Monday, 29 June 2015

Should you pre-order Heart of Thorns?

I've been talking so much about SWTOR's announced Coffee expansion that you would almost forget about "that other MMO"'s upcoming expanion: Guild Wars 2's Heart of Thorns (yes, I still play that game).

Naturally, I've been wondering whether to pre-order this expansion or not. Here are some thoughts and tips for if you are walking the same road. On an unrelated note: the pictures in this article are, alas, not of the expansion itself, but of the Sylvari homeworld. Just to warm you up for the Sylvari theme.

Marketing hiccup

Apparently there was an uproar surrounding Heart of Thorns' promotion. If you pre-order the expansion you get the rest of the game for free. Not very nice for the people who had just bought the base game in the previous months when it was promoted with a hefty discount. 

I was one of those people. Now I personally don't mind: I think the 10 euros I paid for the game more than make up for the months I've played it. Guild Wars 2 doesn't come with a subscription: if you buy the game, you get all of it. Although it does have an in-game cash shop, it's not as unavoidable as in Star Wars: The Old Republic or as in-your-face as in Lord of the Rings Online. For me, Guild Wars is an easy game to hop in every now and then and do some exploring. Because it is buy-to-play, I don't feel pressured to play it as subscription MMOs tend to do. Having access to all that content for just 10 euros feels almost criminal.

Nevertheless, it wasn't a very decent thing to do. It reminds me of a similar marketing hiccup in yet another MMO: LOTRO. In that game, lifetime subscriptions were heftily discounted at some point in time; a few months later, the game was announced to become free-to-play (it fared on a subscription model before). Not to say Guild Wars 2 is following the same road: Turbine managed to destroy the goodwill of the majority of its players in a few years, while ArenaNet is still regarded well overall (you can read their official response here). Just a minor hiccup so far.

The pricing

A second argument that was going on was about the pricing of the expansion. Pre-ordering costs about 50 dollars (45 euros for the base; 75 euros for the deluxe; 100 euros for the ultimate edition), which is apparently more than most people want to pay for an expansion: a Reddit campaign was set up to boycot it (warning: the thread is as full of whining as you'd expect). This made me blink once or twice. In my opinion, 50 dollars for an expansion is a fair price, especially considering the game is buy-to-play (no subscription) and it's the first paid expansion in three years. Liore of Herding Cats wrote a great article about Guild Wars 2 in relation to developments in pricing of games in general that you should go read if this interests you. However, being okay with the price doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to pre-order Heart of Thorns.

The all-knowing Pale Tree

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about a LOTRO expansion: Should you pre-order Helm's Deep? I drew an "all-knowing Mearas" visualizing the questions that were going on in my head. And while the Heart of Thorns expansion comes at a different time and concerns a whole different MMO, it came to me that it wouldn't be much effort to adapt it to an "all-knowing Pale Tree". Apparently the questions we ask ourselves when considering pre-ordering MMO expansions are alike.

Worth considering is also that we don't really know what we're pre-ordering. Bhagpuss of Inventory Full points out some unknowns: when is it going to be released (we don't even have an indication, may just as well be 2025)? How many zones/quests/dungeons do we get? Go read his awesome article; it shows the considerations felt by a player who is much more involved with Guild Wars 2 than I am.

Zubon of Kill Ten Rats argues that how deeply involved in or enthusiastic you are about a game determines whether or not you will buy an expansion. I agree that this is the core question. Nevertheless, a lot of other, smaller, questions tend to pop up when thinking about the matter. Behold, the all-knowing Pale Tree:

Follow the purple arrows to see what the Pale Tree thinks what you should do 
(click for a larger image)

My apologies for the creative falling leaves functioning as arrows. A tree proved harder to adapt to this concept than a Mearas.

I, myself, am not going to pre-order Heart of Thorns just yet. One reason is that I simply don't have that much money at the time being, although I do like the thought of supporting the game's developers (they have to make a living after all). Another reason is that there's still a lot for me to do in the game as it is: I don't have any characters at level cap yet (although Ravanel is getting close with level 75) and there are still many regions for me to explore. And then I haven't spoken about explorable dungeons and PvP yet (I haven't set foot in those so far, but would like to do so)! I would like to buy the expansion at some point, but there's no rush.

Are you going to buy Heart of Thorns? Did the Pale Tree do a decent job of predicting your decision?


  1. Thanks for the kid words! I'm going to pre-purchase soon even though I'm still very uncertain over how much of the HoT content will actually appeal to me. Since it's inevitable that I'll buy it I might as well do it now rather than later. It would be silly not to get the free character slot and I will get some blog posts out of whatever betas they do. Only going to get it for one of my accounts - if it turns out to be amazing I can get it for the others as and when it goes on sale, maybe.

    1. Er... make that "kind" not "kid" lol!

    2. I'm going to be jealous at that extra character slot now! Even though I've only just reached level 80 on my first character, I've had my 5 slots filled from the start, sort of simultaneously leveling them up. The thing is, I really like the classes I've picked, and I keep wanting to play another for variety. Plus I'm exploring different parts of the map on them, of course.

      So I kinda want to buy the expansion after all (like you, I'm probably going to buy it at some point) but it's really better if I don't moneywise. Instead, I'll just keep up-to-date by reading your blog! (Although it's going to be tricky because I usually try to stay out of beta content: I enjoy seeing it for myself when it's actually released.)

  2. In LotRO though, the difference between a F2P account and a lifetime account was such that the lifetimers cannot really claim to have had a raw deal (at least while there aren't any accidental TP grind spots released with expansions).

    A fairer comparison in this case would be to compare it to SWToR's expansion Shadow of Revan including Rise of the Hutt Cartel.

    1. Hmm. I understand that the SWTOR expansions make a better comparison content-wise, but I don't remember there being much whining about it (although I could be mistaken).

      I think it all boils down to timing. The reason why I compared the two cases they way I did, is because they are both examples of gaming companies offering certain discounts a short time before those got a totally different meaning (and value) because of major changes to the payment model of the game. In both cases players felt 'betrayed' by the companies, because they find it hard to imagine they had no prior knowledge of such far-reaching changes. I think in the case of LotRO most players felt okay with it afterwards, because being VIP forever for free turned out to be really valuable - but that wasn't all clear from the start. Maybe I could've worded it better; I hope that I'm making more sense now!


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