As others are reporting, Mythic has rolled out a free re-trial program for Warhammer. The unique thing about the announcement is that the form email is addressed directly to your character (I'm guessing it picked the highest level one). It even says that two of my "friends" are still playing (I don't remember who these people are, presumably I /friended them because they were in the guild that I joined for the last week or so before my time ran out). This is by far the most creativity I've seen in such an invitation. There's even a promise of some sort of an in-game item reward and full rested exp.
I've been suggesting that there should be a re-trial program since as far back as November, so I'm glad to see Mythic put their money where Mark Jacobs' mouth is. They have just launched the 1.2 patch, which sounds like it has improved many of the rough edges that the game had at launch. It's arguably only fair that Mythic foot the bill for players who felt the game didn't live up to their expectations the first time around to give the game another chance. One would expect it to be a good business decision as well - if even a handful of players who take the re-trial decide to resubscribe, the program should more than pay for itself (especially since the free time probably doesn't end up costing Mythic much, if anything).
Personally, I'm going to save this thing for sometime when I would actually be able to play it - I'm already happily juggling two games, and don't have any interest in dropping either at the moment to make room for a third. When I do have some spare time, though, there is no reason NOT to give War a chance at a price tag of "free".
Separating the Product from the Spokesman
As I said in my look at the 1.2 patch last week, I've been having a bit of trouble writing about Warhammer of late. I have generally warm feelings towards the actual game. In my view, they got a lot of difficult things (classes, combat, scenarios) right, but ultimately didn't really get a fair shake from the market due to a combination of timing and a few areas (including incentives) that needed some work. On the other hand, much of the actual news about the game comes via its semi-official spokesman, Mark Jacobs, who reminds me of a used car salesman who has stretched the truth so many times that you don't want to buy a car from them on principle.
Scott Jennings has the latest from Mark on the recent server mergers. (Poor Cheerydeth the Second will be on a new server if/when she returns, as her first home is among the 40 US servers - out of the 55 the game rolled out during its launch - that are folding.) Mark says that the servers had to be closed because there were no players on them. Then he points out that these servers no longer have any players on them because Mythic strongly encouraged players to transfer off back when the servers were underpopulated, but technically not-yet-closed.
A reasonable person might infer that the decision to merge the servers was made - but not announced for PR reasons - before they decided to make the underpopulation worse by transferring players off. Indeed, Mythic still might not be using the m-word ("merge") to describe what they're doing - involuntarily transferring all remaining characters off the servers and then closing them - if the sharp-eyed Brooke Pilley hadn't noticed the details buried in an innocuous-looking announcement and reported it on Massively.
What gets to me about the post is the part where Mark declares that they're making this move because the community demanded it (which is technically true, but was a symptom of the problem rather than the cause) and that he's not trying to spin us (which is laughable in the face of such semantic acrobatics). Did he really think the community is so stupid that no one would notice 40 servers closing as long as they called it a "source server transfer"? The decision to do the merges was absolutely right call. The suggestion that it was the community that forced the closure of the servers by taking the heavily encouraged transfers is outright insulting (or, in Mark's words, "OMG Fail").
At the end of the day, I'm a bit of a critical/analytical thinker, and I am very protective of my limited gaming time and money. When someone is as creative as Mark is with language (he's not the only one hawking the game's gimmicky "live expansion", but he has been quick to push the "no other game has..." angle), my gut reaction is that he's trying to swindle me. Even though this may not be entirely true (the game actually has improved), it's hard for this distrust not to color my view of any news of the game that comes via Mark's desk.
Like I said, I don't know how to compensate for this in my writing/analysis. Then again, if admitting you have a problem is the first step, I suppose I'm somewhere on, or at least near, the road to recovery.