Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Community Highlight: VentureBeat's Interview with Mike O'Brien

A new article has been posted over at Venture Beat by Sebastian Haley's interview with Mike O'Brien, co-founder and president of ArenaNet, on microtransactions. Cash shops in games are always controversial, and Guild Wars 2 was certainly no exception.  When the cash shop was first revealed earlier this year, the community exploded.  No one wants to see their favorite game suddenly go "Pay-to-Win", but I think, at least initally, ArenaNet could have been more transparent on their monetization policies. Over time most of the drama died down thanks to leaked pictures revealing the current Cash shop items, as well as the Beta Weekend Event, that thankfully calmed the community.

Mike O'Brien takes a shot at other MMO's while reinforcing one of ArenaNet's core philosophies:
"Here’s what we believe: If someone wants to play for a thousand hours to get an item that is so rare that other players can’t realistically acquire it, that rare item should be differentiated by its visual appearance and rarity alone, not by being more powerful than everything else in the game. Otherwise, your MMO becomes all about grinding to get the best gear. We don’t make grindy games — we leave the grind to other MMOs."

ArenaNet aims to allow players to trade cash for time.  Don't worry if you don't have the cash to buy something in the cash shop, you can gain access through player trading.  There's nothing you can't get simply by playing the game.

"I think that a super-fan of Guild Wars 2 who is short on cash should still have the ability to collect microtransaction items like town clothes and mini-pets. And I think that a Guild Wars 2 player who comes home late from work every night and can’t spend as much time playing as his friends do should also have the ability to collect those really unique in-game items. Letting players trade with each other empowers them to use whatever they have to make up for whatever they don’t have."
Personally, I'm extremely impressed with ArenaNet's design.  The system seems to be fair to those who don't want to pay for microtransaction items, as well as those who don't have time to get rare in-game items. Even if a player has access to both time and cash, they won't receive any sort of advantage that transfers in-game.  You may look better than me, but I'm still going to be able to kill you.  I quite enjoy that.  The system also works against RMT (real-money trading) companies that have plagued MMOs for years.  Overall, the interview was well-done and while not revealing new information, the article should continue to reduce the fear in the community of the "dreaded" cash shop.

Full Article can be found here.

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