For a while now, gamers have watched as the free-to-play industry has picked up steam, a slowly invading mechanic that brings with it the inevitable cash shop. So many games have lured players in with their FTP claims, only to lock them away from the majority of the content unless they open their wallets and then keep the best items at bay unless they do, often resulting in a higher bill than one would typically pay for a monthly subscription.
Now, I have no problem opening up my piggy bank and dishing out money for a game I feel deserves it. Creating a game isn’t cheap, and everyone that worked on that game needs to make a living. By throwing some money their way I am helping further development not only for myself, but for everyone else who plays as well, and I can control what I buy and how much I decide to spend that month.
I do, however, have a problem when games continue to hammer in the constant reminder that I should subscribe, or glare in my face every time I open the cash shop that for just a little money, I can have a ship with better weapons or armor that absorbs more damage than what I am currently using. The game should make me feel like I want to pay, not yell at me like a bad infomercial that constantly reminds me of all the amazing things an item can do for just ten dollars.
When Guild Wars 2 announced that it would have a cash shop to go along with its buy-to-play model, gamers breathed in an air of hesitation that I am fairly certain they have yet to exhale. Would we enter the game and see the sword of kill-everything-in-one-hit on the market for a mere $9.99? Would we log in one day and suddenly see that for half a week’s paycheck, we can just buy up all the keeps in WvW?
There will always be a disagreement over the line between pay-to-win and convenience. I generally judge a FTP game’s value on how often I feel the need to open the cash shop to look for something to unlock so I can continue playing. So when I started playing Guild Wars 2 over the beta weekends, I gave it the same treatment, and I can say I never felt the need to open it once.
The majority of the cash shop offers both cosmetic and quality of life types of items, each broken down into its respective category. You will see the immersion breaking aviator sunglasses and boxing gloves, along with some fun outfits, glasses and a fancy top hat. Equipment repair canisters, revive orbs (not useable in any PvP I should mention), an item to make your bank come to you for those times when you find yourself overloaded in the middle of the field, and an item that will bring any items you buy off the auction house to you as well are your quality of life improvements, that are nice, but never necessary.
Then there is the real area of contention for players, the boosts section. Here you will be able to purchase timed boosters which will grant increased experience, karma, magic find, and glory. Now while you may think that something like an experience boost gives an advantage to a player who purchases them, let me explain why I feel it does not. In the last beta weekend, I managed to get my warrior to level 15 simply by completing the human zone and then participating in WvW. I also played quite a few other classes and spent a lot of time taking videos, screenshots, and playing with the character creators. By level 30, every skill slot on your action bar is opened up, so in a couple days of casual play, I managed to make it halfway to having it unlocked. Also don’t forget that the leveling curve in Guild Wars 2 is nonexistent, and players will notice that it takes the same amount of time to get from level two to three, as it does thirty to thirty-one.
Guild Wars 2 does create a few limitations that packrats and completionists will find hard to ignore. Currently the game starts you with five default character slots for the game’s eight classes, so anyone wishing to play every class will need to dish out some extra cash ($10.00 per slot if you choose to pay with real money). The other is bag slots, which were present during the initial beta weekends but have actually been removed from the cash shop as of the last stress test, so what will be done with these is anyone’s guess at this point.
Another thing to remember is that all these items can also be earned through just playing the game. Each time you complete a zone, you are rewarded with at least one random item from the cash shop, and both Black Lion Chests and keys can be dropped by mobs in the game world and also contain random cash shop items.
ArenaNet has also provided a way to exchange in game gold for cash shop gems, opening up the possibility to purchase everything in the shop without ever having to actually spend a dime of real life money.
As it stands now, the cash shop in Guild Wars 2 contains nothing that would tip the scales of favor for a player or that one would need to buy to experience the game to its fullest. What it does have is pretty much what we’ve already seen in the original Guild Wars’ cash shop. Although, it makes me wonder if such a convenience based cash shop will be too casual to sustain the game in the long run, and I question if enough people will buy without the need to buy. Could this change overnight? There have been changes made to the cash shop after every beta event, so I cannot say. I can, however, judge ArenaNet based on how they have handled themselves in the past, and I can say that puts me at ease.
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