"I really can't believe that ArenaNet is doing something so terrible as selling things that increase the number of options available to players. The difference with the mercenary heroes may be small, but it's a horribly slippery slope that you're sliding down; where will it stop?! — Raine Valen 1:46, 9 Mar 2011 (UTC)"
Raine sarcastically made that comment, implying that there is nothing bad about selling parts of a game after people have already bought the full game. Until a short while ago, I was more or less neutral on this subject, but an impulsive trip to yet another terrible game made me change my mind. Let me explain.
I decided to jump into the MMO genre again and give one of the hundreds of bad WoW clones, toe-cringing UO-wannabes, and boring grindfests a try. One of them looked promising for a couple of reasons, the foremost being that the game is a MMO adaptation of D&D, the roleplaying system I have many fond memories of and still occasionally enjoy (though not the completely butchered 4th edition of it.) As the game is advertised as having a "cash shop", this implies that the game is largely playable without resorting to the shop.
Well, "playable" is a relative term. You have access to 4 races, of which only 1 is desired in the endgame, and 6 classes. The flashy golden coin icons block off the rest, nagging you all the time, and apart from the newbie island, they do not go away. From the 3rd area onwards, most of the quests you come across are only possible to enter if you pay for them. A huge portion of the game (about more than half of it) is inaccessible unless you pay. You pay for good races, you pay to level your character in a way that is not a chore, you pay to level up faster, you pay, you pay, you pay.
But hey, if the content is well-designed, one would be willing to buy for it, right? Well, that is another issue: it is rare to find people to play the quests with. You can do some of them alone, but the later ones are either beyond possibility for just 1 person or you will lose much of the rewards of it. A certain quest actually REQUIRES at least 2 people to play it. If there is nobody to do the quest with, congrats, you wasted your money for this piece of shit.
Contrary to what Raine implied, this IS a slippery slope going rapidly downwards. If this is the future of gaming, if DDO and GW are setting the standard of future games, it is not a future I am looking forward to. Imagine what Diablo 2 would be like if you have to pay to access Nihlatak's area and the Pit of Acheron. Imagine Fire Emblem with character recruiting restrictions based on how much you pay for the game. Imagine Heroes of Might and Magic with half of the maps blocked for you because you have not unlocked them with real-world money. It would be the worst era of gaming ever experienced. And is it bad right now...