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Guild Wars 2 gets HoT!

by Damarus on Jan 14, 2015 at 08:12 PM}
Point of No Return is in full swing, and hopefully all of you are beating up plant bosses every 45 minutes like clockwork. I know everyone using the LFG tool is! And, are any of us really surprised about our new found knowledge? [Clue: google search “Deadly Salad”]. Read on for spoilers about this release (or more specifically, what comes after this release)...

Hot on the heels of this release was a teaser for an upcoming event / release / something else - Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns. Everyone gets a taste of it with a shiney new cinematic that plays after you beat this chapter of the living world - showcasing a bit of a change in some of the art style their previous cinematics; different but awesome.

Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns Logo

Of course there is massive amount of speculation of this being the first full blown expansion of Guild Wars 2 - I’d say its a safe bet based on how much arenanet has teased this both in game (see video below) and on their website. That and, the trademark NCSoft had registered.

Earlier on release day, a very perceptive redditor had spoiled the surprise for everyone, anouncing that NCSoft had registered a trademark for Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns. It was met with mass amounts of speculation and excitement. I wish I had seen it in the game first, for a greater surprise.

Many new threads have started on the forum with theorycraft and speculation on what comes next, and how the finale of Living World Season 2, and what is seen in the ending cinematics, plays into what comes next.

What do you guys think GW2: HoT is? Release, expansion, new set of action figures?

Cinematic seen when finishing season 2


Due to accidental posts on the private thread I drafted the format of this, I'm now going to summarize all those responses for folks to see:
  • Hoshi: I'm poor and like games
  • Clock: Did he say my name?
  • Laura: I hit clock
  • Damarus: I did say you're name!
  • Pocket: *angry stare*
I'm convinced it is an expansion, and my assumption is that most people have the same view. So with that in mind... what are people expecting from an expansion? For example do you think we will see a level increase? New maps? new professions or playable races?

Also, where do you think the story will take us? Of course we still need to face Modremoth but based on how LS2 just ended what does this mean for The Pact, Sylvari, specific characters like Trahearne?

I can't wait till the 24th :B
What I would like: 1-2 new professions, a new playable race, new maps in PvE, changes to WvW (no idea what, but something significant--we need change there!!! Maybe condensing the servers in some way), new skills for existing professions, and 1-2 new weapons (if two weapons, then at least 1 of them is added to each profession).

What I expect: About a quarter of that. Maybe a third.
There is an old quote on the forums from a dev... Mr. Sharp or Colin? Anyway, it was almost a year ago now but he mentioned something like "it's much more likley for us to add existing weapons to new classes than to make new weapons right now". I don't know how much that applies a year later - but I'm half expecting that to be the case.

Although there is a fun post on reddit about how we see a couple polearms/spears in the new cinematic - which would be great!
Yeah... I like being a poor art major who enjoy games. ._. Fuck that reads bad now and actually kind of hurt *:|

But seconding Clock regardless.
I am going to take a different view on what this might be, so hang in there.

The question I asked myself what would Anet's purpose would be with Heart of Thrones and how does it help generate revenue (the real purpose of the game) for them. Guild Wars is in a unique position as a "buy-to-play" game selling in-game convenience and style items. This game style creates an initial revenue boom (fastest selling MMO, etc) followed by a long-tail revenue stream funded by new players and the in game store. Unfortunately, this type of revenue stream is not looked kindly on by the accountants who run the world. They much prefer steady, reliable, and consistent revenue streams (which is why so many MMOs start as subscriptions). So how does ANet make changes which increase their profitability and revenue reliability as a company?

ANet knows their fan-base would rebel if they went to a subscription model. I believe they were hoping the Living Story would keep players engaged and draw in new players. It is likely the more time a person has spent in game, it is more likely they have purchased something from the BLT. I bet most players with over 100 hours of game play have spent some real money on the BLT. However, I think ANet discovered three things about the living story system:

1. It is really, really hard to keep a constant flow of high quality, meaningful content going.
2. The Living Story-style content release doesn't draw in new players (or former players), or keep current players as engaged as they wished.
3. The Living Story is hard to market to non-Guild Wars gamers, it is too foreign in concept.

Just from the marketing perspective, I have seen more buzz about Guild Wars because Heart of Thrones might be an expansion than I have seen about Guild Wars in the previous 18 months.

So what does an expansion give ANet? Most obviously, it gives them a "big meal" content release which they can market extensively. This generates excitement among current players, draws back former players, and pulls in new players. Additionally, it allows them to make large-scale changes to the in-game world setting future content. The list of content they could add is nearly endless: restructured WvW, raids, new zones, new classes, new races, new skills, etc.

But there are drawbacks to expansions. From the gaming perspective, they can create a division in the player base between those who have bought the expansion and those who have not. From the financial perspective, it locks them back into the boom-bust revenue curve if the time between expansions is too long. Finally, designing, creating, and testing an expansion is expensive. If Heart of Thorns is an expansion, I bet its development started a month or two after the initial Guild Wars 2 release. This means Artists, Designers, and Engineers have been locked into its development for nearly two years, spending company money, with no revenue coming into the company for their work.

What do I believe Heart of Thrones to be? I believe it will be an "expansion" with all the new content people want but one which restructures how content will be released in the future. In my mind, it is likely the Heart of Thorns is setting up Guild Wars for a more episodic content release system, like seen in The Walking Dead game or the "Season Passes" commonly seen on console games. For instance, once a quarter they release a "mini-expansion" which adds bunch of new PvE content, a new dungeon or Raid, or a new race for a few dollars. Then once a year they could release a new "expansion" which bundles the previous years content along with a larger "mini-expansion" which sets up next storyline for the world for 20 dollars. This structure gives them a more consistent revenue stream, helps maintain player engagement, and provides a large release which they can market the heck out of to new or inactive players. Additionally, it means means the resources they spend in developing content generates revenue much earlier then a true expansion would.

Once you moved to this more modular type release structure, they can start to modularize other content and its pricing. For example, new classes and races could be individually purchased through the BLT. I.e. the last episode gave you access to the Tengu homeland, but actually playing a Tengu requires you buy the race unlock from the BLT. Conversely, if a player has no interest in PvE content, they are unlikely to spend 60 bucks to get access to the new dervish class released in the expansion. However, they might be willing to spend 10 dollars to play it in WvW or PvP, increasing the average revenue generated per player.

By breaking apart content into modules, it gives ANet pricing flexibility and players purchase flexibility. ANet can bundle a the PvE content and the associated new playable race together. Players can purchase only the content they are interested in. It is easier to justify a periodic 5 dollar purchase over a 50 dollar purchase. This holds true even if the total price over time is the same or slightly more expensive.

Of course, this is all wild speculation and it is certain I am totally wrong.

Those are some really interesting thoughts Cav. Some things that popped into my head reading your post:

1. It’s hard to speculate on the revenue Anet will have received by going with the gemstone approach Vs. monthly subscription. When you said "with no revenue coming into the company for their work” I’m guessing you meant more along the lines of ‘regular’ or ‘consistent’ revenue. Because I’m sure they have been making a lot in gemstone sales.

2. I agree that from a marketing perspective an expansion is a big deal, and it brings GW2 attention that something that living story style updates will never be able to generate.

3. Division in player base is a concern for me too. My assumption is that the expansion will come in parallel to a feature pack which updates or introduces new base features that everyone will get. For example I don’t see a new WvW map ever being locked behind an expansion, that would terrible for WvW. Races, Professions, Skills, Maps and Story content I can see being delivered through an expansion. Having said that what if a new Skill becomes really powerful - almost mandatory - in PvP but the only way you can access it is via the expansion… that would be terrible, especially if it only applies to some professions and not others.

4. I like modular/episodic content, but I think a balance needs to be struck or you end up with a situation where new players coming into GW2 are not sure what they are getting for their money. Anet have already experimented a bit with modular/episodic content in PvP with new traits/amulets having to be bought (with gold) and with the new living story episodes having to be bought with gems if you did not log in while it was initially released. I think too much modularisation just leads to complexity for players, and Anet just end up in a situation where they can’t forecast regular or consistent income again.

My big hope is that whatever we see Anet continues to innovate, in our expectations of what an expansion should be, the features themselves and the way it is delivered.
1. Sorry, I didn't explain clearly. I simply meant the work the devs put into the expansion doesn't generate revenue until it is released, regardless of the monetization scheme. With long periods between expansions, it is simply a longer and larger investment of money.

3. I honestly don't expect ANet to do anything which could cause intra-class imbalances, especially in PvP. I believe if ANet releases new skills/weapons they will do it for everyone playing. While they could play games with all skills being active in PvP, but only active in PvE/WvW if someone purchases them, that would just cause angst amongst the playerbase. Anet has spent too much effort trying to build the PvP playerbase to cause problems there now.

The only thing I could see them do (and it is unlikely), which could effect the PvP playerbase, is if they lock a new class behind purchaseable content. They could argue they balance all the classes against each other, and it shouldn't effect how a class plays in PvP. I think that is a delicate line to walk though.

4. Level of modularization really depends on what they think the playerbase can support and accept. I am willing to bet they have all sorts of statistics and analysis about what people purchase on the BLT, and what sort of player is most likely to purchase said content. This insight could help them determine what to modularize and who to target.
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