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Inside the World of Guild Wars

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Unless you’re a hardcore gamer, you’ve probably never heard of Guild Wars, and that would be strange, because after World of Warcraft, it’s arguably the biggest success story in MMORPG gaming. Its 2.5 million player base makes it second only to Warcraft, but it’s not even listed on, the online world tracker that’s become, if only by default, the industry standard. Guild Wars isn’t strictly an MMO (the publisher, NCsoft, refers to it as a CORPG, for “competitive online role-playing game”), and that might partly explain the relative dearth of attention: the industry isn’t sure how to categorize it. Then again, the lack of monthly subscriptions is probably another part of the problem: the industry isn’t sure how Guild Wars makes money, or is nervous that they do.

But how exactly can a company profit from a game with millions of players online, without charging regular fees? That’s something I wanted to know too. To get that answer, I talked with Robert Garriott, CEO and President of NCsoft of North America (and brother to Ultima creator Richard “Lord British” Garriott), and asked.

Guild Wars from the Server Side

When NCSoft acquired Arena Net, Guild Wars’ developer, Garriott and his team discerned an audience not being served by the traditional subscription-based MMO. (“There’s a large number of people who don’t want to pay 15 dollars a month”, as he puts it.) Guild Wars was designed from the ground up to capture that niche, with community and help tools that minimized the need for frequent customer service– a key money sink for MMOs. By Garriott’s estimate, Guild Wars incurs 80% less support costs than NCsoft’s more traditional MMOs, like their Lineage series. There are no Game Masters in Guild Wars, wandering around the world settling disputes and helping players—and charging NCsoft by the hour.

The other cost-saving feature comes from economy of bandwidth. MMO players know all about long download times, when a game has an update, with patches that often exceed 100 megabytes, and thousands of players simultaneously piling on, to get it. (“It can cost us a million dollars for an update patch,” Garriott says of other NCSoft MMOs. “You peak when you release a giant download.”) By contrast, Guild Wars streams its updates in small chunks, depending on what part of the world you’re in. “Instead of having peaks of bandwidth usage… [the update] streams it evenly over time, so the costs don’t peak.” Numerous areas and quests in the world are “instantiated”, meaning specially created only for a small group of players, and that also minimizes bandwidth, since it means tracking less player data across the wider world. Garriott estimates 100,000 people play Guild Wars across the US and EU at any given time, and 1.5-2 million total every month—and still, connection costs remain manageable.

MMO as Book Series

But how does NCsoft make money without monthly subscriptions? Here, Garriott likens the Guild Wars revenue model not to other MMOs, but a series of fantasy novels. The game comes with numerous sequels and expansions, which add to the world and the larger narrative. “You buy one book, you buy number one, number two… We figure people will read all of the chapters.” The risk is that a player buys just one, but, says Garriott, “If we can provide a compelling enough game, people want to play through the whole game.” As of a few months ago, 2.5 million people have bought Guild Wars. (The next standalone edition, Nightfall, goes on sale this week.)

Guild Lessons

So far, most MMOs based in the US/EU are monthly subscriber-based and adhere fairly closely to design elements innovated by early online worlds like Everquest and Ultima Online. Robert Garriott’s fear is too many developers are rushing to recreate World of Warcraft, and will end up with twenty imitations that don’t grow the market. “People should be taking risks to do different things and try to expand the market and business model and game design,” he says. If Guild Wars keeps succeeding, they may have to.

47 Responses to “Inside the World of Guild Wars”

  1. WoW is getting boring for me. It ran fine on my computer but Guild Wars seems more fun but from the pics I dont know if my computer can take it. ALso, it seems a little complicated and Im having trouble understanding what comes with the game of the year edition, because Im planning on buying that. If someone could email me with specifics im at [email protected]. Thanks

  2. G W is a great game and I enjoyed every moment of it on the first download.I don’t remember it taking so long that time,Then my pc got wiped and I’ve just been waiting and waiting for it to install to the real starting point!I thought it must be something wrong with my computer and deleted a few things to see if it went any quicker but I’m still waiting to get into Ascalon city again as a new character.It is reassuring to know that so many people had the same wait -very frustrating but now I have hope that I’ll be playing tomorrow….all being well.

  3. I LOVE Guild Wars A year ago I was looking into the WOW series. I actually bought the game and when I got home a friend of mine showed me GW. After his explination of NO MONTHLY Fees I thought I would check it out. I went out and Bought GW Factions. I have been addicted ever since and have since bought all the expansions and am eagarly awaiting GW 2. This is a GREAT series with an awesome story-line for each of its title and any hardcore gamer would agree. The grafics of GW are amazing as well for about 30-40 us dollars this series gives you everything unlimited customization of weaponss, armor, mods and upgrades to both. In my opnion NO ONE wants to pay more money once they purchased a game. Again Great series, great game. Thank You NCsoft for an awesome series cant wait for GW 2!

  4. Okay people Chris isn’t the only one who has had trouble loading this damn game!!
    Me any many of my friends have purchased Guild wars and it has taken OVERNIGHT to install the damn thing and over two hours for the freaking Ascalon city map to load. And my computer ain’t slow!!! I have good internet,a good graphic card way over the minimum requirements, and lots of RAM,thank you very much.
    But other than that it’s a great game,even though I seem to be the only girl playing it.And NO I did not make a female character it’s a he and he’s an Elementalist and he’s hot lol.
    I also play diablo2 online cuz it’s free and my Druid rocks.

  5. I recently purchased Guildwars in anticipation for my new computer…back in October and have been waiting patiently to play it for months now. My new comp is supposidly going to show up within 5 days and its killing me, this game looks so awesome and epic and I gotta wait.

    When it does come it will great. GuildWars Rules

  6. Yea dude, i ave played both GW and WoW both for a decent amount of time and played in both PvE and PvP aspects of both games, and i can clearly tell u GW is a better game. I reached lvl 60 in WoW and was for 6 months before i quit, not worth the amount of grinding to get there. GW reached 20 in half the time and had double the fun. Also GW structure to its combat system is better and balanced. i mean whats the point in having talent points in WoW if ur allowed to use all ur skills all the time, having to have a defined buid in GW makes the PvP. But GW server lags sucks, and takes ages to get up and running (ie downloading all the maps and cities)

    WoW = 8/10 -graphics arent exciting
    -ridiculous amount of time just to get to the fun part of the
    game (high lvl raids, high lvl PvP)
    -questing in WoW is grinding but with small XP bonuses

    GW = 9/10 -slow server/hard to get going so GW runs smoothly
    -PvP isnt just button mashing, requires co-operation with ur grp
    -Missions are fun and a compelling storyline (if u can be bothered following it :P)

  7. mehhhh i play WoW and i have a 70 which atm is the highest lvl. I am getting some what bored…. there is’nt much to do and i was really wondering what guild wars is like. I mean millions of poeple play WoW and yet not nearly play GW and i hear that a lot of people enjoy playing. Im into the more of PVP though which isn’t as good in GW as it is in WoW. I dunno maybe i’ll give it a try, any of you guyz play WoW + GW?

  8. I’d prefer Guild Wars too, as it truly enhances a person to play freely and do a lot of things in virtual life which he’s unable to perform in his real one. The best thing I like about it is that there’s no gaming fees, and its especially good for people playing in my country, which is Pakistan, as they can compete in it aswell.I’ll give it 9 out of 10.

  9. I must agree who wants to pay $15 a month for a game with bad graphics that I am probably just going to play a couple times during the week. I haven’t’ played guild wars yet but it looks really great and plus I am getting kind of bored playing Never Winter Nights 2 because it’s pretty repetitive. So I think It is time for a change.

  10. I THink Rs really sucks. i got banned for just saying 1 soft bad word. ALso the graphics SUCK id give them like 2/10. IM SO EXITED im getting Guild wars this week. (i bought it off ebay). I really hope its good. Im playing flyff atm (fly for fun) which is completly free and quite big but not enough area to walk and kill stuff. Also it takes aaaaaaaaagggggggggeeeeeeesssssss just to move up one lvl. I HOPE GUILD WARS IS good iv watched like an hour of stuff about guild wars on youtube! Also i think WoW is a rip of £10 each month for a crappy game is STUPID. And i think its a show off. Advertizes everywhere of Wow It isnt that much of a wow.

  11. Bradelyb

    Guild wars is the bomb compared to runescape or any of the other online games that are supposedly free(ha,ha). I have been on Guild wars for two months now and I like it better than any other game in the same genre I have tried.

  12. I really love playing guild wars…….it is the best game that i have ever played and I should thank the guild wars support team for giving back my account because I did not play guildwars for about 2 years now……but I would like to say that we need changes on the market of guildwars…… a game that i played which is called mu online… sucks really bad but the only think that they had and you did not was this software applications …..on the trade market….you click on the person and you can basically see all of his items with the price taged …by clicking on the item the price pops out and you can basically buy it like that…..the seller basically isnt there ….and he left his character…there with the shop…

  13. i think i’d give the graphics on guild wars a 7 out of 10, but for the other game that i play rs… i’de give for graphics 5-6out of 10, i don’t know about other people, but i hate wow=world of warcraft, but i think the closest online multi player games, that r fun… would be guild wars/rs.

  14. All together guild wars was a great game but it didn’t give much of an open area in the killing creatures. I’ve played for about a year now it is quite borish and i’ve only sen 10 monsters at 1 time. And i have spells that can kill 1000’s! X.D And rs may not seem fun to you but i got my acc to 1 and got loads of money. So it makes me happy!

  15. I love the game guild wars. I got it a year ago, and I have been playing a lot I have all the 4 games guild wars, guild wars factions, guild wars night fall, and guild wars eye of the north. they are all great games and no monthly fees. I’m still playing to day as Last of paragon:

  16. hey im playing guild wars over a week now, i really like it, so much, after 3 days i bought prophecies (part 1) i was like ,maaan i got to buy factions!! (part 2) so eventually they made 40€ of me, while i didnt even play 10% of the first game, i love guild wars :D

  17. Stefano Salvi

    I love the whole idea of guild wars but what if you made a similiar game using the same engine but making it about gangs(mafia)
    you could have gangs that fight eachother with a leader on top and different rankigs it such as soldier or capogrime instead of capes you would have suits for armour bullet proof jackets and every gang would or could have its own car or cars.the boss
    or leader could control everything rackets gambling speakeasies ecc..if the company or anyone interested wanted to talk to me contact me on my email adress [email protected]

  18. Tlemish

    I agree with alot of you guys, I would never sacrifice 15$ of my hard earned money per month to keep playing a decent game. Guild wars has been one of the best games i have ever gotten into, I love the layout the maps and the overall playability of this game. NCSoft has has come up with a real winner here.. Keep on gaming…..

  19. I have been looking for a cool multi payer online game for my friend and myself to play. I finally ran into Lineage2 and I spent a lot of time looking into it. But later I found out maybe I didn’t look closely enough. I went and bought the game made an account and was SO excited… but later found out that I would have to pay $5 a month PLUS some other additional crap. After I returned the game I continued my search and ran into this and many other games. I have been playing runescape but it got very boring after a while but I liked the fact that my friends and myself could all play together and ‘not’ have to pay. I understand that you have to pay a monthly fee for this game also. I’m not being ‘cheap’ I’m expressing ‘almost’ everyones feelings no one wants to pay to play a game that you might not even play everyday… so eventually you waste your money. I would very much like for everyone thats pulling the strings on this game to maybe consider not making people pay a monthly fee unless they want additional features. I’m pretty sure many people agree with me.

  20. I think you shouldn’t have to pay for a game that you might not even play everyday…You should have to pay for extra things in the game that way you can play for free but pay for more stuff so either way the makers of the game or whatever are going to get paid too. Many people would pay for extra stuff in the game also… if you look for example at the game rune scape many people are members that pay for more stuff to do in the game. That could be this game too! It looks like a lot of fun but I don’t think I’d be willing to pay for the same stuff and not be able to get any more out of it… in fact if it was for free I would most likely pay for the extra bonus stuff. I would really appreciate it if you would be able to do that or give me any other cool multiplayer chat games that I’m looking for…THANKS!

  21. darkspark

    In addition, whilst those paying a subscription are hammering away at the bandwidth trying to get their money’s worth, those who play Guild Wars are usually those who play MMORPG more casually and thus ncSOFT save even more on bandwidth.

    I like the quests, and sometimes just leave GW running in the background since it can be a pretty good screensaver. The music is amazing.

    I will never pay a subscription fee for any game I have bought, so Guild Wars targets somebody like me perfectly. There are only so many gamers in the world and there isn’t room for a lot of subscription based MMORPG.

    Those that are successful have specific audiences that outgrow their game eventually. I used to go on Habbo a lot when I was younger, as everyone at school was using it. Nowadays my account is dormant, and I never purchased a thing (I did blag a lot of stuff off other paying friends though :))

  22. Arturo

    GuildWars is the best game I’ve ever played and can’t wait until I get the nightfall in a few days its been out a while just haven’t got it yet. can’t wait!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    and can some one tell me if a gaming controler would work a dual action logitech gaming controler email or IM at [email protected]
    GuildWars rocks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Raymond

    I love the game i just got through playing the demo and as soon as i get my paycheck im going to buy it right away and i have got to thank the team that built this game to figure a way to not make monthly payments thank you.

  24. yes it is a cool game but why did they pute the lvl to 20 and why did they pute the swords and sheilds very low money? but its stil cool i like the fiery dragon sword and icey dragon sword those are my best swords

  25. hi my name is rick and i was wondering if u can get my account back in guildwars cuas a girl in guildwars nightfall hacked my lvl 20 wolfstuner and she deleted all my players and my friend dark shadow ftw trid to help me but he didnt know how to get it back i used a demo account on guildwars to find somone to get it back but they tried but no they didnt get so can u help me get my account back pleas

  26. its an amazing game and its dead cheap and when you buy the game there are no monthly payments and it only took me 15 mins to get mine running chris you have a slow p.c lol :-)

    p.s runescape is rubbish

    • runescape is to rubbish and it rocks just cuz u probly a noob on there or u keep dieing i got to lvl 130 in about 1 year or 3 quarters


  27. its an amazing game and its dead cheap and when you buy the game there are no monthly payments and it only took me 15 mins to get mine running chris you have a slow p.c lol :-)

  28. yeh its a great game, i bought it quite cheap aswell, £15. one thing though is the MASSIVE download times. you start playing and imediatly it takes over an hour to install the game, then, when playing about 2 hours to load up the “ascalon city” pcs ment to be fast aswell XD once its downloaded its quicker, but its one hell of a wait

  29. Runescape has a basic free level too, and then subscription as you become more immersed. Seems like a sensible model to me.

    Was at a 2nd Life conference the other day, the point was made that creating the virtual world is very expensive so getting users to do the work is a Good idea.