Guild Wars 2′s Gem Store is one of the most debated topics for curious, prospective players. It’s easy to understand why. Many “free-to-play” MMORPGs offer similar shops, usually known as cash shops or microtransaction shops, and some of the items sold end up severely impacting the game for all types of players. The term often used for these games is “pay to win”, and it’s fairly accurate in most cases. The players with the most shop-bought items generally end up at the top of the food chain, which is unfair for everyone else. The notion of GW2 going this same route leaves a bad taste in many gamers’ mouths.
But will ArenaNet go that route? Many other games have made microtransaction shops that don’t contain items that have such a huge impact on gameplay, and merely contain novelty, vanity, cosmetic, and collectable items. And let’s face it, shops like this do well in popular games, because players love items that bring character to their characters. Character is good in MMOs. Unbalanced godly items are not.
ArenaNet seems to realize this, thankfully, and their intentions seem well-placed. The early announcements regarding the Gem Store voiced the same concern many of us share– developers didn’t want items that give players any type of unfair advantage, and they didn’t want to require players to use the shop in order to enjoy the game as it stood. Many of us breathed a sigh of relief knowing ArenaNet was on the same page we were.
During the last beta weekend, we were able to steal a glimpse of many of the items intended for the shop. Many testers were even able to play around with the actual currency, and get a feel for how the intricate system works. Here’s a look at the items available so far, the system itself, and my personal thoughts on how the Gem Store is shaping up currently:
Gem Store Items
So far, the store has six different tabs of unique items: Style, Consumable, Support, Account, Boosts, and Minis. Most of them are pretty self-explanatory. Let’s start at the top, with the Style tab. Click on any of these images to bring up a full-size screenshot. Items are listed in the order of appearance.
Style Tab –
Carnival Ringmaster’s Hat – The hat of a carnival ring master – 200 gems
Cook’s Outfit – Get cooking with this 5 piece outfit (hat, shirt, pants, boots, gloves) – 700 gems
Fine Transmutation Stone – One Use. Combine the appearance of one item with the attributes of another. Items must be of the same type. Usable on all item levels – 200 gems for 5, 360 gems for 10, 800 gems for 25
Transmutation Stone – One Use. Combine the appearance of one item with the attributes of another. Items must be of the same type. Usable on items up to level 79 – 200 gems for 5, 360 gems for 10, 800 gems for 25
Pirate Mate’s Outfit – Is a pirate’s life for you? If so, this outfit (hat, shirt, pants, boots, gloves, toy sword) has what you need. Wear all the pieces and gain access to 5 pirate themed skills! – 700 gems
Scholar’s Outfit – Show off your smarts with this 2 piece scholar’s outfit (shirt, pants) – 300 gems
Yep, plenty of cosmetic items. I think the transmutation stone approach is pretty smart. MMOs keep trying all sorts of new ideas for wardrobe and costume features, but these stones offer up a simple solution that utilizes the Gem Store well.
Consumable Tab –
Dye Pack – Each dye box contains 3 random dyes (2 common and 1 uncommon). Once a dye has been unlocked on a character it can be used as many times as you like to color armor and town clothes. Collect them all! – 150 gems
Magic Plant Food – Grows a colorful seed into a dye plant instantly – 50 gems
Mystic Key – This key will unlock one Mystic Chest. Mystic Chests can be found randomly on enemies or in hidden places in the world – 125 gems
A couple of things to note here. First of all, reusable dyes that act as a feature to unlock instead of silly items that need to be hauled around is a solid idea, if you ask me. I’m not sure why they’re per character, but that’s really my only complaint about the game’s dye system. I really like being able to go to my equipment screen and pick an armor color, instead of fussing with materials, crafting, inventory space, and bank space.
The Mystic Keys? They also drop off mobs around Tyria. They seem fairly rare, and random, but they’re out there. So no, these keys aren’t a “shop-only” feature.
Support Tab –
Asuran Bank Portal – Each portal allows access to your bank from anywhere once – 35 gems for 1, 125 gems for 5
Instant Repair Canister – Each canister fully repairs your items without the need of a repair merchant. This item cannot be used while in a Dungeon – 70 gems for 1, 300 gems for 5
Perfect Salvage Kit – This kit is guaranteed to remove upgrades from any sort of armor, weapon, or trinket and give the best chance of quality material returns – 35 gems for 1, 125 gems for 5
Resurrection Orb – Revives your character from death slowly. This item cannot be used in World vs World or PvP – 250 gems
Pretty standard stuff here. A lot of items that save time, which is one of the “safe” perks of a cash shop.
Account Tab –
Unlock Bag Slot – Add an extra bag slot to your inventory. Each character can have up to 7 bag slots – 400 gems
Unlock Bank Tab – Add additional storage to your bank (30 slots.) Any character on your account can access the storage in your bank. You can have up to 8 bank tabs on your account – 600 gems
Here’s where things start to get a little interesting. Bag space, while arguably minor, impacts the gaming experience of many MMORPG players. It impacts leveling, crafting, and endgame activities. Without purchasing these unlocks, players will be forced to only have 5 slots. GW2 isn’t one of those games where loot is extremely rare, either. I don’t really see this one as optional, but that may be just my opinion. The good news? Gems and gold are a cross-currency of sorts, so it isn’t required to purchase Gems using real money. More on that later.
The bad news? Did you happen to notice we only have 5 character slots per server, while there are 8 professions to choose from? Yeah. I see those being purchasable as well. Kind of a bummer, honestly, but I guess we should have seen it coming, along with bag slots and bank tabs.
Boosts Tab –
Crafting Boost – Improves your chance to score extra experience from crafting items by 50% for one hour – 150 gems
Experience Boost – Gain an additional 50% experience from kills for one hour – 150 gems
Karma Boost – Gain an additional 50% karma each time you gain karma for one hour – 75 gems
Killstreak Experience Boost – Gain an additional 100% experience from kills for 30 seconds. Time remaining is reset with each kill – 125 gems
Magic Find Boost – Improves your chance to get rare loot by 50% for one hour – 150 gems
These are interesting. The experiences boosts seem extremely negligible, which is a good thing. The Magic Find boost really doesn’t seem to add on a whole lot, considering the base chance to find rare loot is fairly low. The Karma boost? That could be very useful. Altogether, these boosts are acceptable. They don’t affect stats, damage, or survivability, and really, one hour isn’t a long time. I don’t foresee many players seeing these as required.
Minis Tab –
Minis Pack – This pack comes with 3 randomly selected Minis (2 common and 1 uncommon) to add to your collection. Minis are tiny models of your favorite monsters and characters from the world of Tyria – 300 gems
Ah, yes. The obligatory “cute little item” collectable that will cause players everywhere to squee and grab every single one. At the same time. Possibly. Maybe not. Either way, they won’t harm anything. Collect to your heart’s content.
We may, of course, see future items, categories, and changes in the months to come.
One of the most unique aspects about GW2′s Gem Store is the fact that it’s not only possible to purchase Gems using real money, but it’s possible to purchase and sell Gems using in-game gold, as well. The market for this exchange will also shift based on the purchasing habits of players. The actual rate for purchasing Gems will be based on how many gems were sold by other players, and for what prices. This means that basically, our economy will be up to us.
It also means that if we want to say, buy the extra bag slots and bank tabs, we don’t have to use real money. We can simply level up, save up some gold, and use the funds that way, similar to other MMOs that require players to purchase bank tabs or rows of inventory slots that are increasingly expensive. It also gives players who find themselves overstocked with gold a chance to play the market, and sell Gems to other players.
This could have interesting consequences, especially when it comes to a player-driven market. Let’s also remember, of course, that we’re not only dealing with gold and Gems as our only in-game currencies. There’s also Karma. Most directly-purchasable items and equipment that affect stats seem to come from Karma. That’s a good thing. Keep the items granting stats and combat efficiency away from the Gem/gold marketplace, and hopefully, the system will keep itself in check.
As a player has seen cash shops ruin some awesome games, I admittedly approached GW2′s Gem Store a little warily. So far, however, I’m pleasantly surprised at most of the ways in which it swerves away from the red flags, and shoots toward a new vision entirely. It’ll be interesting to see ArenaNet’s continued plans for the system, and see how it develops as we experience more beta weekend-goodness.