You can now play Guild Wars 2 for free.
The game’s transition to free comes nearly three years to the day after it launched as a buy-to-play MMO without a subscription.
Since then, more than five million copies have been sold, and more than 40 major content updates delivered to players free of charge.
While the core Guild Wars 2 game is now available to play for free, new expansion Heart of Thorns will launch as a buy-to-play experience without subscription fees.
“We believe the buy to play, subscription-free model for MMOs is good for players, and it’s good for developers,” said ArenaNet co-founder and president Mike O’Brien.
“It gets a little tricky when a buy-to-play MMO introduces an expansion pack, leaving new players guessing about what they need to buy in order to start playing with their friends.
"As we get ready to release our first expansion for Guild Wars 2, we want to ensure that we keep a simple business model where new players can play the core game for free, while all players need only purchase one thing – Heart of Thorns – to get access to all of our new and future content.”
Free content updates coming to Heart of Thorns will include raids and eventually additional Living World episodes.
“In making Guild Wars 2 free, we’re not switching business models to a traditional free-to-play game, and we’re not aggressively monetising free players through microtransactions,” said O’Brien.
“We’re making the base game free because we’re confident that anyone who loves Guild Wars 2 will consider buying Heart of Thorns, continuing their experience into the expansion and beyond with Living World and our newly announced raids.”
Heart of Thorns will introducing a variety of endgame content including entirely new systems for max level players to continue progressing in the game. These systems include a new approach to levelling up called Masteries, which replace traditional number-based progression once players reach level 80 with a system of contextual and skill-based abilities to pursue and earn.
There is an entirely new profession, the revenant, and new elite specialisations that bring additional skills, weapons and abilities to every existing profession in the game.
There are also group progression features including guild halls, where players in guilds can claim, explore, and eventually architect and customise giant maps within the game world.
Raids in Heart of Thorns will be 10-player instanced content where players must use newly acquired abilities to reach and overcome ever-increasing challenges.
ArenaNet is releasing the first raid in three parts, or wings, shortly after the expansion releases.
“Once we activate the first raid in Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, players will quickly discover they’re not about waiting to have fun or endless gear grind – there are no attunements to complete before you raid in our game, and our raids won’t become irrelevant or even drastically easier because of a new tier of gear or a level cap raise,” said game director Colin Johanson.
“There will be no wasteland of forgettable raids left behind as we continue to expand the system. Once players complete a mission and beat the final boss in a Heart of Thorns raid, it will be a meaningful event that will linger for them, their guild, their friends and any player who learns that they’ve beat it.”
According to ArenaNet, the raids will require active strategies such as skill combos, dodge rolling, positioning for attacks, and the ability to heal for every class.
“All players in a group will need to step up and support, control and do damage in encounters in order for the group to succeed,” it said.
Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns is out on October 24.