ArenaNet hopes that a new in-game economy and a more integrated design will make its upcoming MMO's microtransactions as fair as possible.
Somewhat magically, the subject of microtransactions in videogames has historically garnered little to no outrage from the gaming community at large, even though meeting the usual prerequisite of being something that isn't free. Perhaps that's due in part to the reasonable and player-centric points often made in support of their inclusion, such as the attitude recently outlined by ArenaNet in regards to its upcoming subscription-free MMO, Guild Wars 2.
"We believe in microtransactions because they fund ongoing development of the game in a very straightforward and open way," wrote ArenaNet cofounder Mike O'Brien on his company's blog.
"You, the customer, get to decide how much money you spend on the game after launch, based on how compelling it is to you. You get a complete and playable game no matter what, but we think we can provide additional content and services that you'd be happy to pay for. And when you pay for them, you help fund our support of Guild Wars 2 in a way that benefits all players of the game."
O'Brien admits that microtransactions were an afterthought in the first Guild Wars, and as such, may have run somewhat out of sync with the original game design. In its sequel, however, the team had a chance to redesign their implementation, without what O'Brien considers "sacrificing design principles." In order to accomplish this, Guild Wars 2 will use a new economic system to accommodate.
"In Guild Wars 2," he continues, "we have three currencies: gold, karma, and gems. Gold is the common in-game currency. Karma, which players earn in-game but cannot trade, is used for unique rewards. And gems are the currency that's bought and used to purchase micro-transactions.
"We have a new player-driven market that allows players to trade gold for gems and gems for gold. If you want something, whether it's an in-game item or a microtransaction, you ultimately have two ways to get it: you can play to earn gold or you can use money to buy gems. We think that's important, because it lets more players participate on a level playing field, whether they use their free time or their disposable income to do it."
And what players are able to acquire through in-game purchases is just as important to the team and how they're able to acquire them. According to O'Brien, there are a few specific things the game would never offer according to ArenaNet's design philosophy.
"[Players] should be able to spend money on account services and on time-saving convenience items. But it's never OK for players to buy a game and not be able to enjoy what they paid for without additional purchases, and it's never OK for players who spend money to have an unfair advantage over players who spend time."