This week's article of The Scrying Pool looks at the future of expansions after recent interviews.
In each article of The Scrying Pool, I look at what is and what could be. After taking a look at what is present in Guild Wars 2 now, be that lore or game mechanics, I then ask What If? What if this happened in the lore or this feature was added in a future patch.
Expansion has been a big topic of conversation the last week for GW2, triggered by a pair of interviews: ZAM’s interview with Studio Design Director Chris Whiteside and an interview with Lead Content Designer Mike Zadorojny.
The most talked about part of these interviews was a single line by Mike Z where he said “We will probably never do an expansion and everything will be going into this Living World strategy.” This line even became the title line for the interviewer’s article.
So is this confirmed that Guild Wars 2 will never get an expansion? Well yes and no.
The line is question is taken a bit out of context. Leading up to the quote Mike Z was talking about expansion content being delivered through the Living World. “Our idea here,” he stated, “is that, with Living World, we can do what expansions would have done but do it on a more regular basis."
This was the same sentiment that Chris Whiteside relayed in my interview with him. He said there are expectation of what an expansion adds with content, features and system. Instead of having one massive drop of all this new content as is seen in every other MMO, they might instead release their first expansion through the Living World releases.
It is not that there will not be an expansion released for GW2, it just won’t be released with the traditional box sale. In fact, the expansion might not be a paid expansion at all and will be released free to all players just like the bi-weekly Living World content updates.
But what about the cash that ArenaNet would make selling expansion boxes? I don’t think the original box sales accounted for much of the profits from GW2. Sales earnings have shown GW2 has maintained a fairly steady revenue stream even though there hasn’t been a major box sales milestone since 3 million units were sold by the end of 2012.
Box sales would still be definite boon to revenue for GW2, but there are reasons that not having that paid gating for content would be beneficial. This is something that no one else, to my knowledge, is doing for large scale content releases, further boosting the buy the box and play free for forever model that ArenaNet set up for GW2.
It also solves some of the dilemmas that come with expansions. ArenaNet wouldn’t have to figure out how to gate new maps from only players without the expansion. Then if the Living World took place on one of these new maps would players be forced to buy the expansion to participate or would these areas be opened up to all players similar to how zones like Southsun Cove would auto level all characters to max level for the duration of the event.
Any added skills and traits would need to be handled in sPvP. Will some players have an advantage with an extended option of skills and traits that are available or would another gating system need to be implemented where some matches were vanilla, not allowing any of the new expansion abilities.
Something that we could possibly see is brand new maps in WvW. Are players who didn’t buy the expansion unable to participate any week that the new maps are used?
Having a free expansion takes a lot of the guesswork out of the game. Players don’t have to worry about finding people with the expansion to do new content, they just need to find someone who wants to group up. The developers also don’t need to make any special considerations if the entire player base is on the same footing. New players wouldn’t need to guess at what they need. There isn’t a question of which campaign to buy first or if they need to buy the vanilla and all the expansions at once or as needed, they just buy Guild Wars 2 and have access to everything that any other player does.
With the Living World Expansions, we are still getting the content and features expected of an expansion as Chris Whiteside mentioned and we will still get the hype around the expansion, but we will get that as part of the consistent content that ArenaNet is delivering at potentially no costs to the players.