By BiG_Weasel 48 Comments
There has been a furor of sorts over the microtransaction (MTX) mechanics being implemented in Guild Wars 2. This has really got my mind going, thinking about how I'm perceiving this- and whether or not its a "game breaker". If you haven't read it yet, jump over to Mike O'Brien's blog post to read up on it before continuing to my take...
Got it? Moving on! Gems are the currency purchased with real-world money to buy cosmetic items, "services" and "time savers" from the MTX store. Gems can be traded to other players in-game for gold (the in-game currency you earn while adventuring). As ArenaNet has specifically stated that the MTX store will not offer players any items that grant them an advantage, I see no problem here. Even if the "services" are things such as limited use teleports to a guild mate's location, and "time savers" are things such as "20% additional XP for an hour potions", it doesn't unbalance the game. Consider my reasoning- The devs have already stated that there is no raid content, per se, at the end of the game. So, even if you rush to the end, there's not going to be the high-level raid for "uber raid armor set" that the traditional MMO players are used to. In World-vs-World PvP, all characters are set at max level when they enter the battlefield, so the match will be fair and balanced, relying on player skill. Even in the game world, your stats do not take a front seat to your skill, reaction time, etc. They're secondary. In addition, there is a third currency, karma, which is not tradeable, and is used to purchase the best items in the game. Also, do not forget the Hall of Monuments mechanic, which says that the rewards in GW2 are based on achievements, not power.
Now, the controversial part. At its core, trading gems for gold is essentially trading cash for gold, with an extra step. No matter how much you want to sugar coat it, if I buy a gem for $1, and trade it to Joe for 100 gold, I bought that 100 gold for a buck. However, knowing that neither gems nor gold will be purchasing "power items", I don't see a problem here. Joe gets the gems he wants to buy cosmetic/convenience items without paying real world money for them, I trade my unused gems for in-game gold that I can use for other things I want, and ArenaNet turns a dime. This keeps the free-to-play mechanic operational, while providing ArenaNet with an income stream to add additional game content. Everyone wins. I'm looking forward to seeing this game finished, and this MTX system implemented. If done correctly, this could finally break the subscription-based model that's so prevalent and open up a new, economically-friendly (read: recession-friendly) model for all future MMOs.