I love MMO’s. From my humble beginnings in Runescape back on a dial up connection; onto Guild Wars; World of Warcraft for almost 4 years; interlaced with a myriad of others until we arrive at my current time-vampire of choice: Guild Wars 2.
Guild Wars 1 broke the MMO mould when it released subscription free back in 2005. It made it’s money through micro-transactions and a few big expansions. Amassing well over 6 million sales as of 2009. Not to be outdone, Guild Wars 2 is looking to break away from a traditional update style: rather than full expansions, we are getting little pieces of ‘Living Story’.
In theory the Living Story is not a bad idea. Lead content designer Mike Zadorojny explains that they ‘can do what expansions would have done but do it on a more regular basis’. This theory however doesn’t hold up. Rather than getting bits and pieces of an expansion with each update of the Living Story, we get repetitive meta-events that quickly stagnate and are only able to hint at the expansive lore under the surface. Why follow this development path?
Part of the reason is that they don’t need the big cash injection that expansions bring. Guild Wars 2 is staying comfortably afloat from game sales and their in-game micro-transactions shop alone – plus when every new twist in the Living Story comes with a handful of new items to sell, why upset the apple cart? Oh Tybalt!
Also with the more piecemeal, bit-size chunks of Living Story they can spread the content more evenly over time. As any WoW players will know, as soon as an expansion is released it’s a huge race to the finish. Whether the finish be level’s, dungeon’s or raid’s, every man and his guild gets prepared with all the Red Bull they can muster. Although I have done this and vastly enjoyed it, I can see how the developer suffers. All that content you’re racing through took months – or even years – to design and facilitate.
It’s definitely not that there isn’t demand. There are huge parts of the game that I want to be released or expanded, that could only be done with a large game changing update. For example Cantha and Elona from Guild Wars 1 would make for excellent expansion – as they did before – and there are a couple of classes that I’d love to see make a comeback.
Is part of the problem that we as gamers have come to expect content more regularly? Call of Duty has a yearly instalment; Minecraft gets regular updates; WoW is moving to an expansion a year; Assassins Creed has even turned into a yearly franchise. Is a new piece of content every couple of months simple the next logical step to sate our veracious appetite for new things to do in our favourite titles?
Do you think this is the next logical step? Or would you rather developers took their time with updates and made them more meaningful? Please let me know what you think in the comments below.
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In my next instalment I will be looking at gaming on YouTube and asking if it’s days are numbered.
Lastly if you are particularly interested in Guild Wars 2 and it’s potential expansions then you can check out the video below. He raises some interesting points that I didn’t cover.