September 1, 2012

Talking Tyria: No more Guild Wars 2 Digital Sales (for now)

Talking Tyria is our editorial column that discusses the varying opinions around Guild Wars 2.

     Arena Net has recently released a statement via their Facebook page, as well as other social channels, that it is discontinuing digital sales until further notice. Check out the original quote as well as our editorial after the break.

Ensuring the best possible play experience for our fans is our highest priority. We’ve said before that we would be willing to temporarily disable first-party digital sales if we felt our high player concurrency may compromise player experiences. We have now reached that point.

Effective immediately we have disabled sales via To be clear, box and digital sales are still available via our retail partners. We are tracking our concurrency closely while expanding our infrastructure. We’ll re-enable first-party digital sales as soon as we feel that we can do so safely. ~RB2

     This is quite an interesting move on their part. Normally, large game companies tend to try to expand their infrastructure to take in a steadily increasing playerbase. This means that companies don't tend to limit their distribution channels and ship out as much copies of the game as they can. Taking this further, distributing digitally even has a lot of incentives for most companies since it does not include the standard overhead costs in producing a physical boxed copy and shipping it to distributors. Knowing all this, I am struggling to think of a negative around Arena Net's decision. As a player, it just makes sense.

Both digital editions are sold out
     Even though I said that companies tend to just continue to expand their infrastructure by adding servers and what not, in implementation, this isn't as straightforward and players tend to feel the effects of poorly managed expansion strategies. This decision of Arena Net shows that they are aware of their current assets and think that they have reached an optimal point to ensure a fluid game experience. It sounds too benevolent at first glance but if you think about it, it is safe to assume that the company most likely have already turned a profit. It's essentially a win-win situation for the company and the playerbase. I get to play the game in the best way possible, they have already expand their coffers. Besides, with the gem shop in the game, they still have other ways to earn from their creation.

     It's not all fun and games though since there is one obvious down side to this approach. This will alienate a large group of new and interested players. Yes, boxed sales aren't covered by this limitation, but in this day of the internet, a lot more people tend to just buy things off the internet. So they will be losing quite a few potential customers this way.

     With all that said, it seems that the developers are looking at the long run for this decision. Keeping a sufficient number playing the game tests their capabilities to sustain it while relatively limiting the growth can ensure that they can optimize the experience at a steady pace. Once the company feels more confident that it can accommodate more people, then they'll just reinstate the digital sales. It has its downsides though since some customers may decide to put their time and money elsewhere, but if they can deliver a solid game experience, then this drop is just for the short term and can still be won back. It has been a while since I saw a company make decisions with a clear focus on the experience of its players. I am still cautious at this point but if they continue this, other companies may have to rethink their community strategy.

Check out the full post on Facebook: Guild Wars 2 Facebook Post

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