Via MMO-Quests comes the news that LOTRO is having another welcome back weekend. When? Possibly as soon as now.
Re-trialing on a fixed schedule
There are pros and cons to doing free re-trials as specific date events, rather than open re-trials like the ones offered by WoW and Warhammer. I opted not to take Warhammer up on their re-trial offer at the moment, because I don't have much time to spend playing it. By contrast, I will definitely spend some time in Middle Earth this weekend, since doing so does not cost me anything (i.e. the opportunity to re-trial at a later date when I have more time). Also, simply reactivating all non-banned inactive accounts for a weekend removes any question of asking for billing information and subsequent PR issues.
On the downside, I'm going into this thing with the mindset of "I should take a look at how the game is doing for future reference, and probably a blog post". I won't have time for a more in-depth trip into Moria (I presume that the trial includes the expansion, though their site doesn't really confirm that) given the almost complete lack of advance notice and the other things I have going on, both online and offline at the moment. A week-long trial is, if you plan it right, enough time to get the game back into your weekly routine and decide that you'd like to keep playing right now, while a weekend trial is enough to do some quests, maybe gain a level or two, and put the account back into mothballs until later.
In other news, Turbine's PR department kind of fails at promoting this thing. As of now, I still have yet to get an email advertising the event. This is a bit of an issue, since a player who hears about it on Friday but doesn't want to spend the evening's prime gaming hours watching the patcher do its thing might not even get back into the game before the thing ends. The event did make Massively's headlines, and the new LOTRO Combo Blog (a new aggregation feed for LOTRO blogs) but you'd think they'd want to promote their own event a bit more.
Advertising bonus experience
One thing that this promotion does have in common with Warhammer's version is an emphasis on bonus exp. Warhammer points out that retrial characters will get full rested exp for time away (one imagines that someone who had paid to resubscribe before the retrial program would have gotten the same benefit, but that's besides the point), while LOTRO is offering 25% bonus exp on top of rested exp. I'm sure these incentives are intended to sweeten the pot for someone considering whether the retrials are worth their time, but I find them odd from the incentive perspective.
Is the implication with these advertisements that developers think players chose to leave the game because they were dissatisfied with the exp curve? In fairness, I actually did choose to leave LOTRO because the content in the mid-late 40's was excessively grindy at the time, and players leveled similar complaints against Warhammer's exp/reknown curves. Still, the solution to those complaints are permanent additions to the game (which both games have done), not merely a temporary bonus that goes away after the retrial weekend.
The other question is whether I actually WANT bonus exp. As I've noted, EQ2's exp curve is arguably too quick after all the bonuses and exp curve rebalancing. The whole purpose of someday going back to LOTRO would be to play through the new content. Why would I want to bypass some of that content with faster exp?
With the new expansion, Allarond can gain 10 additional levels. Gaining even one of those levels during the latest re-trial (not a total stretch - again, presuming that the re-trial includes the expansion - since I gained two levels during the game's first re-trial weekend) would be like raiding the fridge to eat my dessert early; the immediate gratification is nice, but I'm just stealing from my own enjoyment down the road. (More importantly from Turbine's perspective, this is now the third LOTRO retrial, and it would seem like biannual retrials might actually allow a focused player to burn through a large portion of the game's new content.)
Perhaps players are ultimately more likely to resubscribe in the short term when given a bonus that offers immediate gratification. (In addition to bonus exp, pre-existing low level LOTRO characters might gain multiple levels immediately due to a revamped exp curve in the most recent patch.) I'm just questioning whether giving away levels helps in the long-run, or just makes players like myself run out of content faster.