One of Guild Wars 2's main selling points is its lack of a subscription, but some are unaware this will be replaced by a microtransaction system. The system from the original Guild Wars allowed for the purchase of skills for PvP, extra character slots, and a variety of glamorous armor skins/costumes. The question remained whether or not Guild Wars 2 would have something similar, and now that ArenaNet has posted regarding the issue today, it looks like there are some significant changes.
That's getting ahead of ourselves, though. The heart of the issue is ArenaNet's philosophy with regards to microtransactions. Will they sell in-game power? Designer Mike O'Brien weighs in:
"Here’s our philosophy on microtransactions: We think players should have the opportunity to spend money on items that provide visual distinction and offer more ways to express themselves. They should also be able to spend money on account services and on time-saving convenience items. But it’s never OK for players to buy a game and not be able to enjoy what they paid for without additional purchases, and it’s never OK for players who spend money to have an unfair advantage over players who don’t."
And there's our first answer, Guild Wars 2 will strive to protect the microtransaction philosophy of the original game. That's not the whole story though. O'Brien continues by discussing an extremely significant change -- a premium currency called gems.
"In Guild Wars 2 we have three currencies: gold, karma, and gems. Gold is the common in-game currency. Karma, which players earn in-game but cannot trade, is used for unique rewards. And gems are the currency that’s bought and used to purchase microtransactions."
Here's the important part, this new gem currency can be bought with cash and then freely traded in-game. This allows gamers to acquire microtransaction items without using real money, and vice versa. It also is an effort to take, "gold trading out of the hands of real-money trading (RMT) companies and puts it directly in the hands of players." Though that's a risky assumption to make.
ArenaNet seems quite contradictory with their above statements. By allowing players to purchase gems and then trade for gold, players gain access to items that may make them more powerful in-game. While I'm unfamiliar with Guild Wars 2's armor system and their auction system, this seems like an obvious result. That isn't to say non-paying customers won't have similar access to such items, but they'll have to work for the items as opposed to just buying them straight away. Does that fit ArenaNet's philosophy?
MMO economies are fickle things, and it's certainly presumptuous to assume how things will work before the systems are implemented. It's good to see that ArenaNet's intention to not to allow players to buy power. Hopefully that proves true in practice, as well as philosophy.