An Economic Evolution
Gold in Guild Wars 2 was, once upon a time, an incredible valuable and hard to come by currency. As with most MMORPGs, back at launch the influx of gold and rewards was a lot scarcer than what you see today. As a result of a higher income as players got to completing higher end content, along with generally more rewards being pumped in to the game and efficient methods of farming developing, gold became more and more common for the everyday player, resulting in forced gold sinks and more expensive outlets for your gold, starting with legendary weapons, then growing with ascended armour and the various collections.
To see how far the economy has developed, take a quick trip down to GW2TP, a website that tracks the movement of items across the Guild Wars trading post and their prices. A quick look at some of the basic material costs can show you prices at under a third of their current value, with items like silk scraps down around 8 copper pieces a pop before ascended armour was introduced. Even more extreme were things like precursor weapons, with the earliest recorded listing of Dusk sitting at 75 gold and a buy order just under 20 gold, compared to its current price of 899 gold, even with supply at one of its all-time highest points. Inflation in the game as made a huge impact on the price of common through to rare items, as it does in almost every game of the genre, but in Guild Wars particularly this has had a pretty negative impact on some of the players.
Gold doesn’t directly impact your ability to gear up to a basic level, with exotic gear and even ascended trinkets very affordable within just a few play sessions or through just logging in. the PvP and WvW sides of the game don’t require much more than this, especially PvP which uses its own stat system not dependant on gear. It does however sit in the path of many players when it comes to getting ascended gear, which is required to do Fractals of the Mist, the single most profitable instanced content in the game and one of the best value for time investments you can do in the game. Farming the raw materials to level up ones crafting to be able to make the gear, and then even further the actual farm to get the materials for the gear itself, can take months, even years of gameplay every day to get. What has become the norm is that players purchase the materials to make this gear, avoiding the huge time gate, by farming gold through other profitable places and using that buy what they need.
The trouble here isn’t so much that gold is that hard to come by, even for a free to play player there is the Silverwastes, it’s that the main method of making gold is gated behind already having gold. Now that dungeons are no longer involved, which were a quick and easy way of getting both gold and gear, you really need to work hard just to gear up, before you can start working towards other things you might want in the game. Considering that the end game goals for almost every player lie almost entirely in cosmetics thanks to a very horizontal gear treadmill, this system seems to encourage monetary transactions through the gem store more than ever. Players either have used all their gold getting gear, and will use gem store purchases to fulfil some cosmetic and sometimes functionality changes, or use a gem purchase to gear up and save the gold for the skins they really want. My experience with new players who have asked me for help in the last few months really opened my eyes more than ever to this, with many answering that they did not need advice on making gold as they had bought it through the gem store conversions.
In a way, the intended way to get gear by just playing the game is in a fairly good place, where you need to go through the open world, then in to organised maps and profitable farming with other players, then potentially quickly in to dungeons and on to Fractals. But it also can force away a lot of players who just want to experience the content and try the game, who instead just quit because they see how big the path ahead is. Players buying Heart of Thorns now getting free exotic gear has helped a lot of new people get in to the game, however this gear is so sub optimal that it completely rules out doing any of the instanced content, still requiring gold or other farms to get in to proper gameplay. But it’s definitely a step in the right direction, as well as more and more ways to get ascended gear such as the fractal vendor and now PvP season rewards letting newer players access content like fractals and raids through having the correct equipment to take part.
More than ever players are getting tired of the farm, as items rise in price and the grind becomes even bigger, and the economy for almost every high end collection or rare skin is being spiked up due to a rise in price of just a few materials. Mystic coins have been a big complaint recently, but even before that, tier six materials and then leather have always kept it at a fairly high level of grind to achieve your goals, something that at launch Guild Wars 2 always promised it would try to keep out of its game. The addition of dailies rewarding flat liquid gold has been a big help to a lot of players, as most people who logged in would complete their dailies even if it was just by accident through playing.
To people who are hard-core to Guild Wars 2, do you feel like the grind in this game has increased with the inflation in the economy? And to players who have tried other MMOs as well, how the Guild Wars 2 time to reward ratio shape up against your other favourites? To me, Guild Wars is still one of the easier games to gear up and play, but the effort to get to end game has increased at a huge rate as gold lost its value and prices hiked up.