Now, on to the conspiracy theory. If you don't feel like reading a wall of text, there's a tl;dr at the bottom.
GW2 is centered around its cash shop, which is not unreasonable, because Anet wants to make money and the cash shop is going to be a significant (if not primary?) source of that. The other one being box sales. Compared to a traditional sell-the-box-and-done games, Anet is committing to keeping up the servers for an indefinite period of time and putting out monthly content updates for free (as opposed to paid DLCs in most other games). So naturally, they'd be interested in players using the cash shop.
Prior to GW2's release I wouldn't bat an eyelash at that. Yeah, sure, if they want to go with a cash shop instead of sub, that's cool. It's cosmetic-only stuff, right? No problem there.
But then I realized just how deeply the presence of the cash shop influences the game design. I'm going to use WoW as a counterpoint here, but people familiar with multiple sub MMOs will find them largely interchangeable.
The basic idea is: Anet wants everyone to stay poor. Because if you don't have enough gold, you can always go to the cash shop and get more. They want you to get more. How did they change the game design to facilitate this?
- Low-scaling rewards. A lvl 10 completing an event will earn about 0.5 silver. A lvl 80 gets 1.5 silver. Compare to a lvl 10 quest in WoW rewarding 3.5 silver and lvl 60 in vanilla about 50 silver (it varied and I can't remember exactly - been a long time). A maxed character in GW2 earns 3x more for doing basic activities than a low lvl character, whereas a maxed character in WoW made 15x more.
- High taxes everywhere. To continue the above example, a waypoint to a nearby place at lvl 10 costs 10 copper. A waypoint at lvl 80 costs 1.5 silver. In other words, a 15x increase, when rewards increase only 1.5x. WoW doesn't have waypoints, but flight paths don't scale with level at all, just with distance (and ones in expansion areas are more expensive, but we're talking no expansions here). Trading post tax is also quite high at 15%, compared to WoW's 5% tax off the profits + variable listing fee, which almost never came close to 10%.
-Lack of a trading function. This very heavily compounds the trading post tax by taking away an option of bypassing it. People would be trading bulk amounts of materials and expensive items such as precursor between themselves, which is less gold taken out of the economy, which is bad for the cash shop.
- Dye drops. There's a thread right now where people are talking about the recently reduced dye drops. Unidentified dyes are fun to open and I can see why people are upset. I'm also upset, but I'll say that it makes sense for dyes to be more rare that they even are currently. Why? Cash shop. Why would anyone buy dyes from cash shop if they're 3 silver on the TP? Anet saw that and patched it up. A sound decision all around, but unfortunately, the simple existence of dyes in the cash shop takes away a tiny bit of fun from the game here: finding and identifying dyes.
- RNG everywhere. I'm not going to go into a detailed explanation here, because I think everyone knows this one. Suffice to say that RNG instead of guaranteed whatever is good for anet because gambling in any form takes the gold out of the economy.
- Inflating prices on the already-expensive crafting components. I first saw this as a simply stupid design decision, but it's actually quite intelligent, if you only look at the bigger picture. Why use piles of t6 crafting materials and ectos to craft the new ascended gear? Well, because those materials are already in demand for creating legendaries! Kill two birds with one stone: create a new gold sink and make the old one bigger by inflating some of the crucial ingredients. Meanwhile, we get a rich orichalcum vein which significantly devalues a semi-rare material that's not really a limiting factor anywhere.
- This is a bit of an anecdotal evidence, but I think ecto salvages have been stealth-nerfed in November's update. Whereas I was not getting ectos from about 20% of the salvages before, now I'm failing to salvage them from over 30% of rares. (I've actually recorded some stats, but the sample size only around 100 rares and it's in no way conclusive because there may be other factors involved, such as the type of item).
EDIT: Apparently lots of people on official forums thought so too, but it's been statistically proved wrong since. I'm still getting terrible results from salvaging rares.
- Worldwide economy instead of server economies. This serves to largely eliminate a "middle class" : a casual trader or a crafter, who would spend some of his time at the trading post for a profit that's well above average, but not sky-high to the point where he can pay his rent by selling gold. In a worldwide economy, only the most dedicated market players can compete and there's no room for crafting because there's 5000 instead of 50 crafters online at any given time willing to undercut each other. As a result, 0.1% of players (Occupy Lion's Arch!) may become absurdly rich and never need to use the gem store in their life, but the 4.9% that would've been moderately rich are instead locked out of the trading game and kept at a controlled level of income that anyone can get from farming Orr or dungeons or whatever. The remaining 95% are unaffected.
- Lastly, the very existence of the cash-to-gold conversion is bugging me. 300g for a Dusk is a huge amount of gold to me. I have about 100g at the moment and I play quite a bit. Probably about 2 hours a weekday on average and much more on a weekend. So it would take me hundreds of hours to get a legendary, which is working as intended. But, I could put down roughly what I make it 2 days at work and buy that Dusk. (Slightly more if you make minimum wage, but for anyone with a job, with the only exception being that 0.1% professional in-game trader, RL-income is higher than game-income.)
I'm not about to do that, because it feels like cheating and I don't think I'd get much satisfaction out of buying my legendary with cash, but the idea that you can do that certainly diminishes the game as a whole for me. Moreover, there are people doing it and they're increasing the cost for everyone else by taking the gold out of the economy.
TL;DR: The cash shop in GW, although not directly selling power, influences the game in a lot of ways. The existence of the cash shop and gold-to-gem exchange makes it Anet's prerogative to keep players poor so they are tempted to buy stuff or gold with cash.
- Rewards don't scale well between low and max lvl characters
- There are high taxes built into the game in form of AH fees, WP fees, and lack of trading function.
- Drop rates get normalized to be in line with cash shop items, not with "fun". Dye nerf is an example of this. Requiring a ton of t6 mats and ectos to craft the new stuff and deter people from their legendaries is another.
- Global market as opposed to a per-server economy eliminates a "middle class", downgrading them to the baseline income/
- Ability to buy the most desired items in the game with cash via gold-to-gem, which just shouldn't be there.
I wish Anet just charged 15$/month for this game and never had this cash shop.
Edited by Alleji, 01 December 2012 - 07:51 AM.