It's a controversial enterprise because who really knows how many MMO players use X-Fire, Raptr or any other third-party launcher? I'm 99.9% certain that if I'd asked in any guild I've been in in the last decade there'd have been tumbleweed blowing across the chatbox. It would be pushing the envelope to ask most people I've played with over the years to find the official forum of the game they were subscribed to; downloading and installing a third-party app so they could log into a game that had its own perfectly serviceable launcher would be looked on as a sign of insanity.
|You said "in the water" !|
Since Guild Wars 2 launched it has been pegged in second place behind World of Warcraft. The numbers go up, the numbers go down, the positions stay the same. GW2 is not going to overtake WoW as the West's leading MMO any time soon.
That said, the direction of travel I alluded to recently seems to me to make it more likely that the gap between them will gradually close. As GW2 shifts ground towards the territory staked out out by WoW, so will more barriers preventing players who came to MMOs through WoW from making a comfortable transition drop. And should Blizzard choose to borrow some of GW2's clothes and retro-fit GW2 conveniences to WoW in an attempt to stave off disloyalty and curiosity, that in itself may go some way to buttering defectors paws in their new home.
|Hire more tellers!|
Part of this may well be more actual people logged in; new players, returnees, regular players playing more. ANet have certainly been very bullish recently both about their sales and their concurrency. One thing that's definitely making the game feel buzzy and busy and bustling right now, though, comes as the direct result of the loot changes in the February update.
Prior to that, the place to be was grinding in Fractals or Dungeons, instanced off out of sight. With everyone farming for Ascended or Legendary progression the outside world risked becoming a place to pass through on the way to Map Completion then swiftly forget.
|Never has nuclear clean-up seemed so...worthwhile.|
Post-patch, that funnel has turned into a fire-hose. Maps with events featured on Guild Wars Temple's Dragon Timer now go into overflow as often as not. If you want a shot at Jormag's Claw you'd best be there before the 75-minute window of opportunity even opens. Latecomers can cool their heels in an alternate Frostgorge with only some bonus Orichalcum for consolation (although they may be lucky as I was to find the Claw screeching his defiance even in Overflow).
|Barbecue at the beach...|
The run up to every chest-dropper is like a little mini-event in itself, with impromptu costume brawls, dance parties and heavy map banter. The spirit is good because, by and large, people are getting what they want and they don't mind waiting for that. The effect on the surrounding world is positive, too, with plenty of players spreading out around the area as they wait, working on Dailies, doing events and generally making the place look lived in.
The new loot route may be as unimmersive and artificial as the one that preceded it, but having it happen out of doors makes all the difference. The guild bounties and missions are equally artificial but they too occur outdoors and that matters. If game design tends to direct players towards certain paths of achievement, it's much better if those paths are out in the open where anyone passing by can join in.
|...barbecue at the bank.|
So, it's hard to tell if GW2 really is pulling in more people but there's absolutely no doubt that it feels that way from the inside. Subjectively, the game is heaving and it feels great. And if curious heads do poke in from the MMO world outside, how much better for them to find us all having one enormous party rather than looking at a ghost town and wondering where everyone went.