GW2: Retention issue?

There has been some expressed concern over GW2’s long-term appeal. I think the concern is somewhat valid. With no item chase, no long-term leveling progression, and no real ‘point’ beyond moving your server up in the standings (which will only appeal to a sub-section of the PvP community, so not exactly a mainstream thing), why exactly are people going to be logging in a few months after release?

In more than one way GW2’s WvW resembles DAoC’s RvR. DAoC did not have a retention problem, so why would GW2?

While DAoC PvP was fun, I don’t believe that alone is what kept people playing/paying. Realm pride mattered and was a factor, but I believe it was more of a result than a cause. Boiled down, what REALLY kept people playing/paying was progression. Realm ranks were slow to come and nearly impossible to max out, and getting BiS gear was also a long-term grind (pre-ToA, but talking about DAoC should always be done in pre-ToA mode), but those two things meant you always had a way to improve your character, even if very slowly and by a tiny margin.

That personal progression combined with group-based gameplay made DAoC work. Review MMO history with that formula in mind, and the results should not surprise you. GW2 lacks (intentionally) the progression aspect, and I’ve always believed that progression is what ultimately makes MMOs work. I don’t think it’s an accident that the game with the best long-term character progression (EVE) is the most successful MMO from a retention/growth perspective.

Just like SW:TOR going F2P won’t matter, I don’t think GW2 lacking a sub fee really matters either. Yes, it will make stepping away and returning easier, but at the end of the day you still need a reason to actually return, and right now I’m not seeing one.

30 Responses to GW2: Retention issue?

  1. bhagpuss says:

    Did you play GW1, though? It also has no subscription and no endgame and the PvP there is even more abstract but it’s been a successful game for a long, long time.

    I’m not sure how much ArenaNet would be relying on retention. I’d guess they plan to keep selling the box to new people, year in, year out, sell Cash Shop items and services to those people for as long as they stick around (likely to be a good few months I would think) and sell new boxes to the new and the old people every 12-15 months as they bring out expansions. That’s basically how GW1 works.

    And then there’s the E-Sport thing.

    • SynCaine says:

      To me the difference is that GW1 was clearly not an MMO, while Anet has clearly stated they see GW2 as one. GW1 worked in many ways because it was so MMO-lite at a time when most games were pretty MMO-heavy.

  2. Kobeathris says:

    I think it will largely depend on how active the devs are with content. One of the nice things about the down scaling, is that they can add new content pretty much anywhere, and everyone can use it.

  3. Dril says:

    I agree, and I’ve thought exactly the same thing. At the end of the day, I doubt GW2 will suffer a huge backlash 1 week after launch; after a month to three, though, I think it’ll rather quickly empty out.

    But, then again, they don’t have a sub, so there’ll be no sub numbers to look at, so whatever the actual truth is ANet can spin it as “compared to last month, we have had many more unique logins!”

  4. saucelah says:

    I suppose if I get three months out of it I’ll get somewhat more than what I get from most $60 games.

    • saucelah says:

      Thinking about this and this alone, I think it’ll be okay. There’s always going to be a core group of fans that sticks with a game no matter what. If WAR has them, GW2 will. While beyond these folks, I’m not sure that there will be the feeling of a persistent server community, I can see the lack of a sub keeping a healthy rotation of new players and returning players leaving the community constantly changing but reasonable in size.

      Speculation of course. But I find just about all possibilities equal right now.

      I think it will be better off than LOTRO, thought that’s not saying too much.

  5. Ahtchu says:

    As much as people lament ‘the grind’, it’s a necessary evil…

    • SynCaine says:

      Its only evil if you hate doing it (at which point you should find a new game…) No one really hated the RR ‘grind’ in DAoC because it was done well. ‘Grinding’ to max level in EQ1 was not something people complained about (directly anyway).

      At some strange point in MMO history, progression became ‘grind’, and playing long-term became an ‘issue’. As I’ve said a few times now, I think we might be finally come out of the MMO dark ages.

      • Ahtchu says:

        Oh, I agree. I’m not lamenting it in the slightest. MMORPGs were always *supposed* to be months and years of slow but steady climbing. If that’s not a ‘grind’ I don’t know what is. It’s what makes an MMO… an MMO.

    • professer says:

      The grind is all in your mind.

      Perhaps a game could even be designed well enough that ‘the grind’ isn’t even something you’re concerned/aware of.

      • kalex716 says:

        Thats how it has to happen. I was a huge EQ player, but I went to college and couldn’t commit the same level of play anymore and got tired of how demanding it was.

        WoW came out, and individualized the leveling experience in such a personal and convenient way, it felt amazing to be doing all these neat little wrapped up quests to chunk away at the XP, i felt like i was accomplishing so much. It wasn’t a grind at all, and felt refreshing.

        Fast foward years later, now I cannot stand quests at all anymore. I refuse to play a game again that has hubs where you gather quests to go out and kill/click/fetch whatever anymore. Its simply the worst kinda grind imaginable to me because i’m tired of it. In fact, i would love to go back to the days of grouping up with people, camping a spot, and all working together to pull stuff to chip xp off for hours again if it means no more hubs.

        Point is, the next big thing in MMO’s will have come up with a way to change the compulsion loop of the grind in a truly refreshing way… but it will still be there nonetheless, waiting to be over exposed eventually as well.

    • professer says:

      I’d definietly say peoples perception of the grind is partially based on game design.

      But there’s still the other factor, you.

  6. Lyss says:

    why not play gw2 like any moba or such games? I mean you buy it, you get your experience out of it, as someone already wrote more then out of most fullprice games, and in the end you can always return if theres something new to do or if you just want to fight a few matches.

  7. Azuriel says:

    I find it curious how many people suggest that it doesn’t matter what GW2’s long-term numbers are. It is a cash-shop game selling vanity items. Who is buying vanity items to show off in a ghost town? And all those “dynamic” events are going to look pretty dumb when you are the only one in the zone.

    • Lyss says:

      Same as HoN or LoL. People play when they want a match, people by vanity stuff for theese matches. Why not buy the same for the PVP in GW2, regardless of when and how often you do it?

      • Dril says:

        Yeah, but HoN and LoL have core gameplay that suits matches.

        GW2 has core gameplay that has not fundamentally changed from 10+ year old games that were designed to be played for years at a time.

  8. Ano says:

    @syncaine:
    A good question. I’ve been trying to find some references in the gaming press about “concern over GW2’s long-term appeal” but most if not all of the gaming press have studiously avoided the question. There has been occasional mention in GW2 forums by individual players about retention concerns. If you could post some references that you have found to back up your statement I’d love to read it.

    ArenaNet has focused on achievements, dynamic events, and WvWvW as strong factors that will retain players. The race to 80 is not a big factor as there are no guild raid dungeons that open up at endgame in GW2.

    I don’t think GW2 will appeal to progression focused players – specifically raiders and PvP’ers. I see GW2 appealing more to social guilds and casual players. It has a strong exploration focus and rewards instant action type gameplay.

    Regardless of what ArenaNet claims GW2 won’t be all things to all people. This is not the Jesus MMO that will resurrect the genre nor should we expect it to be. I don’t even place this MMO in the same class as a traditional MMO like WoW or Everquest.

  9. silvertemplar says:

    Well what is the long term appeal of Battlefield,DOTA . LoL , Call of Duty type of online games? Is there REALLY that much “progression” and “server pride” going on in those types of games that makes people “return” every year for the exact same game but on a different map?

    I think the real concern will be whether the actual things you DO in the game are FUN. No, not like WoW where the REWARDs are fun but the activities are NOT , the actual act of fighting or gathering or questing must be FUN, then i can see the long term appeal right there.

    In other words, what makes a FPS fun? Surely not the gear rewards, or the progression or some future purple drop or boss kill achievement, it’s most of the time the actual “act of playing” , right now, right here. Blizzard (and others) are still relying on the “carrot on the stick” method of gameplay, they figure they just dangle a carrot there and you’ll crawl through mud for it (as boring, mind numbingly painful it might be).

    So if GW2 get that part right where i can play and have fun, without needing a mythical reward (well winning should be sufficient reward)…then we got longevity !

    • Anonymous says:

      This is 100% true.!
      A true gamer looking for the FUN an MMO can provide, if done right unlike the carrot chase of WoW.

    • coppertopper says:

      Already forgot about the Orr region. Sounds a lot like what Rift promised but didnt deliver on. Can’t wait.

  10. Ravious says:

    I think Syncaine’s view is too insular. It appears to view only “WvW players” as if it were DAOC, which was built around RvR. GW2 was not built around WvW, yet it is incorporated in guild progression and PvE bonuses. Plus I expect PvP players, like in GW1 with HA, will play in WvW for a lol-warm-up

    Anyway, first there needs to be fun. Progression can always be added. More interconnection can always be added.

    If you find it fun, then that is a pretty good start. If you don’t… well you know what they say about putting lipstick on a pig.

    • Ano says:

      @ravious
      I agree. Having played 3 beta weekends now it is obvious GW2 is a different type of game. The whole game is built around the “fun” aspect. For RP and social guilds this will be a big plus. The majority of MMO’s players aren’t hardcore and therefore look to the social aspect rather than any sort of gear-focused endgame content.

  11. Chris K. says:

    People that play (or played o/ ) GW1 for any stretch of time, know that you can keep people busy even with nothing more than farming vanity items and weapon skins. In the original game, your stats pretty much capped before you were halfway through the campaign, but chasing the elite armor sets kept people playing for a long time.

    Chasing titles and other such things were also some of the things endgame players wanted to do, and with Eye of the North and the addition of dungeons (and Hard Modes) we went to crazy measures to clear content regularly.

    The pvpers obviously have a lot of content. The explorers are well catered to by providing huge lush environments full of detail. The crafters get a very freeform crafting/harvesting system to keep them busy. Will the legendary quest for weapons keep the “Achievers” happy, with its (probably) strictly cosmetic advantages?

    Probably not, but then again name one MMO where the hardcore progression players did not consume the entire content within 2 weeks of launch. And that particular crowd will not be using the cash-shop in any case (it is vanity stuff only, after all). In which case A-net is wise to let them go and ease the server loads a little.

    They will come back, after all, when the expansion pack is released 1 year down the road, introducing new lands with 1 or 2 extra classes, in a typical Guild Wars fashion.

  12. coppertopper says:

    I’m trying to picture GW2 a year from now, when everyone is max level, then compare that to DAOC and WoW of today. What do people do in those games except amass cash, try new playstyles, roll alts, max out crafting? And considering actual raiding is content seen by what, 1% of the player population in WoW, that clearly isn’t the reason behind its popularity and player retention. I really believe Anet set up GW2 with 80 levels to give somewhat of a carrot to chase, as you regularly upgrade gear that entire time, to ease players unfamiliar with GW1 into a different mindset.

  13. roqoco says:

    Do you know how many people returned/started Guild Wars 1 to fill up their hall of monuments for Guild Wars 2? No? I don’t either, but it’s a lot. You don’t need gear progression in an MMO: Status symbols are way more important (as they are in real world) and they don’t terminally screw up the gameplay. All Arenanet need to do to ensure long term appeal is to have a well judged progression of cosmetic rewards.

  14. Ano says:

    As long as people have a choice of activities I am sure they will be happy. I am also looking forward to player/guild housing and hobby options. Hopefully they will add fishing as a hobby. It was one of my favorite fun activities of LOTRO and WoW. There are hundreds of placeholder locations in the cities they will be adding activities to as well.

  15. Brad says:

    You’re thinking about this the completely wrong way still. Hopefully playing it will change your how you feel about it. As long as ArenaNet hold up their end of the bargain, the game should be very good. There is an item chase too. Legendary weapons are no cake walk to get, and ArenaNet will continue to add more stuff, just like they did with GW1.

  16. [...] My retention post about GW2 had some interesting if not unsurprising responses. Perhaps the MOST surprising (but not really) part was how varied the ‘why’ explanations were. [...]

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