Friday, October 8, 2010

Re-Pricing DDO Around Sales

Turbine has announced plans to raise the prices on the existing races and classes in DDO, as part of an announcement that the game's two new races will be significantly more expensive than the current ones.  My guess is that the change was prompted by the game's frequent - and probably lucrative - policy on sale discounts.  If you're throwing around 50% off sales every 2-3 months, you're going to adjust your regular prices to account for that.

Mitigating Price Discrimination In DDO?
Here are the new prices, effective when Update 7 hits later this month:
Name Old Price New Price Other Notes
Warforged Race 595 TP 795 TP VIP Rental
Drow Race 795 TP 995 TP Easily unlocked on a per-server basis
Favored Soul Class 795 TP 895 TP Difficult unlock on a per server basis
Monk Class 795 TP 995 TP VIP Rental
NEW Half-Elf Race N/A 1195 TP VIP Rental
NEW Half-Orc Race N/A 1295 TP VIP Rental
BOTH NEW Races N/A 1995 TPVIP Rental
The Favored Soul got a smaller price increase because it is a relative pain for VIP subscribers to unlock, and the others went up by 200 TP across the board.  This increase might be as much motivated by covering the 500 TP jump from what races and classes cost now to what the Half-Orc costs if you pay full price as with any strong desire to pocket an additional 200 TP.

More to the point, all of the existing races and classes have been discounted by 50% as part of sales in both July and September, and are routinely discounted by 20-25% in regular weekly sales. These sales have been very successful - the producers stated that the first day of the PAX sale in September was the game's best sales day ever - but also mean that players are flat out paying 50% of what the store designers originally intended. With the new model, it looks like they're expecting to make the bundled price, so a player who picks up one of the races (at a premium for just buying the one) on sale for 20% off is paying closer to the what they were expecting anyway.

No Impulse Purchases On Races?
My guess is that players don't make impulse purchases of character options, such as races and classes, the way they do with content or consumables.

DDO's complicated and unforgiving character system strongly encourages players to put a lot of thought into any new characters they roll up. If you're putting that much preparation and attention into it anyway, waiting for a month or two to start that new alt is a relatively small inconvenience in exchange for 50% off. By contrast, you usually determine that you need to buy more adventure packs when you hit a certain level and find that you need more content. This is a more immediate need and therefore more likely to convince the player to go ahead and pay full price (or at least a less-impressive sale discount price).

The other quirk to this increased use of sale pricing is that it really hits players who aren't willing to plan ahead. The half-orc race alone, if bought individually at the worst Turbine Point exchange rate, costs nearly $20. The same race, purchased for 50% off using points obtained at the best rate (6900 TP/$50, offered about once a month, including this week), costs under $5. Though I maintain that the free to play version of the DDO model is the better deal for attentive players, the all-inclusive VIP rental/subscription will start to become more attractive for players who don't want to be bothered with watching for all these sales.

At any rate, this is a straight up price hike to previously created content, which is not costing the developers any more than it did before the increase. Turbine is also apparently willing to charge inattentive players as much as a full expansion costs in other games for the two new races alone. I'm generally a big fan of the DDO business model, but there's no sugar coating this announcement. Whether taking our medicine - higher list prices - results in better health (more content in the future) remains to be seen.

Two LOTRO Addenda
If there are any concerned LOTRO players reading this, I think you're pretty safe for now. There's no room in the lore for new player races, and it would be hard to justify increasing prices on existing classes that are included in the Moria expansion (which frankly shouldn't be sold separately to begin with, since such purchases are wasted when you are forced to upgrade at level 50). If Turbine does add new classes to LOTRO, though, expect prices in the 1200-1500 TP range.

Also, Doc Holiday linked an article on Joystiq containing some news about LOTRO's first month of free to play.


  1. Those new races look pretty steep to me. The Half-Orc can at least start with 20 strength, which makes it an powerful choice for some roles. The Half Elf doesn't seem to have a lot going for it, save that they can pick from both human and elven racial enhancements. I'm not seeing how that's a huge advantage compared to say the big stat boosts that Drow get or the immunities that a Warforged gets.

    Still, as you say...if you wait until they are on sale not too unreasonable.

  2. Also interesting to note that the new races have some significant advantages. Half-orcs get a bonus to Strength, which is huge, along with a lot of the Warforged 2-handed weapon bonuses that made them appealing as heavy fighters. Half-elves will get the ability to be considered level one of another class, meaning your "pure" level 20 half-elf Sorcerer could be considered as also being level 1 Ranger and be able to use wands (in addition to having proficiency with all martial ranged weapons).

    To be honest, I'm a bit taken aback by these prices. I didn't save nearly enough points to buy them. Guess we'll see if there eventually is a sale, if I make enough points playing all my alts, or if I just break down and buy some points again. For now, I think I'll be happy with the characters I do have.

    At any rate, I suspect this will turn out to be more profitable for Turbine in the long run. I figure the number of people like us who wait for sales is probably a lot lower than those who buy on impulse or who grind favor for free Turbine Points anyway. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

    As for LotRO, I suspect that if this works out well, we'll likely see more classes added. The Rune Keeper shows that they obviously aren't adverse to putting in lore-breaking classes by trying to paper over the obvious problems with shallow explanations. (No, really, I am talking the goblins TO DEATH!) And, in LotRO, new classes mean more character slot purchases as well. I remember people saying that the reason why Moria came out with two more character slots was because most people said they wouldn't bother with the new characters since they already had full slots on their main server.

    Once again, interesting times.

  3. Er, to clarify my Half-elf sorcerer example: it would be able to use HEALING wands like a ranger, in addition to sorcerer wands as normal.

  4. @Brian: I did not know about that half elven class ability. That is actually pretty significant. And yeah, no way I'm buying them until they go on sale.

  5. Sorry if this is a little off-topic.

    I've commented a few times about these games going FtP and their reliance on in-game cash transactions. I've been largely against the trend and fearful of its affects throughout the industry.

    However, because of what I've read in this blog, I finally broke down and made an online in-game transaction...for Farmville.

    It was only $5 so that I could get a particular item for my farm but my argument was that I've been playing the game for free for well over a year. Even with Zynga's shady practices, I felt that I owed them something for the months of free entertainment. Then I did another $5 a few months later for a charity event.

    So I've now paid Zynga $10 for over a year's worth of free entertainment.

    I still don't like the idea the systems you've been writing about. I can't imagine paying cash for race or class, but I can imagine paying for some extra dungeons or other zones.

    So, because of your blog, I've begun to be more lenient of these in-game cash transactions.

    Again, thanks for sharing your insights.

  6. Speaking of buying races, running another tangent, if WoW or SWTOR were monetized like Guild Wars, I'd buy a single race or single class if it were monetized at a cheaper price from the full race/class package. I'd buy a Tauren or Jedi box of those games as an impulse purchase. I don't care that I'd never get to play a Forsaken or Sith without paying again.

    It would be interesting if GW2 sold that way; I'd buy a Charr and Asuran box of GW2, and not really care about the other three races.

    Bottom line, it's a la carte pricing writ a bit differently, and I love that. Sure, the individual races might be more expensive than they would be under a package deal, but if I can restrict my own choices intentionally to reduce my costs, I'm all for that.

    In DDO, I almost purchased the WarForged as an impulse buy. Circumstances dictated otherwise, but yes, I'm happy to buy races (that offer new gameplay options, anyway) in MMOs if they are reasonably priced and I'm not paying a sub. I'd buy classes the same way.

    It's a time-honored marketing tool. Just likes sales. ;)

  7. @Tesh: The problem with that approach, which I wrote about last month, is that it's effectively a bluff. If you had been given the Warforged, you might have needed to purchase an extra character slot to roll one up, extra content so you can see something different when you level, and maybe even extra consumables if you're so inclined.

    The option to pass on large chunks of the game is there because there are some people who would simply never pay for the full package. The developer is just in the paradoxical position of trying to hold onto the cash from people who might have paid for everything.


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