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The Casual Life by Wintyre Fraust

An older, casual player's perspective on MMOG's in general and GW2 in particular.

Author: Meleagar

NCSoft Sold Arenanet and GW2 Out For Nexon Investment

Posted by Meleagar Wednesday November 21 2012 at 12:07PM
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First, the pertinent facts: In March, Arenanet hired a new "monetization manager", who immediately made some unpopular moves for the cash shop of Guild Wars 2 even while it was still in Beta.  This "monetization manager" was Crystin Cox, a former employee of Nexon who was famous (or infamous) for many Maplestory cash shop items. In June, Nexon acquired a 15% interest in NCSoft (of which Arenanet is a subsidiary).  Did Nexon insist that NCSoft hire a Nexon-friendly "monetization manager" with authority to oversee GW2 before they would purchase 15% of NCSoft's stock?  Seems likely.

It can be safely inferred that it was about this time that the majority of programming for the "Lost Shores" update began as it takes several months to create that kind of content.  Since NCSoft and Arenanet had been promoting the anti-gear-treadmill philsophy throughout 5 years of GW2 development, and had not violated the gear stat cap of Guild Wars 1 in the 7 years it has been running, it is logical to assign a causal connection between the Nexon purchase and the sudden, complete change of fundamental game design philosophy. Considering the big, steaming pile of lagfest, bug-ridden compost that was the "Lost Shores" event, and the total disregard for off-prime-time servers, and the pitiful communication about it, the implication is that Nexon had a heavy hand in pushing through the monetization scheme as quickly as possible.

Whether or not you enjoy a never-ending stat-grnid treadmill is not the point.  Whether or not  you think MMOG's should have such a treadmill or not is, again, not the point. Whether or not you like GW2 more now than before is, once again, not the point.

The point is that shortly after Nexon and Crystin Cox arrived on the scene at Arenanet, that company threw 7 years of game philosophy (whether you agreed with it or not), trust, and credibility down the drain in order to, apparently, introduce a gear-treadmill monetization scheme that would require people to either endure a massive grindfest to keep up with top gear stats, or pay to keep up by buying gems in the cash shop, converting them to gold, and then buying Ascended gear and infusions off the trading post.

Essentially, the game has become a pay-to-win scheme.  With an accessable stat-capped system that Arenanet originally promised, one could liesurely advance their characters to top-stat status and then liesurely play those characters to eventually acquire cosmetically variant skins; after a certain level, there was nothing one needed to "keep up with" in order to have a maxed-out character.  IOW, with everyone eventually hitting the same cap, there was no "win" you could pay for, even if you bought boosters all the time. 

After the introduction of the "item progression initiative", players will never (not for long, anyway) have a maxed-out character, so unless you invest enough time in-game to keep up, either by constantly grinding ascended [EDIT: Ascended materials] and infusions or by grinding gold to buy ever-increasing [materials for] ascended and infusions, your only option is to simply buy gold via gem purchases or off the black market.

Now,  how does this make anyone happy? How is Ascended supposed to be meaningful to those that grind for the prestige of having hard-to-get, superior armor if anyone can just pony up some real-life cash and buy the same outfit off of the Trading Post? Hardcore gear-grinders don't like pay-to-win cash shops, and casual gamers don't like being forced to grind. Perhaps it will make very casual players with a lot of disposable cash happy, because they can just wait for the gear to appear on the market and buy it either with legal or black market gold. 

I can see it now: teams of gold sellers running fractals for ascended gear [materials] and infusions, then selling them on the trading post for gold, then reselling the gold while hardcore gear grinders move on to other games that don't have a pay-to-win system built into the Cash Shop.  Arenanet/NCSoft/Nexon will have monetized the gear grind and will even be making a cut off of black market gold sales as long as there are plenty of honest players paying full price for legal gold.

Hardcore gear-grinders generally don't want to gear-grind in a pay-to-win cash shop game.  Casuals generally do not want to play in a game where they can never keep up or reach equality via playing casually. WvW players don't want to have to PvE grind anything. Who is this system serving? It is only serving to completely monetize the GW2 system, anchored by the ridiculously low amount of silver one earns while playing the game.  You've been wondering why it is so low? This is why. And if you sPvP players think you are immune to this, how long do you think you have before Crystin figures out a way to make you pony up?

Why does it concern all gamers, whether or not you play GW2?  Well, Nexon/NCSoft is now looking to acquire Valve.  What can we then expect from Valve when Nexon requires them to put in a "monetization producer"?  Even more, they have made it so that we cannot even trust a game developer (Arenanet) with a seven-year track record of not giving in to monetization or violating their niche game philosophy. If even Arenanet sold out, then no assurances whatsoever are good when it comes to public companies.

Make no mistake, Nexon - or some Nexon-like entity - is coming for your game sometime soon. Yes, you can sit by and laugh and smirk at GW2 fanbois, or not care because it doesn't really matter to your gameplay, but what will you do when your game or playstyle is invaded by the Nexon monetization locusts, and they put the very reason you enjoy playing the game into the cash shop and sell it to anyone who has the disposable cash?

What can we do? I suggest visiting the Nexon, Arenanet, and NCSoft websites and finding out how to email them or otherwise get messages to them, and raise bloody hell about what they've done to GW2 (adding ascended gear to a game that was supposed to have a permanent stat cap at exotics).

The more the MMOG industry is consumed by pay-to-win monetization groups like Nexon, the less there will be any meaningful reason to play those games for many of us.  Even hardcore gear-grinders will just be jokes for wasting their time doing something you could just buy out of the cash shop.  At that point, what exactly IS the point?