GW2: Time to Talk About Mount Skins

I really have tried to avoid writing this post. I’ve bottled up my feelings about what’s been happening around GW2 and selling mount skins in the Gem store. But, it’s bugging me. I need to get it off my chest…  Mostly because I’m starting to feel a little like I was duped.

Let me explain. This could get long.

Giving GW2 Another Chance

Long story short: I’ve been a fan of Guild Wars since GW1 was released. I was a huge fan of GW2 when it released, too. Things changed within Anet, and by the time HoT came out, I walked away from the game due to the fact I didn’t like the direction things were going. I felt very strongly about this.

What made me return to a game that I swore off? Three things. The Path of Fire expansion advertised:

  • A better price point than HoT
  • A return to story and lore-centric gaming in an area of the world I was interested in exploring

The only reason I even looked at PoF in the first place, the one thing that caught my eye, were the mounts.

I’m a huge fan of mounts, especially multi-use mounts, such as in EQ2. So when Anet advertised jumping mounts and leaping mounts and gliding mounts (didn’t know about the griffon back then), my mind swam with possibilities. Add to that the promise of large open world gameplay with lots of throwbacks to GW1…

Yeah, I took the bait.

But even back then, I was a little wary. The first post I wrote about this said:

BUT. We all know what else a mount system introduces — cash shop opportunities!

No doubt, A-Net is probably running low on new glider ideas by now. So why not mounts? And other MMOs have shown mounts can be sold for a pretty penny.

So, while I’m happy to see mounts in GW2, part of me knows that this is just another thing for them to milk in the cash shop.

Oh boy, was I right.

Mount Skins Ahoy

I pushed this out of my mind at PoF release, and played the game for what it was. I had a pretty good time with it. I didn’t think the story won any awards, but it was better than I remember Season 2 being.

I truly enjoyed the mounts (though some seemed a little redundant in function), and felt they were solidly implemented. I liked how they made things light years easier for me to accomplish in the open world, which is the only thing I really care about in GW2. I even went out of my way to get the griffon mount, which was a big achievement for me.

There was no sign of cash shop shenanigans in the beginning, so I thought things were safe. Then, they released the first mount skin bundle for Halloween. Ah, I thought. Here’s where it starts.

I thought these skins were okay. The price was fine. I didn’t like that it was a forced bundle of skins for all mount types, which I’d never use, though. So I didn’t buy it. I didn’t have a problem with it beyond that.

THEN came the first 2,000 Gem mount skin — the Reforged Warhound. I remember looking at it and thinking: Man, that’s not an overly attractive mount skin for that kind of money.

The Warhound got drowned out by the whole Mount Adoption RNG crud that released at the same time. Unlike the $25 mount skin, there were some skins in this I really like. But I stick to my principles when I say: There’s no way I’m going to pay for a chance to get something I like. That’s not how my money gets spent.

Throw in the fact that you could buy the whole lot for over $100, and try to tell me that’s still considered a microtransation.

There was such an uproar about this, that the team responded with a kinda-sorta apology that ultimately changed nothing about the Mount Adoption situation, since people had already spent money there. Fine.

But then, they proved they really didn’t change anything with the Resplendent Avialan skin, again, priced at $25. Yet again, another mount skin I’d never pay for. Just not my style.

Again, uproar about the price. This time, Mike O’Brien responded about what data shows about how Anet makes money. This whole PR speak thing really put a sour taste in my mouth. Especially this bit:

What our data shows is that higher-priced flashy individual items can work, and lower-average-price-per-item bundles can work, but lower-priced individual items generally don’t generate meaningful revenue to support the game. And the whole point of these items is to support the game.

Basically, what this says to me is that Anet is now focusing on poaching Whales.

It made me feel like any money I might have spent recently (for example, the 800 Gem glider skins, which I thought were a bit pricey) really didn’t matter that much… cuz it’s not a 2000 Gem item. Gee, glad my support meant something to you.

Also, the big argument I see from a number of players is that all the mount skins are cash shop, and there’s no way to sell them on the marketplace. Aside from unlocking the griffon, there’s nothing to achieve but the base mounts in game. I guess you can argue that grinding out gold to convert to Gems is a way to get these skins “in game,” but seeing that I’m a casual player with more money than time, this isn’t a reality for me.

So Why Mounts in the First Place?

When GW2 launched, we were told not having mounts was a design choice. We were told the world was made with enough Waypoints for travel. The world was compact enough to not need mounts. Don’t look for mounts in the future.

I don’t have exact quotes on this, but I could find an article that discussed why GW2 wouldn’t get mounts, and a poll where not having mounts was discussed.

So, the fact that mounts were announced in PoF blindsided me.

Blind might be the right word.

I was so excited about one of my favorite features that I jumped on the boat, bought both expansions, and played through PoF. I almost didn’t think about exactly why mounts were added to a game… that told us mounts would never be needed.

Last night, when I was talking about the mount fiasco with Syn, it occurred to me. Going back on implementing something they said they wouldn’t do (again) + Mike O’Brien’s newest post about what makes money…

I have the terrible sinking feeling that a main reason mounts were added to GW2 was because that’s where the suits decided their next money maker would be. People had already bought their fill of outfits, unbreakable gathering tools, and glider skins. What else could GW2 sell?

What large ticket item do most other MMOs sell that GW2 didn’t have? Well, mounts of course.

And this is where I started to feel that my love of mounts may have blinded me. I may have taken the lower-priced bait (PoF) that gave me hope and comfort, and been reeled back into a game that I’d left long ago.

Only… unlike the whales, I choose to say NO! when the real bait is waved in front of me. They got me to pony up for the box. But no way am I giving them almost the same amount of money for a digital skin. I mean, that’s almost the cost of two months of my FFXIV subscription!

And now, I’m just feeling sour about the whole thing. I put a lot of trust into trying GW2 again, and even brought friends along (who spent money). Was I wrong to do that?

It may be me reading too much into this, and making it too personal, but these microtransactions have become beyond microtransactions… I feel like there’s a little something underhanded going on.

Here, have a new low-priced expansion with NEW mounts (that we were never going to include before this, but for some reason changed our minds). But after you pay for the box, but what we really want is for you to buy overpriced skins for those mounts. In the name of development!

Sheesh… just put a sub on it, why don’t you? At least it would feel more honest to me.

It’s getting exhausting when it’s hard to find a game that isn’t trying to bait your cash in the name of “supporting development.” I’m just very disappointed to feel that’s where GW2 is going.