What kind of in-game rewards do MMORPGs usually offer? Talking about literal rewards (as opposed to abstract things such as “having fun”, which is theory is always there anyway), we could divide them in three main categories:
Power: making the character more powerful (which usually translates to higher numbers). In GW2, power has a soft cap at exotic gear, and a hard cap at ascended gear; there isn’t much more above that. The agony resist mechanic could be considered a kind of power increase, but it’s very niche. Power isn’t really much of a reward in GW2.
(Incidentally, games in which power is a major reward usually are very different from Guild Wars 2. When a character is as powerful as possible, why would he continue playing? What those games do is to continuously add more power levels – increased level cap and/or increased gear cap – which often itranslates to the gear treadmill so often seen in other MMORPGs).
Convenience: some of the most time-consuming rewards in GW2 fall in this category, such as the convenience of changing our stats with legendary gear, or being able to use the Skyscale to more easily move around. The thing is, games that really want to have convenience as their main reward usually create artificial inconveniences, which isn’t usually the case with GW2. Thus, while we have the eventual convenience reward, they aren’t really the major rewards in the game.
In other hand, while Guild Wars 2 has a buy-to-play component, the game relies heavily in its in-game store. Thinking about real money shops in MMORPGs, what do they usually offer? Again, we can divide those in three main categories:
Do you see the contradiction here? GW2’s main endgame reward is aesthetics. GW2’s main store product is aesthetics. Which means, each new skin introduced as a reward in the game is one less opportunity for ArenaNet to make a profit through their store. Each new skin introduced in the store is one less reward for players to earn in game.
The result is a boiling frustration, as players see that their in-game rewards are being hampered by the in-game store. Thus the many requests for mount and glider skins to be made available in game, for more outfits available as rewards, and so on.
In the end, it was a poorly-thought decision by ArenaNet to focus both their in-game rewards and their store on the same aspect of the game.