GW1 vs. GW2: Cash Shop Shenanigans

The Dragon Festival of GW1, in Lion's Arch. Which has not been leveled to nothing twice over yet.
The Dragon Festival of GW1, in Lion’s Arch. Which has not been leveled to the ground twice over yet.

Today’s gem store update in GW2 reminded me of one of my pet peeves with the game. Namely, they’ve thrown pretty much all cosmetics into the gem store. This includes the so-called festival cosmetics, such as the “new” Dragon and Lion mask in GW2.

Source: Dulfy

Now, yes, I realize they are functioning on a B2P model that relies on cash shop purchases to maintain. I don’t fault them for putting stuff in the cash shop.

What bothers me is, coming from GW1, the things they put in the cash shop, especially things dealing with festivals, were things that we got FOR FREE in GW1. Which was, may I remind you, also a B2P model that didn’t adopt a cash shop until much, much later in its development cycle.

Pretty much the exact same masks in GW1… but these were FREE at festivals!

And you know, that was a good thing. Because festivals in GW1 were fantastic! The community gathered around whatever event, be it Mad King Says for Halloween, or the showdown between Grenth and Dwayna for Wintersday, or the Emperor’s coming for the Dragon festival… and we got FREE hats. No strings attached. No cash shop shenanigans.

And it was EXCITING. Because for that day, every three hours or so, there was a really cool event that you participated in and was rewarded for.

Compare that to: “Get the new dragon mask in our gem shop for 300 gems. Limited time only!” …And maybe you can understand why GW2’s cash grab is such a huge disappointment to me, a person who loved to collect all the hats, and loved to take part in every festival every year.

And I’m talking… a freakin’ lot of free and very cool hats! Check this out:


And the cool thing was, we never knew what they were going to release each year. So there was always the excitement building for that first event, where lucky folks who could be there came back to fan forums and posted screens of what we could expect when we got home from work that afternoon.

Man. That was fun. That worked up the community in a good way and got people logging in.

And what do we have now in GW2? “Oh, new hat in the gem shop.”

What a bummer!

Gradual Gem Shop Change

But this didn’t happen over night in GW2. In fact, GW2 started out on the same foot as GW1 in terms of offering free festivity rewards. Gasp! Shocking I know!

I even have the Day of the Tengu hat, which I was quite proud of!
I even have the Day of the Tengu hat, which I was quite proud of!

For example:

  • At the launch of GW2, you could get a free Celebration Hat (from the cash shop), which was a somewhat cheesy baseball hat with a GW2 logo. Didn’t really fit into the whole fantasy theme, but hey, it was free and very neat to see the generosity even during beta.
  • Halloween of 2012 rewarded participants of The Mad King Says with a neat free Witches Hat. Yes, they did start their gem shop costume and RNG weapon skin stuff at that point, but there was at least a free item from the event.
  • The Devil Horns were free to buy in the cash shop during Halloween of 2012. Apparently now, they cost 200 gems.
  • Wintersday of 2012 offered a free Wizard’s Hat in the cash shop. I wasn’t quite sure what a wizard’s hat had to do with Wintersday. But, hey, free hat, right? Or maybe a leftover from Halloween. Because this felt like the beginning of the end of cool free things.
  • Some folks got free kites and stuff in 2013, but only if you spent money in the cash shop within a certain period of time.
  • Halloween 2013 offered the Mask of the Night skin for The Mad King Says. I think that’s all the event rewarded in 2014, too. Compared to the cool Grenth Hood and stuff in the gem shop, it was so lame that I started to really feel fed up at that point.

The few free cosmetics became mostly back items in 2013… many which were linked to annoying achievements you had to grind out during the Living Story season 1 scenarios.  This was fun at first… but then they got so convoluted that I just gave up even trying to achieve these.

I’m not saying they’re not trying to weave a few free skins into content here or there. But gone are the days of celebrating events with free festival cosmetics, replaced by everything in the Gem Store. In fact, I almost feel as if putting the few free things in the gem shop during 2012 was a subtle way of grooming people to be comfortable in buying things from the gem shop. Perhaps they knew they needed a gradual conversion of folks coming from GW1 to the new GW2 gem shop mentality. And that thought sours me, too.

So when I saw these iconic masks from GW1 pop up in the GW2 cash shop, something in my heart ached a little. I’ll just try to hold on to my memories of a ring of GW1 elementalists joyfully wearing brightly-dyed dragon masks, sync-dancing in Shing Jea. Because that was infinitely more special to me than what GW2 is doing these days.

To close, I’ll just leave this GW1 video I made back in 2007 here…


  1. Ahh the once were freebies, I think your post perfectly sums up what my clan and I joked about when cash shops started to become more prevalent.
    However when the game is buy to pay you’d think that a little player loyalty would be rewarded, but then maybe we aren’t the target audience as we’d rather login and earn them rather than just spending cash.

    1. I agree. With all the crud they stuff in the gem store every week, you think they could afford to release one little free festival hat here or there to make people happy during a… well… festivity. Especially when they’re remakes of something that existed in the previous game.

      Not that I really want or care about these hats in GW2. I’ve given up hope for seeing any of the neat little free gifts we used to get in GW1. Just wanted to make the comparison since these masks instantly made me remember their origins.

  2. It’s really a bad habit forming across gaming as a whole. Fewer and fewer developers are rewarding their players, long-term or otherwise, with freebies. Remember the days when a FPS would have free maps added? Now everything is a Season Pass or DLC pack or some other way to get a few extra dollars from you.

  3. Backpacks are the new hats. You can get a free ram backpack this festival. Last Wintersday you got a free outfit. I am not sure that your anger is justified 🙂

    1. I’m not angry. I’m disappointed.

      I did mention the back items in my article. They’re usually annoying to get with tons of hoops to jump through and collectables to gather to make them.

      The patch notes for this update say:

      “Play in the revamped Dragon Ball Arena, TRY to get your Lucky Great Ram Lantern backpack”

      Emphasis above mine. It says “TRY” to get a backpack. Not “We are giving you a free fun item for attending our fun festival.” Totally different outlook on these items.

      That’s not at all the same as simply attending a festival event (where the event itself did not equal grinding some form of currency) and being given a free gift out of goodwill as a way to remember the celebration. That’s what we got in GW1.

      GW2 folks have been trained to jump through hoops for so-called tokens of the devs’ appreciation, and don’t even think anything of it anymore. : /

  4. It’s one of the things I love about TSW, there is usually at least one shirt, hat or outfit that you can earn in game for free just by doing the festival events or playing during the festival. And because they have so much quality clothing on offer in the cash shop anyway, it doesn’t feel like they are giving away too much potential revenue. It does make it feel like a gift of appreciation from the developers.

    1. I agree. TSW does it right. They may not outright gift the item to you for nothing (unless you were a lifetimer or you have a sub), but the quests you go through are generally interesting and fun enough that it doesn’t feel like work to complete them. Getting the free cosmetic or pet at the end is icing on the cake, and really does feel like a gift from the devs!

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