UPDATE 25TH JUNE: I followed the following statement up with ArenaNet: "In the future, if we release further Guild Wars 2 expansions, we plan to offer all of the prior expansions, the core game, and the latest expansion for one single purchase price."
I wasn't sure what it meant. Did it mean there will only be one purchase-option if/when another expansion comes out? No. "We could offer different SKU 'packages' just as we are currently with Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns," ArenaNet said.
What it means is that for one price you will get the new expansion plus the original game and any previous expansions thrown in, an NCSoft spokesperson clarified. That's the same as with the £34.99/€44.99 Heart of Thorns bundle, in other words.
So will that be at the same £35 price tag? "We can't confirm pricing for possible future expansions," ArenaNet said. I said I was concerned that as that bundle gets bigger, the price tag gets higher, but I got the same response.
In other words, the buying options next expansion could be more or less the same.
UPDATE 23RD JUNE: ArenaNet has formally responded, announcing a new veteran reward and refund policy.
There's also a word on expansion pricing in the future: "In the future, if we release further Guild Wars 2 expansions, we plan to offer all of the prior expansions, the core game, and the latest expansion for one single purchase price," ArenaNet said.
The veteran reward will be an additional character slot.
ArenaNet explained: "For all players who registered the core Guild Wars 2 game prior to January 23, 2015, and who upgrade their account by pre-purchasing and registering any Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns edition before Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns' launch, we will add one additional character slot to your Guild Wars 2 account."
This could "take us some time", but ASAP is the plan and specific timing will be shared when it is known.
The "comprehensive refund policy" is for people who felt misled by an official FAQ saying they would need the core Guild Wars 2 game in order to play the expansion. This was before they realised the core game would be bundled with the Heart of Thorns expansion.
"Some read the FAQ as us urging players to buy the core game now, in preparation for the expansion release," ArenaNet explained. "This was not our intention and amendments made to the FAQ following the announcement were a good-faith attempt to clarify this misinterpretation."
Refunds are applicable only to copies of Guild Wars 2 bought from the game's website. If you bought the game between 23rd January and 16th June and don't want to continue playing, you can contact the customer support team and get full refund. Make your request by 31st July. You account you registered with the game will be closed.
But if you haven't made much in-game progress on that account, and you also want to play Heart of Thorns, that route could presumably also save you some money. Get the refund, then buy the expansion and play on a new account. You may face wait for the refund.
However, if you want to continue playing on your account, you'll be treated as a veteran. And when you buy Heart of Thorns you'll be granted an additional character slot.
UPDATE 19TH JUNE: On the Guild Wars 2 forum, forum communications team lead Gaile Gray assured players ArenaNet was listening.
"We understand that there are many opinions and suggestions about the game versions and the pre-purchase program. We will continue to read your thoughts and thank you for sharing them. We will share your input with the team," she wrote.
ORIGINAL STORY 19TH JUNE: A significant part of the Guild Wars 2 community has reacted badly to the Heart of Thorns expansion pricing. It was made available for pre-purchase on Tuesday night during the PC Gaming Show E3 conference.
There are tiers you can buy the expansion at: £34.99, £59.99, £79.99. But the issue isn't so much the price - although that is an issue for some people - so much as what each tier buys you.
The lowest tier buys you the Heart of Thorns expansion, and it also buys you the original Guild Wars 2 game. Up until the announcement, however, a Guild Wars 2 FAQ had said you would need to purchase the base game in order to play the expansion, according to Massively Overpowered. The FAQ was silently changed.
The inclusion of the base game in the £34.99 tier caused perception problems. Existing Guild Wars 2 players have to spend £34.99 to play Heart of Thorns - there is no other, cheaper upgrade option. Yet they already own Guild Wars 2, and they paid about the same - possibly more - for it. On the other hand a newcomer pays £34.99 for both. The question asked by the community was why does a newcomer get a better deal - why aren't you rewarding us veterans?
ArenaNet's silence on the whole topic, which has ballooned on Reddit and spread like wildfire on the game's forum, isn't helping. On Twitter game community manager Ramon Domke wrote: "The price would be exactly the same. The core game is included for free in those packages, to have 'one box' on shelves." And then, "The core game is added for free to HoT Editions. It doesn't change the price for expansion. See it as a bargain for new players." I can't see any comments after that.
By way of comparison, recent World of Warcraft expansion Warlords of Draenor was £35 and, although it didn't include the original World of Warcraft game, it did include a level-90 character boost - something useful to existing players as well. Note, WOW requires a monthly subscription in order to play but Guild Wars 2 does not.
The other Heart of Thorns tiers don't do much to woo away concerns. For a not insignificant £60, you get an additional character slot, little statue, Revenant profession finisher, Guild Hall decoration and Glider skin. For £80 you get an additional 4000 Gems - the currency you can buy with real money - worth £42.50 bought normally, so you get them half-price.
A popular post on the GW2 sub-Reddit urged people not to by Heart of Thorns yet. "While $50 is not a huge deal," it closed, "I think that we should let ANet know that we, the GW2 players that have supported the game for the last three years should be treated at the very least as equal as new players. I think it would be a nice gesture to offer current players a 'thank you' in terms of equal value, or more."
We've asked ArenaNet for comment.
Heart of Thorns is Guild Wars 2's first proper expansion. It adds the MMO-requisite massive new area to explore (Maguuma Jungle), introduces a new profession/class (Revenant), and expands the PVP and World vs. World areas of the game. We got a look at the new WVW Borderlands map at Rezzed earlier this year and it's massive.
Heart of Thorns sidesteps MMO tradition, however, by not raising the game's level cap. Instead it diversifies progression through a new Mastery system and specialisations, one for each profession. Heart of Thorns also brings the much-requested Guild Hall feature to the MMO, which was announced in detail during E3.