There's a lot of received wisdom when it comes to MMOs, with people quick to announce trends and patterns with very minimal data. "You can't launch a full price MMO any more!" they'll cry. "Free-to-play or bust!" And then along comes Guild Wars 2, and sells over 2 million copies in a fortnight. A fortnight where at some points they had to even stop selling the game.
I'm actually a bit disappointed that Guild Wars 2 hasn't opted for a subscription model, because I'd be fascinated to see if it would still have done as well. As it is, what ArenaNet's release demonstrates is that a box price is not an impassable barrier for the right MMO, and that there's still a massive audience out there willing to part with cash. Which makes the matter of the relative lack of success for The Old Republic and The Secret World all the more interesting.
Of course GW2 is in the novel position of doing this without then adding on a subscription after. A one-time fee for a 'lifetime' of the game is certainly an intriguing offer, and it'll be fascinating to see how many pundits now declare that this is the only way for MMOs to go. ArenaNet are reporting that they're seeing 400,000 simultaneous players, which is testament to their servers, even if there were some wobbles at the start. But it'll be interesting to see where those numbers are after the first month, and the second. Obviously that they're not relying on subs makes a difference, but it'll be worth keeping an eye on to see if that keeps climbing, levels, or drops off.
Also interesting will be whether this up-front fee model can make them their money back. Goodness knows how much has been spent in the many years it's been developed, but it'll be many tens of millions at least. Had all of those two million sales been direct through their own store, at the enormous starting price of £50, they'd have seen £100m come in by now. But of course most of it will have been through other online stores and retail, where the game can be found for £40, with a large proportion not reaching the publisher. So who knows. Maybe they'll tell us? Either way, things are looking pretty decent for the project, so long as they can sustain interest until the first paid-for add-on appears. You can find out why Richard thought it was well worth the entry fee here.
So, if you bought GW2, would you have still done it if there had been a subscription?