The ROI of One Time Events [GW2]

Summary

Ever the contrarian, Azuriel has recently been evoking strong reactions with his criticism of Arenanet’s use of one-time events.

The Guild Wars 2 Lost Shores event currently being previewed on the PTR, like its predecessor for Halloween, contains a one-off animation that will take place at the same time on all servers worldwide, never to be repeated again.

Surely for MMOs, all new content is good content, right?

Azuriel thinks not:

“Is it a good use of designer resources to specifically construct one-time events (in MMOs)?”

The traditional sort of knee-jerk response would probably be “Yes.” My answer is No.

His arguments focus on the fact that this content is instantly obsolescent and by being scheduled in advance, does not succeed in creating a dynamic world. He also questions how ‘fun’ this content is, particularly recognising that many of the players will experience it via Youtube.

Comment

Whilst I agree with many of these points, my main interest is whether one-time events offer a good return on investment for developers.

If this is not the case, Arenanet is burning money and will have to stop at some point, removing any good will generated by failing to meet the expectations they have created in the player base.

New content requires resources: art, audio (voiceovers and/or SFX, music is unlikely), designers etc. If you bring in additional head-count to do this work, you have to pay for them. If you use in-house resources, you are diverting them from something else (Dungeons? Expansion-work?). Content is never free – there is an opportunity cost in having a character explode out of a fountain once.

One-time events are attention-grabbing in the MMO space. Due to their cost and the risk of a negative ROI, they are uncommon. They generate press and lots of word of mouth, as players anticipate what it will be like, or subsequently share stories of “Were you there?”.

Guild Wars 2 is a new game that is not based on a well-known IP. It NEEDS this press coverage. Furthermore, the business model relies on front-loading revenues from players, so continually growing the player base is crucial until the RMT shop can pay for the overheads of the game.

Ultimately, I am pleased to see that GW2 has been successful and I am keen to see whether Arenanet can maintain the momentum, particularly as my boxed copy entitles me to return to Tyria whenever things get interesting.

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About bernardparsnip

Gamer, Blogger, Poet
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5 Responses to The ROI of One Time Events [GW2]

  1. Game Delver says:

    I think the answer ranges from ‘maybe’ to ‘yes’ for GW2. Given the game’s pricing structure and gameplay design, you need content that draws people back in to play just a little longer. Non-one-offs might accomplish this, but I think they are just as likely to be ignored (“i will wait for more content than that”) or forgotten (“Awesome! I will play that when I get around to it”).

    With this style of content, Arena.Net keeps players on their toes, generates a lot more press and word of mouth, and helps to create a world that is at least not static.

  2. Bernard says:

    I think they need to keep the quality high in these first few events to maintain interest and anticipation. If there are too many events or they are too formulaic, I can imagine the player base getting disappointed and subsequent attempts to rouse interest will fail.

  3. Doone says:

    I dont get Azuriels railing against this. The fact is ANet had a totally successful GW1. There’s little reason to suspect that they can’t manage their resources and finances responsible. The entire argument of their efficient use is baseless; we don’t know, even if we suspect it is.

    But it’s all besides the point imo. As developers they want to provide a persistent world where special things happen. I think it’s less about dynamism than it is about unique moments in the game.

    • Azuriel says:

      My railing is multifaceted… or muddled (or crazy bitching), depending on how charitable you want to be. 1) I don’t think planned one-time events make the world dynamic, e.g. it feels gimmicky to me. 2) I don’t think the model of “concurrency waves” is especially conducive to long-term player engagement, e.g. MMOs should make players want to play daily, not one weekend a month like some kind of National Guard training. 3) I don’t like feeling obligated to log on at certain days at certain times or miss something the designers are spending development time on, e.g. Appointment Gaming.

      I never played GW1 or even have read much about it, so I cannot comment on how well it worked for ANet back then. However, did they push GW1 this far into the MMO direction? Did they have a lot of one-time events that never repeated/looped? Did they insist on simultaneous worldwide release times for said events?

      I dunno, it probably is not that big a deal in the abstract. I have just never believed that one-time content is ever a good idea in an MMO, going all the way back to TBC Bear runs in ZA (I was not around for the AQ gates, but I would have protested that too). If you need something to be exclusive before it becomes special, you have a personal problem IMO; it should be enough that nobody will care about my (hypothetical) ZA bear 1 week after the latest content comes out anyway.

  4. Pingback: [Links] Pandarian musings, Brawlers Guild, cash shops, SWTOR F2P « Welcome to Spinksville!

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