This is a little more tentative than many games we're talking about in this series. Arenanet have talked about starting to Beta-test thing in late 2008. While that probably won't be a public, someone will hopefully be playing this before the end of the year. So why, with it that far off, is it worth talking about?
I guess it's because that, after Guild Wars 2, there's a chance of everything changing and that nags at me.
Now, I kinda hoped the original Guild Wars would do that, but it ended being just another one of those greasy marks on the wheels of the World of Warcraft juggernaut. Not that it wasn't successful, of course - scanning the end of year sales charts for the PC in the UK, it was the only actually new game high up, nestling among the sequels, spins-offs and re-imaginings. It sold, from scratch, which is quite the feat.
And, putting aside its many progressive and intelligent elements which I've ranted about time and time over, one reason outweighs them all. It's because it had no monthly payment system. While I've never asked Arenanet about it, I suspect they'd admit as much. NCSoft certainly understood, using ONLINE GAMING WITH NO MONTHLY FEES as its tagline, just to make sure the message got across. Obviously, it wouldn't matter if Guild Wars was shit but... well, Guild War's the one where you buy the box and play the thing. It's Simple. That the mainstream of the MMO world continues on the monthly fee route without anyone raising an eyebrow surprises me.
The thing is, trad MMO players response to Guild Wars was one of simple rejection. Yeah, it was fun for what it was, but it wasn't a real MMO because of a half dozen reasons. The main one was that when you're on a mission, you're in your own world with your chums (or opponents, in the case of multiplayer). And, clearly, the presence of other people you're never going to talk with in the area where you're killing boars is what makes a game so demanding on the developer that you should pay a monthly fee for the privilege.
Okay - the mask of objectivity slipped for a second there, but... well, let's say the trad view is right and running a shared, persistent world is just a more expensive endeavor, so justifies the monthly fee. That's just how it is.
Well, what happens to that view when Guild Wars 2 comes out, with persistent shared adventuring areas and all the ol' MMO malarkies... and still doesn't charge a monthly fee? Well, I'd begin to question what those fifteen dollars trickling out every month actually are for.
That's the big change that Guild Wars 2 could lead to. A change of people's minds. Making people more actually question the mathematics of a monthly fee - because something would have to be significantly more than Guild Wars 2 to even justify it, yeah? I was slightly incredulous when I interviewed Arenanet about this upon the games' announcement - "How on Earth can you do it when no-one else can?" was what I was trying to ask without just saying it straight out. Their position was that it's just what they design for, and have always designed for. Bandwidth getting cheaper as years go by helps, of course, but it's they're designing a system to be as efficient as possible. They did it with Guild Wars and, with the passage of the years, they think they can do the same thing with Guild Wars 2.
Which of course begs the question to every single other MMO developer in the world... well, why don't you do that then?
It's not quite fair to everyone else, of course. But there's nothing fair about people's minds, and the better Guild Wars 2 is, the harder the question becomes.