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Flameseeker Chronicles: Let's talk business

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

I'm home from E3, and while there was a distinct lack of Guild Wars 2 (which we expected), I managed to have the time of my life anyway. Shawn and I recorded a couple episodes of Massively Speaking, and in the second one, we went off on a brief tangent about Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and what sort of competition the two would be facing with each other and more upcoming releases.

Some of what I had to say prompted some heavy discussion in the comments, including my opinion that GW2 will have less competition thanks to the business model. Now, 95% of the time I laugh and move on when someone tells me that my opinions are wrong; after all, they are my opinions. It's not really a question of right or wrong. The other five percent of the time, someone will make an eloquent, well-thought-out opposing case that makes me sit back and reconsider what I've been thinking. I usually won't be completely swayed to an opposing opinion, but sometimes it can open my eyes to the merits of a different viewpoint and leave me feeling that there are some good things to be said for it.

That happened this week and prompted me to do something a bit unusual: a Flameseeker Chronicles done Global Chat-style. Follow along after the break, and let's talk business (models)!

Let's start with my original thought. I felt (and still do, to a point) that Guild Wars 2 will have less competition because of it's business model. The buy-to-play model -- purchase the game and it's yours forever with no sub fee -- was completely revolutionary back at the launch of Guild Wars, and almost immediately it became a hallmark of the game. While it's obviously not free-to-play, it's the next best thing.

As Guild Wars 2 development shifted into high gear, ArenaNet was very very clear from the start: There will be no sub fee. The original Guild Wars business model would carry over into the second game. My opinion is that this sets Guild Wars 2 in a slightly different category when it comes to "which game shall I buy?" Not only is the game unarguably one of the two most highly anticipated upcoming titles out there, but it's extremely low-pressure to those trying to allocate their monthly gaming budget. Not having to worry about budgeting for yet another sub fee is an extremely attractive prospect -- particularly for a huge AAA title like this one.

One reader had a different opinion. As a rule, I don't play favorites, but I do have a few readers who make me sit up and take notice when their comments hit my inbox. ArcherAvatar is one of those readers -- his comments are consistently astute and well-stated, and he gets the point across without rambling. So I paid extra attention when I read this:

With regard to the comment that SWTOR and GW2 are not in direct competition with each other: wrong. I'm sorry, but finances are not the only consideration in that equation; if you want to just stick with "resources" as your points of consideration, there is also time (i.e., the lack of it) that factors in quite heavily.

There is this ridiculous adherence to a 24-hour day and the absurd assumption that at least a portion of that period be spent earning a living, taking care of loved ones, sleeping or resting, and any number of other mundane idiotic necessities that obstruct access to time spent on the most important activity in life: online gaming. So
SWTOR and GW2 will be very much in competition with each other in a way that is far, far more important than mere financial considerations.

But make no mistake... this
is a competition among all games in the MMO genre, and they are competing for more than just our money: They are competing for our time.
Time vs. money

It's a good point, one that I didn't take much into consideration until reading. I still maintain that the business model carries over into the time factor: There's just no way that players will feel as much pressure to sink their time into a game when they're not paying $15/month for the privilege. You can set it aside for a few weeks without this nagging feeling that you are wasting your money.

However, there's another very important side to this argument, and that's wanting to play the game. I've joked before that we're going to be a house divided next year. My husband is anticipating SWTOR so much; he cannot wait to get his hands on it. That game holds absolutely zero interest for me. It's a fine game; I've played it and have no quarrel with it, but it's just not for me.

I'm going to be buried in Guild Wars 2, and I imagine that every other game will fall by the wayside for a pretty long time. Here's where things get tricky: My husband is also anticipating Guild Wars 2 almost as much as I am. There's no question that we will each have our own CE of the game and want to play together. We can afford to do that because we won't have to spring for two more sub fees in addition to his TOR subscription.

The question arises, though: How the heck is he going to find time to play them both? This very thing is a perfect example of what ArcherAvatar was saying, something I maybe didn't give enough consideration to.

ArenaNet has a line to walk here -- I predict the company is going to make a truly astounding profit from box and digital sales alone, but the money will keep rolling in thanks in part to microtransactions. There's a sweet spot between "no pressure to play constantly" and "I can put this game down forever and it won't matter." Granted, it's a pretty large area to work with thanks to several factors, but the team still needs to make sure that when players do put the game down for a bit, they eventually pick it back up again -- and hopefully drop a few dollars in the store.

The developers also need to be sure that players are willing to find the time for the game when it's a choice between Guild Wars 2, The Old Republic, or any of a hundred other games vying for attention. It's an interesting balance, one that I haven't put a ton of thought into until this weekend.

Now that I've pondered the situation in general, it's your turn! Ready to tell me what you think about some of the finer points? Hit the comment button to let me know, and I'll see you next week!

Rubi is a longtime Guild Wars player and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column keeps a close eye on all the events in Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Rubi at

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