So, to catch everyone up to date that isn't yet aware of it, Arenanet has introduced vertical progression in GW2, and has established a real distinction between "end game" and the rest of the game, which contradicts their manifesto and years of design and philosophy statements. Of course, it isn't shocking or even surprising that an MMOG development company broke the trust of players - that happens all the time.
What is shocking about this development is that ANET has a bona fide track record of adherence to its design principles. Yes, they made a lot of promises in their GW2 Manifesto video and countless other media releases and interviews during the GW2 development process, but they also had seven years on record as being the guys that actually stuck to their principles. In a sea of unethical behavior and broken promises and shattered hopes and perhaps even outright fraud that is the MMOG genre, ANET stood as llightnouse in the darkness, guiding all those who couldn't stand the infinite gear and progression treadmills to their GW doorstep.
The fallout from this betrayal of trust cannot be overstated. If one cannot trust a company like ANET with a proven, seven-year track record of ethical adherence to design principle, who can you trust? Thousands, if not tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of players pre-purchased GW2 in a dramatic show of support for the principles of ANET and the promises they made for GW2, even in an atmosphere poisoned by many recently-released AAA titles that proved uninspiring.
ANETs "rebellion" against the MMOG status quo fueled a hype and excitement levels only matched, perhaps, by SWToR - and that title had a IP franchise behind it that is a worldwide phenomenon. GW2 launch was a huge success, and going forward they had to add servers and expand capacities. ANET - at least for a couple of months - actually delivered what nobody thought they would or could - a new kind of MMOG that lived up to their basic principles as promised. Players indulged in unnecessary cash shop purchases to show their support for this rebel title that eschewed never-ending vertical progression, ad infinitum gear treadmilling and content-gating. Their motto was "the whole game is the end game", and they delivered. They didn't want you to have to stay logged in to keep up; they wanted you to feel fine about playing at your own convenience. Again, they delivered, but players stayed logged in because the game was so much fun.
And then, just ten weeks after launch, with no warning or discussion with the public, they ditched their 7-year game philosophy, betrayed all of their long-loyal customers and installed vertical progression, necessary gear-grinding, and gated content (formal end-game). This kind of 180 degree turn-around is perhaps only precedented by the SWG-NGE event. It's nothing short of stunning, as the compiled thread on the GW2 forum suggests, nearing 10,000 responses (far more, if one counts all the comments culled out by the mods), and over 100,000 views. To call the fan base "outraged" wouldn't be accurate; they are devastated.
Why devastated? Because they (and I) believed we actually had a developer we could trust in ANET. We put our heart, soul and cash into this game because we felt ANET could be trusted - because they had a seven-year reputation that earned them this trust. Through five years of released info in various media outlets, they stayed true to that vision.
How are we supposed to pre-purchase or show support for any company going forward, if not even a seven-year track record can be trusted? Why should anyone buy a game and invest in their F2P cash shop again? How is any future developer supposed to sell a customer base so badly burned and betrayed by ANET on a game they might be developing that promises a similar non-comformist, anti-status quo philosophy?
This staggering betrayal by Arenanet is more than just a debacle for GW2 and Arenanet; they have harmed the entire MMOG genre and have made it very, very difficult going forward for any company to break from the status quo and succeed, as potential customers will be extremely wary and unwilling to invest cash or time right off the bat - something necessary for a new title to succeed.
Arenanet has seriously poisoned the well for all future developers trying to break out of the conventional MMOG box. They've cut their entire fan base adrift and have made it even more difficult for them to find an MMOG to enjoy in the future, without even so much as a dialogue or a reasonable explanation. Bizarrely, ANET just gave hundreds of thousands of dedicated fans and supporters the finger and for no apparent good reason.