ArenaNet's global brand director Chris Lye remains tight-lipped about the future of Guild Wars 2 on console, but opens up about the state of free-to-play in the industry, and the studio's plan to keep Guild Wars running after the sequel hits stores.
Q: Community Manager Regina Buenaobra has stated there is a small team currently exploring the possibilities of a GW2 console port. Could you describe how that is going?
Chris Lye: Currently we are focussed on making GW2 the best PC MMO ever released.
Q: Even amongst PC gamers MMOs can have a slightly off-coloured reputation. Can MMOs appeal to traditional hardcore gamers?
CL: We certainly believe so - for us it's not simply about delivering a great MMO, we want Guild Wars 2 to be a great game - period! We think that Guild Wars 2's lack of a subscription fee and its accessible and more action-oriented combat will appeal to a lot of PC games who would not otherwise consider playing an MMO.
Q: What are your feelings on WoW's new First-20-Levels-Free scheme? Will the free-to-play trend result in all MMOs having a free element in the future?
CL: Guild Wars has always been a champion of free online play and we think you'll definitely see more experiments in free elements in the MMO space.
Q: Are modern MMO players less willing to pay for things compared to in the past?
CL: No I don't think that's entirely accurate. I think that this is reflective of web culture in general - MMO players are savvy and want a chance to try something for free before they're ready to start putting a lot of money into it. However, once they're convinced that you're delivering a valuable product, they are more than willing to open their wallets.
Q: Will free to play games always require microtransactions to offset the lack of subscriptions?
CL: This certainly appears to be the main alternative to the subscription-based model - but even then there's a huge variety in the types of items provided. I think you're likely to see a lot of interesting experimentation in the area of microtransactions. By the same token I've no doubt there are other business models for MMOs that have yet to arise.
Q: Star Wars Galaxies will be shutting down largely due to the impending release of SWTOR. Will there be any incentive to keep Guild Wars 1 running when the sequel launches?
CL: The only incentive we need is to have an active player base. Guild Wars is a very cost effective game to support and because there is no active cost to maintain both a Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 account. We could see a lot of players keeping both.
Q: Can gamers realistically play more than one MMO at a time?
CL: Absolutely! When you ask that question I think most people think "can gamers realistically play more than one grindy subscription-based MMO at a time?" The answer to that question is probably "No." However, Guild Wars 2 doesn't charge a subscription and our gameplay is built to be accessible and allow players to pop in and out as they choose. Based on that we can happily coexist with other MMOs.
Q: It's suggested Rift has managed to siphon off a bit of WoW's subscription base when it first launched. Do you expect your established brand to do the same?
CL: Obviously our hope is to pull in gamers from all sorts of genres - no doubt some of these players will be from other MMO franchises. Overall though it's our hope that Guild Wars 2 opens the genre to players who wouldn't otherwise play an MMO.