LOTRO's Isengard expansion has arrived, and it appears that my post on the pricing (which got quoted by Syp, who in turn was quoted on the Multiverse) turns out to be partially incorrect.
I had gotten the impression from Turbine's marketing materials that the two choices were to pre-order the expansion for $30 or to buy the expansion in the LOTRO Store for $60 worth of Turbine Points (albeit with the option to save money by declining to purchase the group content). Apparently there was a third option, which, in my defense, they chose not to emphasize. The $30 offer, minus a cosmetic cloak and an exp boost for low level alts, remains valid in Turbine's website store.
Long-term value of the VIP?
While I'm sure that Turbine didn't object to trying to pressure people into purchasing early, I think that Spinks (who also quoted me) was much closer to the mark than I was. This pricing model was aimed primarily at long-term subscribers (especially life-timers) who have excess points as a result of not spending their monthly stipends on consumables and fluff items. The Turbine store does not accept Turbine points, only additional real world currency.
This seems like an odd move. There's significant value in a single month of VIP subscription to LOTRO, because any character that has been played with a current subscription gets a bunch of permanent unlocks that cost well over $15 worth of points in the in-game store. There may even be value in subscribing for a few months to "rent" content that you intend to beat quickly and never play again. In the long run, though, you could permanently unlock almost everything that a VIP has through the Turbine Point store for less money than it costs to keep a subscription going for a year or longer.
By pointing out that additional cash is going to be heavily favored over Turbine Points - yes, there could be a discounted bundle later, but waiting three months will not be satisfactory to active, long-time subscribers - Turbine could very easily kick some of these folks over the fence to the Premium non-subscription side, costing themselves money in the long run.
(Incidentally, does anyone believe Turbine's excuse for the lack of a bundle - that they are technologically incapable of selling a bundle in the in-game store that will grant access to the future instances? You'd think they could implement some sort of place-holder if they wanted to.)
Arriving at the wrong conclusion
I was not alone in reaching the conclusion I did about Turbine's pre-order campaign, but I should not have been surprised. A 2009 pre-order deadline for Mirkwood also turned out to be a bluff that got extended, because Turbine priced the expansion and the price they wanted to sell the expansion at. There's very little incentive for Turbine to risk having late-comers decline to purchase some or all of the expansion after the price effectively doubled on launch day.
(Aside: The in-game store makes no mention of the out-of-game discount. Is it really a good idea to let players pay for $30 worth of Turbine Points to unlock the solo content, only to find out later that they could have had all the group content for the same amount of money?)
All LOTRO talk aside, this was an interesting lesson for me in that my reaction focused on the specifics of my own situation, as a non-subscriber who was undecided about the expansion. By posting quickly, I missed the bigger picture of the story about VIP's. I don't think of PVD as a news site, but I do think there is some value in having my analysis up while the topic is still news. Then again, perhaps I would have caught more of the story if I had thought and waited a bit longer before posting (if for no other reason than because other folks figured it out). Ah well, perils of being a blogger I suppose.