Up until today I have been heaping praise on the Arena.net for their upcoming Guild Wars 2 product, which I had the joy and honor to evaluate about a month ago. The game just seems to get so many things right that it had been my most anticipated game of the year.
Then today I get an email from NCSoft describing how I can “Spend your gems on any items in the Gem Store, or trade them for gold through the in-game currency exchange”. When I played gold was very scarce, and thus extremely valuable. This made the game challenging and players appreciated this. I have written many articles and papers over the years (many available via my blog link) explaining how the key to building a successful virtual economy is maintaining scarcity and not selling game objectives.
In games like GW2 (or WoW for that matter) you have two primary advancement paths, as described in my chapter on “Virtual Achievement”. The first being leveling, the other the wealth accumulation pathway. If the max level in your game is 60, and you let them just buy L60, this can really ruin your game in many ways and very few developers are desperate enough to do this. Selling wealth is very much the same, but even worse since wealth achievement is the long term goal that continues to motivate players after they hit the level cap.
From a real money transfer perspective, the only thing worse than having your game trolled by gold farmers is to make your currency worthless so that they don’t even bother. This is what will happen here since the primary resource input in the game is now guaranteed to be RMT activity, in this case RMT1 as I describe in my “Real Money Transfer Classification” paper.
Now GW2 attempts to implement a player-crafting economy, which was broken the last time I saw it. In case they are still improving it, I am not sure they should bother. You see a big part of the game, from a crafting perspective, is hunting for resource nodes. But in GW2 you can just buy those same resources if you can afford the high shop prices despite the tight coin supply. By allowing gold selling, anyone can just buy their way past this content also, further degrading the play experience and potential for prestige in the game.