I recently decided to pick up Guild Wars and give it a spin. I'm not expecting it to occupy months and months of my time, but a good Diablo II style romp sounded like a nice change of pace from Yet Another WoW Alt.
The reason why I'm posting about this is that purchasing Guild Wars is slightly more complicated than most RPG's. Most games don't offer that many options. EQ and EQ2 just bundle in all their previous expansions in a single box, as you can't really play them out of order. FFXI has freestanding copies of the most recent expansion, but they quickly go to an all-in-one model as well. I wouldn't be surprised if Wrath came in a bundle with TBC too - what are you going to do, play a Death Knight from level 55-60 and then go to Northrend 10 levels behind the curve?
The difference with Guild Wars is that they made most of their expansions free-standing parallel games. As a result, there are 3 "campaigns" (which share the same engine and 6 of the same classes), and two new classes each in the second and third campaigns to be released. There's also a pure expansion that can only be played by a max level character from one of the three campaigns (max level doesn't take as long as you'd think, the game has a lot of max-level content). If you're curious about the featureset, there's an entire guide to which campaign to start with.
Where this gets complicated is because many retailers will start discounting material once it's been cluttering their shelves/warehouses for long enough. Arena's asking price for the campaigns from their In-Game Store are:
Prophecies (Campaign 1): $20
Factions (Campaign 2): $30
Nightfall (Campaign 3): $40
Eye of the North (Expansion): $40
"Bonus Mission Pack": A whopping $10 for like four quests (content was previously a pre-order bonus)
"Game of the Year Edition Upgrades": Another whopping $5 for a handful of weapons that were packed in with the "GOTY" edition of Prophecies (the other thing is at least new content, I have NO idea why you'd pay that much for these things otherwise, they're not that good)
These are not the prices Amazon wants for the material, obviously. What complicates matters is that you can get Prophecies in a "Platinum edition" that costs $40 and includes the original Prophecies and the Eye of the North Expansion (material Arena wants $60 for). You can also get the "Platinum edition" of Factions, that includes the GOTY edition of Prophecies and the Bonus Mission Pack (by Arena's reckoning, a $65 value, though I maintain that the weapons at least are insanely overpriced). The conclusion being that you shouldn't under any circumstances purchase Prohpecies as a free-standing product, since buying it in a bundle saves you a lot of money on the rest of the material (which you might actually want).
Anyways, I decided to go with Nightfall off Amazon since it seemed to be the consensus number 1 pick for a starting campaign, after I spent a while looking around for the mythical $2 demo disks supposedly in retail stores nationwide only to remember that I'm not a starving college student anymore, and I can actually afford to buy a $21 game from Amazon (just over half of what the in-game store wants for it, go figure) as long as it doesn't come shackled to a monthly fee that I'd be maintaining on top of WoW. I tried it out and liked it. So, I decided to pick up the Factions Platinum Edition too, in order to get at the rest of the classes and skills for my NPC Heroes. The result being that, by purchasing the campaigns in the correct order, I paid just over $60 for content Arena wanted $105 for. I'm used to meta-gaming the IN-GAME economy, but this is the first time I can think of meta-gaming the actual purchase of the game.
Ironically, I'm now swimming in free trial codes for a variety of NCSoft games. Go figure.