GW2 – Breaking down the Play-for-Free model

ArenaNet have announced that they are going to allow free account to have limited access to their game so that more people can experience Guild War 2 and they are confident that those who made an account will also purchase their latest expansion; Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns.

So let’s get down to the details of the announcement.

Link to the blog post: GW2 Play-for-Free

“Guild Wars 2 has the simplest of business models: buy the game and play it as long as you want with no monthly fees.”

Great business model. I loved it is since the original Guild Wars.

“Expansions are the one place where the buy-to-play model gets a little tricky. When you’re coming in as a new player to a game that has a bunch of expansions, what exactly should you buy in order to play with your friends? The base game and also every single expansion? We’ve seen examples in the industry where that kind of thing has gotten out of control. It doesn’t seem right, and we want to do better.”

This is the problem they’ve face in Guild Wars, where their expansions/standalones were getting out of control and where the disparity between players is getting larger by each expansion. It’s nice to see that they want to do better.

“So let’s be clear that when we say Guild Wars 2 is buy-to-play, we’re only asking you to buy one thing: the current release, Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns.”

Hmm…does this mean that all Living Story episodes will go free-to-play for everyone? Or they’ll keep them gated behind 200 gems per episode?

“To accomplish that, we’ve already included the core game as a free bundle for anyone who buys Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns. And today we’ll go a step further: we’re making the core game free for everyone. For anyone who’s been curious about Guild Wars 2, now you can just go to, download the game, and start playing.”

As a veteran player, I don’t mind this at all. It was already speculated that GW2 will go free-to-play anyway. However, there are conflicting statements here.

1) “the core game as a free bundle for anyone who buys Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns”
2) “the core game free for everyone”

Now these are conflicting statements. It seems that the 2nd statement is not entirely true. They should have said the the core game is now redesigned for limited access for those who doesn’t own the game. Because after reading the whole post, the core game is not free for everyone. Purchasing the core game is no longer necessary, sure, but the core game is not free. It’s more 1/3 of the core game is free.

“Are we going to be one of those games that aggressively monetizes free players through microtransactions? Absolutely not.

Well get back to this rhetoric because there are fine prints associated with this statement that is border line dishonest or misleading.

“Our goal is to protect our current community but also to make it as easy as possible for you to introduce the game to your friends…”

This can already be accomplished by the “invite a friend” code that typically were included with the purchased box. So it doesn’t really make it easier for us, rather it makes it easier for them, ArenaNet, to just invite everyone. I don’t know why they make it sounds like as if it’s hard for us to invite people. If I really want to invite people, I have no problem purchasing a copy for them.

“First, free accounts start with fewer character slots and bag slots than the paid version of the game.”

Here we go. Remember in the previous statement they’ve made that they won’t monetize the free accounts? We’ll these are the fine prints.

Limiting the number of character slots is monetizing the free account because extra character slots is worth $10. Limiting the bag slots is also monetizing the free accounts because bag slots also cost money.

There are 8 core professions and having only 2 slots means that they have to purchase up to 6 more slots worth $60 — that’s is paying for the game already.

I own the game which gave me 5 character slot, now I have 11, that means I have paid for the core game + $60 more. I’ve practically purchased 2 games already — not to mention other purchase I’ve made in my GW2 life time.

I’m not ranting on the purchases I’ve made since I purchased them without grudges. Rather I am annoyed by the statement that they are not monetizing the free accounts when that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Sure they can argue that even though they are monetizing the free accounts, they are not “aggressively” monetizing them. To be honest, what the fuck is the difference?

“Free accounts can buy and sell common goods on the trading post. They can’t mail gold or items directly to other players, trade gold for gems, or access guild vaults.”

Here’s the rest of the fine prints. So the free accounts have limited bag space and limited character slots and there’s no way for them to increase this number without purchasing gems with real money. According to ArenaNet, free accounts cannot convert their gold to gems which means there’s only one option — real cash.

Other MMOs with free-to-play options allow players to earn point or currencies that they can use to unlock certain part of the game including bag space and character slots. ArenaNet may add these features in the future, but purposely leaving it out when other MMOs were already doing this for years is a little strange if they really believe that they are not monetizing the free accounts.

That is the gist of the play-for-free account. Compare to other games, this is not bad but they should not have said that they are not going to monetize the free account because it is as plain as day that that is their goal. I’m not sure why it’s hard to be honest when the truth is already staring them in the face. Just announce the business plan, lay out the details, and leave out the rhetoric — let the players decide for themselves because statements like this will come back and bite you in the ass.

Author: Enzovic

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