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Guild Wars 2 Expansion vs Living Story

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Many players have been clamoring for an expansion for quite some time now. It may just be that ArenaNet is working on an expansion but all past communications would indicate that they are not. It makes certain players upset especially considering that they have been unsatisfied with the amount of content released since the game’s release. ArenaNet has stated that they want to release content that would traditionally be found in an expansion for free through the Living Story. While this has been met positively by some players, others feel that this is not the right approach. They argue that content that is normally featured in expansions such as new races, new professions, and new areas have not been added through the Living Story. Moreover, the pace at which new content is delivered is not adequate to meet their arbitrary definitions of expansion content. This is something that we can examine further.

First, let’s take a look at some of the advantages of ArenaNet actually releasing an expansion. I’m not only talking about advantages for players but for ArenaNet and the game as well. On the business side of things, selling boxed copies of an expansion would be a guaranteed source of revenue. The gem store, while profitable isn’t totally reliable. Many players have flat out stated that the only way ArenaNet will be getting any more of their money is through an expansion. Not only that, the marketing power behind an expansion would be much greater than that of any single Living Story update. Many players that have left the game don’t even realize that the game has changed dramatically since it was released. They don’t realize ArenaNet has continually pushed updates to the game as well as new content. An expansion for the game would be big news and would raise much more awareness for the game. Let’s take a look at another game that did much better after it was re-released. When Final Fantasy XIV was first released, it was panned by players and critics alike. It was broken, unfinished, and just not very fun. Square Enix, not wanting the game to tarnish the Final Fantasy brand, decided that it would be worth putting in the time and effort to redoing the game. To their surprise, when A Realm Reborn was released, the game sold exceptionally well and it was highly praised despite the shortcomings of the original game. Original players were willing to give Square Enix a second chance and the game was reborn. Guild Wars 2 was different because it was praised from players and critics alike from the very beginning. If even a failing game can get a second chance, imagine then what an expansion could do for a game that was incredibly successful both critically and financially. An expansion could be seen as the rebirth of Guild Wars 2.

Second, we’ll look at some of the challenges facing the creation and release of an expansion. While an expansion could lead to an increase in the number of players and even bring players back to the game, we have seen in the past that any game or expansion will only get a temporary spike in player populations. After a few weeks or months, the population will decrease dramatically. This has been the case not only for Guild Wars 2 but for every other MMORPG. The population does eventually stabilize but you simply won’t get guild wars 2 gold. Many players will play through the content and then leave when they’re done. Some players will stick around if there is their definition of “end game”, others will leave regardless because they’re content locusts, and the remaining ones will stick around regardless. You also have another challenge with what type of content the expansion will contain and the features to be included. Not all players would purchase the expansion so now you have a split player base.

  1. Would ArenaNet raise the level cap?
  2. If they do so, would that not invalidate all the work players have put into crafting their ascended and legendary items?
  3. What about new zones and new free updates?
  4. If you don’t purchase the expansion, will you have access to the free Living Story updates like you do right now?
  5. Other games have restricted new content to just those that have purchased the latest expansion.

With the Living Story, ArenaNet does not have to worry about these issues. They could very well release content that is traditionally found in an expansion through the Living Story. The issue is with how quickly they can do so. If you really think about it, if the pace at which they work is the same, you will get the same amount of content in the same time span regardless of whether they pursue the Living Story or expansion route. It’s just a matter of whether you get frequent but small updates or one very large update and long periods of stagnation. Some players want new races and they think only an expansion can provide that. I think it’s important to consider what impact adding a new race to the game would be. You would get a new capital city, a new starting zone, new character models, and a new personal story. The truth is that ArenaNet would not be adding much to the game by adding a new race. It would certainly be a lot of work but with little payoff. In the original Guild Wars, you could only play as a human and that was fine for most people.
The important thing to remember is that the Living Story enforces player retention. You as the player have made an investment in the story, similar to how you would be invested in the story of a TV series. You want to see things through until the end even if you aren’t necessarily happy with the direction the series is going in. If this strategy didn’t work, I doubt that ArenaNet would keep going with it. In the end, it’s just not really worth it to put all that time and effort into releasing an expansion if the payoff in the end is going to be the same.

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