Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Can A Pre-Order Bonus Go Too Far?

Syp has a bit of a parody of Cryptic's latest promotion for Star Trek Online. By paying $300 for the game plus a lifetime subscription (offer expires before the official retail launch), you can secure the right to play the "Liberated Borg" race for the Federation.

Cryptic hasn't explicitly stated that the Borg race would never be available via any other means. Even so, this seems like a slightly dangerous road to go down as a pre-order bonus.

Would players who are interested in the game decide not to play because they were unable to choose a race that has played an iconic role in the game's lore? Perhaps not. Then again, playable races are often the headline features of paid expansions. If nothing else, honoring the spirit of this pre-order offer would seem to preclude having a playable Borg expansion down the line.

On the other side of the equation, though, how badly would it erode confidence if this feature trickles out to the playerbase at large at some point? Cryptic is presumably planning on item store sales as a major portion of STO's revenue, and players may regard the next limited time offer with far greater suspicion if exclusives like the Borg (or the "Joined Trill" race, of Dax from DS9 fame, which is exclusive to some digital "deluxe editions" of the retail game) make their way into the game at large.

Perhaps this promotion will sell more lifetime subscriptions and therefore turn into a win for Cryptic. That said, this evolution of the high pressure pre-order sales pitch sounds like a lose for players. I can't think of any precedent for an MMORPG restricting access to a player race like this, much less a licensed game (where the licensed races are a major selling point of the IP). All that changes in a few weeks, and time will tell how it plays out.


Klepsacovic said...

Is it worth the risk of $300 to get what might not be the game I want? Is it worth saving $300 to be shut out from an entire, non-trivial race? People don't do well with tough, irreversible decisions, especially when they involve money. It's likely that a lot of people will go with the cheaper option. And then understanably get pretty annoyed if the Borg turn out to be more powerful or have a ton of great content that people are shut out of.

Klepsacovic said...

And in the grand tradition of thinking one more thing after I hit publish...
Maybe the plan really is to have Borg be significantly more powerful but in the hands of fewer players, to better reflect the hive nature of them. This could be a way to have unbalanced 1v1 but overall balance by forcing people to the weaker side (or more accurately, keeping them away from the stronger side) and therefore keep up population to compensate.

Whatever their plan is, I doubt they'll keep the Borg exclusive forever. As initial players leave, the potential fallout from opening them up will decrease. Eventually the potential to lure more players will outweigh the loss of a few existing players.

mbp said...

I think it is inconceivable that players will not get another opportunity to play a liberated Borg.

Think of it from Cryptic's standpoint: They believe that some customers are prepared to pay extra for the ability to play a liberated Borg. They are using it as a carrot to get extra pre-order lifetime subs but once the game goes live that offer expires and they get no more revenue from the liberated Borg feature.

To avoid pissing off those who buy a life time sub they should definitely hold off for six months or so but after that I fully expect to see liberated Borg coming back as either a paid for extra or a sweetener for some other deal. Examples - A Special Edition of the game with liberated Borg ability or Liberated Borg comes free with the first paid Expansion or perhaps Liberated Borg with any lifetime sub.

Pangoria Fallstar said...

The idea is that you'd be playing the liberated Bord right away, where as others would have to wait for the "official" release of it.

In Champions, the life-time sub gave more character slots, 3 months later it was in the cryptic store.

Also, I have unique costume pieces, not available anywhere else yet. I do expect to see it later, but for now, only those who have the life time sub have it.

Blue Kae said...

As someone who is seriously considering a lifetime subscription, I'm not too worried about the liberated Borg staying exclusive. Captains are only a part of your character in STO, you've got a ship and an officer crew as well to customize. Based on my experiences in Champions, I fully expect that the liberated Borg becomes available through both the store and as a perk for maybe hitting Admiral rank or completing some end-game fleet action.

My decision (so far) to buy or not is based on my closed/open beta experiences, what I think the direction of the game is (whether I'll get the 16 months of play I'd be paying in advance for), and the fact that if I do it now I get 2 more captain slots and save $60(?) bucks off of buying a lifetime sub after launch.

melodiousgames said...

In the end this bonus will effect very few people, those who were going to shell out 250 dollars will do so regardless of this bonus, it will just be a little added frosting.

Personally I wouldn't ever see myself buying a lifetime subscription for a game that hasn't released.

Green Armadillo said...

@Blue Et al: It seems like most of you have already concluded that this bonus will not be exclusive - which, one could argue, is how it should be. The followup question is how that expectation will affect your purchase/no purchase decisions going forward.

If your response to the next promo is "well, it'll be available by some other method so I'll wait and see", that's potentially a lost sale for the Cryptic store.