Guild Wars 2 Business Model Goes to China
MARCH 3, 2014 • KongZhong Corp. is bringing ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 to China with the same buy-once-play-forever model as employed by NCsoft in North America and Europe. The game client will be a digital download that will be playable after purchase of a key code. The model is something of a novelty for China since many publishers have long been reticent about marketing packaged game discs in the country for fear of piracy, and the free-to-play model is already heavily entrenched there as a result. But as Guild Wars is an MMO that must be played online it should prove to be piracy-resistant like F2P games Chinese consumers are familiar with. KongZhong claims that Guild Wars 2 is the first online game to allow players to purchase the game once and play thereafter with no subscription fee. Neither the release date nor how much the publisher will charge for the MMO in China has yet to be disclosed. KongZhong operates Wargaming.net’s World of Tanks exclusively in China.
Impact: We are very intrigued with KongZhong’s decision to import the Guild Wars monetization model to China. Guild Wars is a quality MMO franchise that has done things its own way and succeeded admirably in the West. There are trade-offs to be sure, such as heavy employment of instanced zones to reduce server loads. But for gamers who prefer advancement by skill versus advancement by virtual item purchases, yet also resent a monthly fee, Guild Wars has been a very welcome franchise. Obviously, the up-front purchase and subsequent expansions bring in the revenue to keep the development going. Guild Wars 2 does have micro-transactions through an in-game store, but real money can only be spent on account services and on time-saving convenience items – nothing necessary for full enjoyment of the MMO. KongZhong will be running an invite-only Guild Wars 2 closed beta on March 11, after which the publisher will likely have a better idea how much they want to charge for the game, and when they can release it in China. From what has been disclosed, KongZhong will not be radically localizing the MMO for the Chinese market, concentrating primarily on the player tutorial early in the game. Another reason to keep the localization light is the plan to synchronize Guild Wars 2 content in China with the Western version so that game updates occur at the same time. These are definitely not business as usual goals for a Chinese introduction of a Western MMO, as World of Warcraft’s tortured experience with government regulators will attest. So we will be watching carefully how well KongZhong will deliver. Not every Western MMO is destined for success in China, as we saw with Rift. Guild Wars 2 has a better worldwide reputation than Trion World’s MMO. Whether that reputation will be enough for Chinese gamers to pay up front is the big question.