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.
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.