The Ongoing Management Disaster of Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 has a major image problem at the moment, and it’s all about the upcoming first paid-for expansion they’re adding to the three-year-old game, Heart of Thorns, and how they’re messing up everything tremendously.
It was first announced, although previously highly suspected of existing prior, at the beginning of the year, just as their Living Story Season 2 was coming to a close with its last story segment and finishing touches to their latest map zone, which was all well and good, no release details were mentioned, and everyone carried on normal.
Then there was nothing, everyone expected a bit of a lull in game updates but it was a couple of months, it wasn’t a big deal.
They’d slowly drip feed some new features of something, like aspects of the new character class, or more of the server vs server map changes.
Along came E3, where at the endurance test that was the PC Gaming show, they suddenly dropped the bomb that the expansion would be available for pre-purchase right now. Web pages expectedly fell over, but people very quickly realised the price for the game at its cheapest without one of the editions with extra fancy in-game stuff was the same price as the original game had been, a standard full-price PC game of £35/$50, and the original game, which had frequently been on large discount sales of late, was no-where to be seen.
“(includes Guild Wars 2 core game)”
Hang on, wasn’t this meant to be a paid expansion which was for existing players? Yes it was, their own FAQ even stated previously the core game would have been required to play Heart of Thorns, which was quietly edited out. Not even a discount for those people who had already owned the game previously, despite the expansion including it again and the whole thing having the regular price of the original game.
What about those people who had only bought the game recently at full price and would have to pay the same amount for an expansion which included what they already just paid for?
It took until the following Monday after the opening of the purchases on Thursday, the 18th of June for them to address the backlash, by offering a free character slot, which if bought outright would’ve cost around £7/$10, to anyone who had owned the game since before the end of January, and refunding to anyone who bought it after that if they pre-purchased the expansion (but only if you had purchased it off them directly, otherwise outta luck). It seemed all well and good, but this should have never happened to begin with. They’d made a mess by attempting to paint the walls with water pistols and were offering to clean it up after turning it into the aftermath of a Splatoon match, rather than having the forethought to put down the protection they needed beforehand. This is something that would be quickly eclipsed by Bungie’s bungling of the Taken King expansion for Destiny however.
Meanwhile, the game continued to languish unattended, nothing new was added other than a rebuild of trait trees in July in preparation for the new systems, a change which in of itself broke many things, including grenades which pretty much instantly killed anything, and teams of guardian classes being able to demolish any large boss at alarming speed. It took multiple days for them to try and fix these, which they did by disabling the relevant bugged traits before the next patch came out two weeks later, and they ended up disabling the guardian bug first by a couple of days, the one which was restricted to bosses and gates in the sever vs server mode, and not the grenades, which were ruining any kind of PvP battle, especially the 5v5 competitive matches. Regular balance patches were promised, which didn’t really happen, still having issues like burning going from the least desirable damaging condition that people could use, to outclassing the others by a huge margin, including the one has no other function than dealing damage over time, bleeding. They’re still fixing things infrequently (their latest one had the most changes since probably the original reshuffle), although many traits still remain flat-out broken and just do not work. There was even a ‘special event’ where the giant piloted siege golems in World v World moved twice as fast and had double damage against players and golems, where a replicable bug allowed players to retain the double movement and damage buff while not piloting golems, and when you have invisble thieves and mesmers who can specialise in quickly killing targets before they have much of a chance to react also having twice the speed and damage, it got rather miserable. They never attempted to fix that issue throughout the whole week it was running.
It’s now been seven months, there have been no new content updates since January other than cosmetic tat they kept throwing into their money store, but even those dried up after a short while. Meanwhile, they’re all too happy to take money off people for an expansion which has no release date, (the most gotten out of them was a “committed to this year” at one point, which sounds like “not this year” put through a PR tumble drier a few times), which promises access to beta weekend events, which don’t get announced until a week before they’re due to begin. All the while almost every week there’s a trickle of information, usually talking about one of the new “elite specialisations” each of the (from eight to) nine classes will get in the expansion in a finely calculated clockwork marketing machine, or some other aspect of the game being expanded upon. Any sort of question asking why there’s nothing else being added or fixed to the game tends to get some sort of response pertaining to ‘everyone’s working on Heart of Thorns’ (probably where their PR staff are considering how they’re going), which just sounds like bad staff management. Such a wasteland of anything new to do means anyone who was not into the endless nature of the competitive stuff is completely out of luck unless they have a backlog of things to accomplish from not being around, and it’s growing resentment amongst the playerbase if they haven’t just stopped playing completely, waiting for something to happen.
Then just with the path this week, a pervasive message appeared on everyone’s screens while currently playing the game, saying they should be paying attention to a special announcement on Saturday.
Although, we already know what at least part of what it is, considering it got accidentally leaked in a tweet by IGN yesterday, and it’s that the core game of Guild Wars 2 is going free-to-play in some capacity, and as the trailer for it doesn’t specify anything highly restrictive like a level limit, it’s probably safe to assume it’s a pretty comprehensive version.
Why oh why did you have to announce this so late?
The unexpected pre-purchase release was bad enough, now this is another kick in the teeth really. Surely you must have been planning this for a while? Not saying anything against the idea itself, because it’s a really good idea, but who thought you wouldn’t get backlash over springing this on everyone this far along? Did you not learn anything from your previous experiences? I honestly have no idea what they think they’re doing by this point. The announcement will probably go along as planned ignoring the fact everyone knows and have rampantly expecting the worst for over 24 hours too, pretending the giant neon sign above them just isn’t there. That’s not how the internet works. Are you trying to take back that title from Bungie?
Of course, while I was typing this up, someone found they have the release date for Heart of Thorns on their Twitter account, even though it’s not showing up on their main profile page or in anyone’s timelines. Maybe they are just deciding to get ahead of what’s already out there anyway, or the more likely case of them messing things up again. Fitting timing considering the game officially launched three years ago today.
Whatever the case, certainly makes me look like a silly pink mammal.