Tony at Mmeow noticed something interesting at his local Best Buy: $10 Moria expansions (regular and CE) and 60-day time cards for LOTRO. I decided to check up on this tip in the Washington DC area.
The local Best Buy had Moria collector's editions listed at the original list price ($80). In keeping with general retail practice, they also had out-of-date boxes from the original LOTRO release with a $20 price tag, which no one would ever want since Turbine is carrying the all-in-one package that includes the original game with Moria for $10. However, I didn't see any regular editions or time cards in the computer gaming section. I was about to leave when I noticed a row of crates full of discount games - "buy one, get one free" - at the checkout line. I went over and, sure enough, found the missing regular editions of Moria and a game time card. As a result, I walked out of the store with an expansion and game time card that retailed for $70 last November for a grand total of $10.
It's hard to tell whether we can draw any broader conclusions from these major discounts. Best Buy only stocks games in the first place in the hopes of selling hardware and accessories, and one can make the case that game time cards are especially obsolete now that players who need to pay in a store can just buy a pre-paid credit card. If someone in the corporate structure is paying attention, they might have concluded that now is the time to cut their losses on Moria boxes, before they get rendered obsolete by a new expansion, especially since Turbine itself is selling the all-in-one pack for $10 (75% off of the launch MSRP, 8 months later).
Then again, Turbine can't be thrilled to see their product being dumped from store shelves at prices that undercut a direct subscription. If they can't count on shelf space in stores anymore, attracting new players could be difficult. Turbine can't even count on revenue from the game's most faithful players, since many of them purchased lifetime subscriptions at launch for a mere $200. If this is where the game is, the aggressive free retrials make a bit more sense.
(Just two weeks ago, I wrote that I would be skipping the Moria era. Like most of my less-than-reliable predictions, I failed to anticipate that a major retailer would offer me two months of a LOTRO expansion I did not own for the price of two months of premium subscription to Free Realms. As an aside, if anyone has any advice beyond the public realm forums on how to find a good LOTRO guild on Vilya-US, I'm apparently in the market for one. The timing coincidentally works out reasonably well for me - given my struggles with EQ2 expansion content, I'm not going to want to use any content while level-capped until after the expansion in February.)