Saturday's deadline for "preordering" LOTRO's oddly marketed Mirkwood expansion by signing up to a discounted multi-month plan came and went. Suddenly, there's a two week extension, with the program now running through November 18th (two weeks prior to the expansion launch date, I wouldn't put money on either side of whether it'll get extended again).
Perhaps they're concerned that players who called their bluff on the original deadline will be even less inclined to change their minds and resubscribe for a worse deal than they could have gotten last week - such is the peril of the high-pressure pre-order. Still, what's the point of charging for an expansion and then going so far out of your way to give it away?
What's In Mirkwood?
Yeebo has a detailed comparison of content added to LOTRO in content patches before and after the Moria expansion. He ultimate argues that Moria has gotten much less content in its content patches than the original game.
LOTRO's original release had 2-3 content patches that introduced as much new geographic area as the described size of the corner of Mirkwood Turbine will be adding in this expansion. Other than that, this new paid expansion includes one new dungeon, one major new feature (new instanced PVE skirmishes), some refinements to the existing systems, and an increased level cap.
The level cap sounds like an open-and-shut argument that Mirkwood goes far beyond your average content patch, but levels are only an arbitrary measure. LOTRO's new levels won't actually contain any new class skills, or, to our knowledge, include any other changes that will make level 65 substantially different from level 60.
The only two consequences of increasing the number, rather than simply adding the content while keeping the cap at 60, are that players will HAVE to upgrade to play group content with their friends and that all current "legendary" items will be obsolete in a month. Neither of these is really a favor to the playerbase, many of whom are not happy with the "legendary" reset.
The First One Is Always Free
My point is not to argue that Mirkwood is not objectively worth the $20 Turbine is asking for it. Rather, it appears that Turbine has taken all of the major improvements which would have been included in Moria's content patches and saved them all up to pad out the feature list for Mirkwood. Effectively, it looks like they're charging for stuff that used to be included in your subscription, and juggling the feature list for patches in the hopes of hiding what they're up to.
Sure, Turbine will be happy to collect whatever cash it can get with early renewals, and sales of the misleadingly marketed "adventure pack" (which does its best to disguise itself as the expansion preorder button on the account page). Even so, it appears that the real goal behind this give-away is for players to accept that LOTRO patch content now costs money - the same deal as Turbine's DDO players get, but with BOTH the subscription AND the per-content fee for access. If that's the case, it's no wonder Turbine is so eager to make sure that as many players as possible get the chance to take this "deal".