ArenaNet’s president, Mike O’Brien, spoke with Polygon earlier this week about the decision. “We’ve seen cases in the industry where a game is buy-to-play, it comes out with expansion packs, and you want to get your friends into the game, but they can’t just buy the latest thing and play with you,” O’Brien explained. “You have to buy the prerequisites. You have to buy the base game and each expansion pack just to be qualified to buy the latest. It’s just a barrier to entry. Guild Wars 2 is the game about tearing down those barriers and making it easy to play with your friends.”
O’Brien is reluctant to use the term “free-to-play” because of the stigma that goes along with microtransactions and other money-making ploys that can often hinder gameplay in typical free-to-play games. There will be some restrictions for free accounts, however: less inventory space, limited player-to-player conversation opportunities, and a rule that says they’ll have to reach level 60 before they partake in the game’s world-versus-world mode. And, of course, only the base game is free—Heart of Thorns, the expansion, is still a paid addition.
Heart of Thorns is available for preorder for about $50. It will introduce raids to Guild Wars 2, and in the ArenaNet press conference at PAX, they talked about how players wouldn’t have to wait around for 40 minutes for a healer to arrive on set. “It’s all about playing the profession that you love and setting up your build to support and work with the other people in your party to overcome the challenge…nobody has to go play a character they don’t want to play just so that the party can raid.”