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.
The easiest justification was that GW2 will have fluff to ‘grind’, and since fluff-grinding worked in GW1 (not an MMO, according to Anet), fluff-grinding will work in GW2 (an MMO, according to Anet). And I kind of agree. I’m sure that for a good number of people, chasing a weapon skin or some cute pet will totally work for them for X amount of time. Hell, for a smaller subset of that group, collecting EVERYTHING will keep them busy EVE-style long-term. And so long as new fluff to grind is introduced, this can continue. Granted, we are basically talking about raiding-style gaming but with the epics replaced by puppies, but hey.
Another justification was the one that some MMO fans always fall into: Anet will add more stuff ‘soon’. If I have to explain why this one falls flat on its face, you must be new here.
Then there is the ‘the gameplay is fun!’ thing. Let’s pretend GW2 combat is not WoW combat with a dodge feature. Let’s pretend it’s something really new and great and totally not WoW with dodge. Even in this fantasy world, how long do you think gameplay itself will keep you playing? Better yet, think back to the last non-MMO game you played with amazing gameplay and ask yourself how long you played that. If the answer is not 6+ months straight, gameplay is not the answer to retention (which is not to say it’s not important overall, but we are talking retention here).
An offshoot of the above is “But people play LoL long-term based on gameplay”, which is true. But there is a reason LoL is a MOBA title and GW2 is an MMO. Two very different things. Even GW2’s sorta-MOBA-like WvW is really not. MOBAs work based on gameplay because they are balanced, start fresh, and contain almost countless possibilities in terms of how a match plays out. Banging on a keep door is how WvW is going to play out, with the major variable being whether you are playing the FOTM class/build and owning or playing the gimp-of-the-month and watching your screen go 50 shades of gray on you (how topical of me).
What GW2 does have going for it (based on beta anyway) is solid design and gameplay, which is partly why so many are so excited for it. GW2, by almost all accounts, looks like it will be a fun game to play. And if ‘fun game to play’ is all you are aiming for, then retention is irrelevant. Except that if you are making an MMO (which Anet has stated GW2 is), retention is… kind of the point. Tortanic would have been a great little sRPG if it had not been pitched as an MMO, and everyone knows it.
So I still thing retention is something to keep an eye on as related to GW2. The lack of a sub fee might make tracking it a bit more difficult, but if only a few servers ‘matter’ in WvW 6+ months after release, we will have our answer.