Thursday, September 8, 2011

Buy Now Or Else

With the unveil of Turbine's pricing plan for players who fail to "pre-order" the Isengard expansion, the model feels more like a threat than a bargain. 

The Offer
Under pre-order pricing, $30 gets you the solo content, the (single) raid, and the 3 single group instances (to be released later), along with some pre-order bonuses of various value. 

Under the Turbine Point pricing, a $30 Turbine Point bundle on "double bonus sale" (one of the best sale exchange rates, comes around every other month or so) will buy only the solo content.  If you want the raid and the instances too, you're going to have to wait for the double bonus sale and drop $50 (which will leave you with about 900 TP left over). There may eventually be discount bundles or sales that increase the number of "leftover" points players have after unlocking the expansion, but I suspect that the minimum real money pricetag of a bundle large enough to get the expansion will likely remain around the $30 range. 

Unlike the game's low level content, it does not appear that there will be an option to purchase individual zones worth of content for smaller amounts of money - players will be forced to purchase all three zones at once for $30, or attempt to grind out 10 additional levels using unfinished content from previous expansions and scaling content like skirmishes.  (One wonders in hindsight if the decision to increase the level cap from by 10 levels to 75, increased from the originally announced 70, was intended primarily to make the latter option less attractive.) 

How to respond?
The irony of the situation is that the hypothetical $30 is not a terrible deal - that would represent the only real money I would have spent on the game in possibly a three year period between when Mirkwood content dried up and whenever the next expansion hits, and the purchase would provide full access to the endgame if I ever wanted to pursue it.  Unfortunately, Turbine's decision to use strong-arm tactics makes choosing to pay under these circumstances feel less like getting something I want and more like giving in to a blackmailer - buy now or you'll be sorry when we make you pay twice as much later.

At the end of the day, I'm strongly inclined to call Turbine's bluff.  If I "win", I get to see the game's epic core story without paying Turbine a dime (or, alternately, the experience is sufficiently unenjoyable that I quit the game outright).  If I "lose" I eventually end up paying the $30 for less stuff, but I probably wouldn't have used most of that stuff since I haven't done much with the access to instances I currently own from past LOTRO expansions. 

If Isengard actually turns out to be worth the money, this high pressure sales pitch was unnecessary - place a fair price on the thing and I would probably have purchased it.  Instead, Turbine has chosen to reinforce every negative stereotype of the non-subscription MMO model, and I'm none too keen to support them as a result.

9 comments:

Docholiday said...

I was pretty surprised by this and I'm really not sure what direction Turbine is going in. I really thought they were starting to figure things out, and then they pull this manuever...

Yeebo said...
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Yeebo said...
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Gesh said...

Not only their pricing strategy is retarded, but their payment system is even more retarded. Yesterday I decided to go VIP in DDO (the game reminds me very much of baldurs gate 2 - a big city + surrondings to quest in) and to my dismay my visa got rejected. The card works pretty well, because Im buying constantly with it, at least I bought the Isenguard expansion, but still no luck. From googling around I suspect that the problems comes from the fact, that I live in Bulgaria and I need to fax the credit card information to them. What is this, 1980? Should I send them money with the pidgeon post? Oh, and when I tried to buy TPoints with paypal, clicking on the paypal button yield me a nice 'the system is not available now' message. Nice, eh? I opened a ticket and I got a very 'helpful' email back - 'Yeah, try again, if it doesnt work, fax the information'. Btw, you cant go VIP with paypal. Why? Oh, oh, and I forgot - I had to 'beg' them to send me a free DD0 key, when I first downloaded the game, to merge with my Lotro account. They have a solid 'automated' system. Sorry, but when you put Turbine next to Blizzard, Valve (Steam) and even CCP - for me CCP are the idiots of the industry - they look like amateurs.

Yeebo said...

On reflection, it does seem like they are pushing the pre-order pretty hard. I imagine it's an attempt to push fence sitters over the edge pre-launch. I seriously doubt the price of that content will remain at $50 for very long post launch. At the very least, it will likely all go on sale fairly frequently.

mbp said...

I am tied on this. As a lifetimer who only plays casually I have more than enough points accumulated to buy everything on the list. Yet I feel like I am turning down a bargain by not pre-purchasing.

W said...

Personally I wonder what's the point of grinding out those last 10 levels if you don't have the new zones. No one is forcing you to be at the level cap and there isn't actually much advantage to it if you aren't going to play in those new areas.

Guinadrodd said...

The TPs are great in that you can grind them in game. In my opinion they were devalued just by that fact. Combined with the 500 point stipend and with the frequent "double bonus" deals where you can get the points for 0.7 cents, the "cost" of the expansion in points drops quite a bit.

I think the mistake they made was in pricing Moria and Mirkwood so cheaply in the store. (not that they had much choice with some Moria boxes being available for $10). That led to expectations of lower point costs.

Being up front with the two cost options for the expansion from the beginning would have been a better approach.

Tanek said...

I agree with Guinadrodd. While the TP pricing may have been an initial shock, after thinking about it for a bit I concluded that Turbine needed to keep the cost high because of all the "free" TP out there. This will probably not change any time soon and it is actually pretty consistent with Store pricing on other things once you take into account the time since the Moria and Mirkwood launches.

That isn't to say Turbine does not have some issues here. The main one I see if communication. I have said that their communication skills have hovered somewhere between dead silence and a bad round of Pictionary for a while now. Dev diaries aside, that doesn't seem to be changing.

The other issue is the delay in the instance cluster which is muddying the TP purchase option even more. What I would like to see them do *right now* is announce what the bundle price will be and, if possible, find a way to allow players to buy it up front. (Yes, the Store does not allow this, but maybe work out a way where players who get both the quests and the raid before a certain date will be able to get a discount on the instance cluster the week of launch that will bring the total cost in line with the bundle.) I still expect that bundle to be around the 5k mark, but knowing now may prevent another forumstorm later.