In the past few years MMORPGs have been somewhat of a letdown. With other game genres such as battle royale and MOBAs being front and center of game development, it feels as though game developers were only the latest in a long list of people who had turned their back on MMORPGs. Despite this, there still remains a very large population of players looking for the next big thing in the MMO genre. Bless Online was supposed to be that next big thing.
I remember several conversations I had with friends of mine when I asked them, “hey what is a good MMO to play.” Many of them, having been on the bless hype train for quite some time, replied, “just wait until Bless Online.” When the game finally released in NA on May 28th, its launch was a disaster. Reports of server issues and in-game bugs plagued its launch day. But any veteran MMORPG player knows that this is usually how it goes with server launches. Yet, right from the get-go, a certain negativity attached itself to the game. For people who had been waiting enthusiastically for this game’s release, launch day struggles were simply the first strike. More were to follow.
After Neowiz managed its initial launch day technicalities, the game was eventually stable enough to play. Having paid at least the 40 USD founders pack, people intended to get their moneys worth and began dedicating hours upon hours to leveling up their characters. There was certainly nothing special about the leveling process in Bless Online; like many other Eastern developed MMOs, leveling was only a means to an endgame.
When the hardcore players had reached the maximum level, they were the first to explore the endgame features that were available on the NA servers. Only, they soon learned that there was no endgame content available to them. The content had been gated and would be progressively released over the next few weeks or months. Naturally, they shared these findings with fellow players who were soon enraged. Although Neowiz had public releases talking about endgame content availability, players didn’t expect it to be as lacking as it was in its current state.
Now, I’m no game developer but releasing a game in such a lacking state can’t have any real benefits. The hardcore players are the most dedicated to your game and in many cases, will most likely be the ones that pay the most for cash shop items. Betraying their dedication by not offering them any endgame content until a later date is how you lose these players in spectacular fashion. Put this into greater context and realize that the game has been out since 2012 on Asian servers. Neowiz should have been more than capable of releasing a more finished product on Western servers.
But the fact of the matter is they didn’t. In addition to that, in-game exploits such as duping that were an issue back when the game released on Asian servers were not patched upon NA release. Issues such as these caused greater distrust of Neowiz by their playerbase. Bless Online’s Western release seemed more like a cash grab than a true attempt at implementing Bless Online to a western audience.
But there appears to be a silver lining to all of this. When a new game fails to live up to the hype, many of us are inspired to take another look at the games we already have. For many players that quit Bless Online, referring to themselves as “Bless Refugees,” Guild Wars 2 started to gain their attention in ways that it hadn’t before. Most people regarded Guild Wars 2 as a quality MMORPG in terms of its graphics, play style, and content. Yet, for more hardcore MMORPG players, the game was always regarded as one for casuals or players who were new to the MMO genre. Guild Wars 2 players didn’t disagree with that review either. Whereas World of Warcraft was more like a job, giving players lists of content they had to do in order to do more content, Guild Wars 2 was like a hobby, where you could pick and choose what you wanted to do and how you wanted to go about doing it.
However, since it first launched in January 2012, Guild Wars 2 has gone through two expansion packs with a whole new set of features and content. To the hardcore player, there is far more content to progress through than ever before. With Guild Wars 2 receiving positive reviews from trusted websites and with the vanilla game available for free, its one of the best deals of the market. While that’s all well and good, why has it become the destination for so many Bless Online refugees?
One potential answer is the influence of popular Youtuber “TheLazyPeon.” He was one of the many players who were (to put it lightly) disappointed with the state of Bless Online. He posted a video describing his complaints about the game but with the assurance that he would still progress to the endgame to deliver more content. Then, when Steam announced that they would give players refunds for their purchase of Bless Online regardless of time played, he made another video saying that he refunded the game and wouldn’t be posting any more game footage of him playing Bless Online. In another video, prior to these Bless Online ones, was a video labeled, “For the first time I’m actually enjoying Guild Wars 2.” In the video, TheLazyPeon heaps praise onto Guild Wars 2 and its developers and recommends the game to his viewers. With 431k views on that video alone, its fair to say that he influenced many people to change their minds about Guild Wars 2.
Another answer is that there are features of Guild Wars 2 that resemble that of Bless Online. The World v World (WvW) feature of Guild Wars 2 resembles Bless Online’s large scale PvP battles. Not only does do the two features resemble each other, but Guild Wars 2’s WvW feature is far more developed and active than that of Bless Online. For PvP oriented players, it would make more sense to commit to a tried and true MMORPG than one that is new and shrouded in doubt by its own playerbase.
Arenanet, the developers of Guild Wars 2, have caught onto this influx of new players to their game and have done an excellent job in appealing to them. From sticking help threads on their official forums for new players to reducing the cost of both of their expansion packs by 30%, Arenanet is making the most of Bless Online’s blunder. Guild Wars 2, while never a game with a small playerbase, is now in somewhat of a renaissance and at a level of popularity that it hasn’t experienced since its initial launch.
I am but one of the players who gave Guild Wars 2 another try after being letdown by Bless Online and I am enjoying my experience. Being an active reader of the r/MMORPG subreddit, I remember reading a comment in a thread about MMORPGs that resonated with me. The author (the name escapes me) remarked that, “good MMOs are like bread. The good ones rise to the top.” Even 6 years after its initial launch, Guild Wars 2 is still surprising veteran MMORPG players that they could go for so long without giving Guild Wars 2 a legitimate try. Now that regret is being mended by hours of gametime that they are now spending in the world of Tyria. In the case of Guild Wars 2, one game’s loss is another game’s gain.