody are in the same step of the quest.

what I do believe is the future, is that you cannot tag mobs, you do not need to be in group to get credits of a kill, you don't have to fight over a resource (mine, herb). These are all very welcome and will eliminate some things make you angry. The lack of trinity may or may not be the future...I love tanking and in every game I play the tanking class. I don't know why the lack of trinity is good for me...The lack of trinity is very good for people tha play always dps and they never got into a guild or didn't want to socialize and make friends and so they had troubles to find groups
Also to add that the lack of trinity makes the pvp much more easier for them to get it balanced, which is their main focus in this game. So they achieve two things...first of all an easy time to balance pvp, with no healers around or tanks and they can sell this as very innovative, since they don't have raids and their dungeons are not their strong point nor they have the very best when you really don't have an in-depth pve system, you can be "innovative" and do whatever you like :P this is my opinion of course.

Yes, it is MoP launch date. Can happen the inverse and that date be the downfall of WoW, and not GW2 downfall...

GW2 don't ahve subscriptions,so... why the players that try MoP until get bored (as it will be more of the same, less than one month for everyone get bored) will not return to GW2?

Anyway, it will be impossible to compare WoW and GW2 using subscription numbers.

The only way to compare WoW and GW2 will be box sales numbers: how many boxes (including downloading, pre-purchase and pre-orders) GW2 and MoP sells.

I think it will interesting see how that salles numbers will be....


DE is the best the devs can do with the current thecnology. It is better than repeat forever a system was developed at the 1990+, the quest system.

Anyway, players see DE as diferent from the traditional quest system and they see the world "change", while at the traditional quest system the world is ever the same.

That too is one reason players get confused at the first hours when they don't see the "!" above NPC heads... talk about "conditioning"...
I'm not getting mists unless they change casualwow to somewhat serious again in terms of vanilla and tbc raid progression. Remove LFR and LFD system, ilvl. Add a more social server community instead of being idle in main city, world pvp. epics that mean something and stop having automatic quest helper that makes it boring. That wont happen so i wont buy MoP and i only played 3 months of cata since it got so crappy. wow has lost it's wow factor
I don't think it'll hurt the game at all, the "pay to own" model will stand them in good stead for the longer term. The tourists will go see Mists and come back when they've blown through the 5 levels of content and/or raids.

Guild Wars 1 lasted a long time because it had easily accessible story content and very easy to jump into PVP (instant max level character isolated from PVE gear grind). Despite the lack of tiered raiding there was a ton of PVE 'hardcore' grindy content such as titles or fancy costume armour (no better than standard top-tier gear). People have kept playing it regardless and there's been no major content released since 2007.

I'm sure ArenaNet can easily keep up with new content for GW2. They just need to keep a steady trickle of new events and bigger scale content (like the dragon fight from all the promo videos) and it'll keep people interested.

Myself I won't go near Mists. More dailies? No thanks. 10 levels of interesting new content and then 75 levels of stuff I've already done several times before I get again to new content? Nope, no panda leveling then. Oh and 5 levels for my main character? That'll last about as long as it did with Cataclysm - bad value for money.

Regarding the comments on the annual pass - it was pushed out before real details about class changes were known and before we really knew how bad Diablo 3 came to be. I know, caveat emptor, but at the end of the day it was one of the worst game-related decisions I've made in a very long time.
Are you guys aware that if you hate both WoW and Diablo 3, there is no problem with cancelling the annual pass prematurely?
Why cancel it? You bought the cow, might as well keep the milk.

On a side note I went and checked out the price to buy a top level WoW account. Used to be the highest accounts sold for 2000+, good ones 1000. Seems like now the top end is mostly $600 and you could pick up a max level character for a couple of hundred bucks (a very good deal just in time saved).

In 2007 Blizzard would have never conceived of giving away a copy of D3 to encourage a year sub. They would have expected you to pay both and smile while you did it.

Seems to me the decline is getting worse.
One thing of note: WoW lost most customers in Asia - not in Europe.

In Asia the pressure from competing products is much higher. They release like 12 new MMO's per month
Why cancel it? You bought the cow, might as well keep the milk.

Isn't this textbook sunk cost fallacy?
It would be if keeping the sub cost anything. I mean I guess if they would refund some of your money it would make sense to cancel, but IIRC that's not an option.
As far as I know, World of Warcraft doesn't even have an option to pay for 12 months in advance. The "annual pass" still requires you to take a regular monthly, 3-monthly, or 6-monthly subscription. And if you cancel that subscription before having paid 12 months of it, you lose all the annual pass benefits, including access to Diablo 3. You do however "get your money back" on the months you haven't paid for yet.

Thus if you took the annual pass plus a 3-month subscription, then played Diablo 3 and decided you hated both Diablo 3 and WoW, you could just cancel your subscription regularly, without having to pay for the other 9 months.
Oh, well yeah. Then cancel.
@Tobold, I think there might be an opposite effect in play as well. Because people perceive they can stop playing GW2 at any time without any loss (as would be the case for subscription based games), they might start playing it more readily - and then find they don't want to stop playing ("yet"). Some people, like me, just have their subscriptions on auto-renew, others renew them manually and sometimes or even quite often they might find themselves running out of subscription without being able to renew it at the moment. And if there happens a completely cost free form of entertainment available...

I find it quite obvious how does plan to benefit from the so-called locusts; however I think the way they plan to benefit - and possible the way to go about this in future even if GW2 might not get it right - from the right tail is to lure players with promises of putting on hold easily. Except it's not so easy when you're having fun. (Note: This assumes they make the right tail have fun.)

Now it's just my opinion and it is formed because I'm a kind of person who will start an activity if it's easier to quit and then find it difficult because I'm having fun, however the question is, how many people like that are there and would it be profitable for to exploit this quality? I don't know the answers but I feel like their opinion is "probably yes" or even closer to pure yes.
The big problem with Cata was it was a fractured expansion. The new zones gave no sense of continuity or exploration. MoP is a return to what Blizz does best: Huge open worlds beautiful done.

@Azuriel: I totally agree. Why isn't GW2's lack of endgame being discussed more? As it stands, GW2 is no different than GW: an instanced pvp game in a lifeless world.
Perhaps then the lack of endgame will produce less of a "powerleveling" pace. Never thought that the lack of endgame could be a feature in a themepark, but that's what I'm seeing.

The leveling experience doesn't have to be long, just long enough.
Personally, I will play both.

In WoW (MoP) I will rush to end-game. I have a spot as a raider in a top 1000 raiding guild. We'll raid semi hardcore in start of MoP and we aim to compete there (we don't go for realm first since we play on same realm as a top10 guild). I could level alts, too, but in start I won't. Instead I need to min-max my main MS and OS (e.g. doing dailies, theorycrafting).

This is in stark contrast with GW2. In GW2 I have no group, no guild, nothing. I can play the game alone, but still will be able to play with others thanks to the smart questing system. I'll be able to play GW2 during off hours in WoW. Bored, waiting, can't find group, waiting for raid to start? Play some GW2, completely casual.

"Whatever the big raid guilds from WoW are saying, only a minority of players are raiding, most players don't have time or don't have gear for it: GW2 don't have raids and don't have that problem for a majority of players that are casual."

No, this means those people who raid 6 times a week during progress (= considered hardcore) and are say top 100 spend more time yet are less good than a guild who raids 3-4 times a week (= considered semi hardcore) or even 1-2 times a week (= considered casual). There ARE top guilds who raid very little relative to hardcore raiding guilds yet have high progress. The two are NOT mutually exclusive. Not every top guild goes for world or realm first.

Insteas, guild #100 raiding 6x a week 3 hrs is simply of less quality than guild #101 raiding 2-3x a week 3 hrs. If the amount of progress is virtually the same, while spending 2-3 times amount of time on progressing this means your guild consists of less quality than the other guild who spend far less time despite having perhaps a slightly higher progress rating.
"The big problem with Cata was it was a fractured expansion. The new zones gave no sense of continuity or exploration. MoP is a return to what Blizz does best: Huge open worlds beautiful done." If only this were the case I'd be subbing again.

Actually you play 10 levels of beautiful new content and then 75 of the stuff you've done already. Cataclysm's revamp of the old world was *very* patchy. Some areas had lots of changes, others were barely touched - which is starkly noticeable as you level through. Outlands and Wrath were not changed at all (but you still have those as content bottlenecks).

All of it suffers from the broken (fast) leveling speed and difficulty since the pre-Cataclysm class changes came in.
I think it is more, GW2 not having a subscription will help MoP. (but not hurt or help GW2)
I've never had any thoughts of ever going back to WoW they could make playboy bunnies a playable race and I'd still have to take a pass.

I'm looking for a measurably different experience and GW2 from what I've played in the beta looks like it'll deliver that.

If GW2 continues to deliver the spontaneous massively multiplayer experience in the open world I'll be playing it for the foreseeable future.

I really haven't had this quality of massive player interaction for a long time.
I did not know GW2 has no subscription. Although I did play GW1 so I suppose it's not a surprise. I'm not looking to change MMOs but I'd buy it just for a holiday diversion.

The annual pass debacle cashes in on 2 aspects of cognitive behavior.
1. people are terrible at predicting what they'll want to do in the future.
2. people loose objectivity if they think they're getting some amount of free or a bargain.

Actually now that I think about it the sense of getting free gameplay makes me think there's no downside to buying GW2.
Since GW2 doesn't have a subscription, it doesn't really matter if people play off and on or not. It's certain to have expansions like GW1 that will draw people back in.

People love their fashions, if they pump out fashion items the average person will be thrilled.
WotLK got me a solid couple years. Cataclysm... a couple months. But because I had a recurring 6-month subscription, there were several months there that I paid for but didn't log in. I felt that twinge of wastefulness, but logging in was even more frustrating, boring and depressing, so I considered the waste a loss and moved on.

The whole 'get your money's worth' mentality is primarily responsible for my burn-out on sub MMOs. It's why I unsubbed from SWTOR, but will probably go back to it every now and then when it goes F2P. Same for DCUO, or COH/V, or FE.

The mentality actually turns me off SO MUCH that if I like the first couple weeks enough, I will usually buy the lifetime sub (did for CO, STO, TSW, LOTRO, Global Agenda, among others). Even if I then only play it 3/12 months in the subsequent years.

Of course, years later, I can jump back into those games that went F2P and collect all the monthly currency that they accrue, and play with new toys, catch up with folks who still play on-and-off. It's kind of nice to be able to convert sub games into effectively F2P games with benefits.

GW2's going to have the upper hand in that I won't be coasting along getting 'free' entitled currency every month that I'm not logged in.

I'm too old and too busy to play an MMO every day of the week.
Have in mind that if I live in Asia and I buy a 10 hours card, played 9 hours and then stopped playing for months, I am considered an "active subscription".

This is incorrect. In areas with pay-per-hour, you are counted as an active subscription if you played in the previous 30 days. Having money on a time card will not, by itself, cause your account to be considered active.

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