Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Give and Take of Marvel Heroes Promotions

Marvel Heroes is throwing the biggest "10 month" celebration I'm aware of in an MMO, continuing an impressive trend of high value give-aways and live events.  They're also running yet another presale promotion in a way that leaves me less than thrilled with their marketing practices. 

The Freebies
If you are currently or have ever played Marvel Heroes, you want to go to the account profile tab on the game's website and enter the following promotional codes ASAP:
  • RNDMHRO - Provides a token that either unlocks a random playable character (retail cost: $4.50/$9.00/$13.50) or upgrades the random character's ultimate power if you already own them.  These are also handed out this weekend with the purchase of a hero (standalone only, not bundled) in the game's cash store for the above prices.  Your odds get worse as you own more heroes, but it's a heck of a freebie.   
  • RNDMCSTM - Provides a free random costume (retail cost: $4.50-$19.50) for a random character.  If it's a dupe you can apply a different set of stat affixes to it, or grind for an item used to re-roll three unwanted costumes for a random costume. These are also handed out this weekend with the purchase of any costume in the cash shop.  
  • PEWPEWPEW, VENGEANCE, FASTBALL, NOTASKRULL, REDWHITEBLUE: Free one-hour Iridium Triple Rush bars.  Gives 100% rare find, special find, and exp for 1 hour (additionals can be stacked for severe diminishing returns, or you can wait for the first to expire which is generally better).
  • InfiniteRetconWeek - Grants one free retcon device for respeccing your character.  It's described as infinite because Retcons are not consumed on use for the next week to allow people to respec after a large number of balance changes in this week's patch.
  • SPRCNDY2, possible also SPRCNDY (last week's code, but it may still work if you haven't used it) - Grants an easter consumable that grants +70% to various things for 70 minutes, not sure how these stack with other consumables.
In addition to all of these things, logging in every day this week results in a flood of event items good for vendor exp, fortune cards, eternity splinters, and other consumables.  If you are reading this on Saturday, log in ASAP, as today's gift includes an easter basket with at least one free unique item and generally at least two cosmics for your current hero, a four hour pentaboost, a level 60 cosmic medallion, and the Cowbell runeword if you missed it last month. 

My odds of getting a new hero were slim due to how much of the roster I currently own, but I lucked out and got Punisher - not a priority obviously or I would have him by now, but a heck of a freebie.  Also got the grey Black Widow costume (costs $7.50), which is low on my list, but there are very few costumes I actually want so this was pretty much guaranteed to be fodder for the random re-roll anyway. 

With this much stuff to celebrate 10 months, what are they planning for one year? 

The new bundle
The team has also kicked off a new pre-order bundle for the new team-up hero feature.  I have mixed feelings.
  • A marketing email announcing the pack was factually inaccurate.  The bundle claimed to be at least 50% off of retail price at its $40 price tag, but it also claimed that you are buying eight team-ups and getting a ninth team-up and an enhanced costume for free.  Both statements cannot be true at the same time - the highest price for eight team-ups is under $60, so you can't get to the $80 MSRP without including the "free" bonuses.  The websites have since picked one or the other.   
  • I pre-ordered the year's worth of heroes in December knowing that Team-ups were coming and would be available for the in-game Eternity Splinter currency (which I would not be spending on the heroes I just paid for).  Then the feature arrived, and it turns out that they cost twice as many Splinters as comparably priced playable heroes would, which means that you're wasting a huge amount of splinters unless you're never going to pay cash for another playable hero.  So I bought the cash store currency, G's, at a sale a bit over a week ago.  They don't accept G's for pre-order bundles, so now I either buy the new bundle on top of the money I already gave them for the G's or else spend nearly $40 worth of G's for half of the team-ups in this bundle.  Fooled me fair and square, but do you really want a customer who has spent $250 in a year to feel like you tricked them?
  • The hero pre-order bundle came with a bunch of extras, such as costumes and character-specific storage for all thirteen included characters, so it felt like a choice to pay more and get a lot more stuff.  Because Team-ups don't come with any extras, this feels like the choice is to pay the money now or pay the same amount later and get way less stuff. 
  • (Aside: Team-ups are supposedly priced in three tiers, but there are no options available or announced in the "basic" cheap tier.  They've confirmed that the bundle heroes will be at least middle or top tier to ensure the value for your bundle purchase, so we're looking at maybe two of the cheaper characters out of the first 20 or so that will be released.  This makes it feel like the bottom tier exists primarily as a stepping stone to have two pricing tiers above it.)  
I will say two positive things about the promotion - they have chosen characters that I would be happy to add to my roster (if all but 1-2 were terrible, skipping the bundle would be an easy call), and part of the reason why prices are such a high portion of the price of playable characters (who are much more work to produce) is that they are taking the time to do good quality VFX and voice work for them.  If you actually like the character, you get a good version of that character in a situation where they could probably dump out the cheap versions for much less work and still sell them.

At the end of the day, blog and forum posts are fine for posting discussion like this, but you can only buy or not buy the stuff that's out there.  From a rational perspective, withholding my $40 now isn't going to change the business model, I'll end up paying almost as much later for less stuff, so there isn't much to do but suck it up and save the G's I paid for to purchase future releases that are not part of bundles.  It's just always a bit unfortunate to be in a position where you view a $40 purchase as something you should suck up, even if they are giving out a bunch of unrelated free stuff elsewhere.  


Anonymous said...

I have been fighting the urge to drop coin on the team-ups, and I haven't been playing much lately to generate Splinters. It also hurts that I bought Falcon for his buffs (he would have been my 3rd choice), but then damage type for buffs was made generic across him, Magik, and Firestar.

Having said that, I am okay with the team-up pricing because you really only need to have one. Each additional purchase is a "want" not a "need." If you are going to play this game for any length of time, you need more characters to play on, not more team-ups. Team-ups to me are more like costumes than new heroes.

Green Armadillo said...

I think they made the change to damage types while the system was still on Test, but then I was watching very closely because I was trying to pick between Magik and Firestar - I think the post explaining what changed may have been wiped with the test forums as well. Wanted Firestar a bit more, but she's more expensive and a bit less versatile than Magik ended up being. It is a bit irritating that there's so much information that's only available if you're willing to do the hoops to get onto test.

Team-ups look like they are going to occupy a middle ground between heroes and costumes in terms of usefulness. The jump from none to one is huge, and I suspect based on my experience thus far that having a melee and a ranged will add a large amount of versatility.

I am a bit concerned that there's going to be a tailored "best-in-slot" type effect for some of these - for instance, I'm playing a novelty dodge/reactive-damage build on Spidey and there is no substitute for his team-up passive until/unless Gaz makes another dodge-based team-up. I guess this doesn't really hurt me too much since I'm not doing the content that's high enough for it to matter, but I'd be irked if I was raiding and felt I needed the stats.

One other issue, which I agree is *mostly* cosmetic, is that the amount of voice-over available really seems to have been set before there was the option to have a team-up out permanently. The repetition, especially for lines that interact with heroes who are more common due to being starter characters, gets very very old compared to a game (e.g. DIII) that was designed with the intent of having your NPC out all the time. Fortunately, Magik's passives are universally useful.

On the plus side, enhanced costumes make this system look like a bargain. There are a few enhanced costumes I'd consider paying for if they didn't cost double the price of a hero (who comes with a costume, animation, and voice work). For the price of two enhanced costumes, this pack offers up 9 team-ups (and one enhanced costume) that actually do something functional and presumably will all add little voice easter eggs to all of your characters.