The LotRO forums have exploded into chaos over the past days thanks to more allegedly nefarious pricing from Turbine. (In related news, hyperbole is becoming the de facto standard for writing lively commentary about MMOs, per Justin Olivetti’s Massively article on this topic.)
As we’ve learned, Turbine will not release a dungeon cluster with the Riders of Rohan expansion. Despite the raised price of RoR compared to previous expansions (due to the expansion being larger and mounted combat likely expensive to develop), the dungeons for it will not be included in that price–instead they will be released later. A lot of players pre-purchased based on an error in the FAQ that said the dungeons were included in the pre-order price. The error was evidently corrected.
Are end-games normally sold separately from expansions? No. According to a thread in the LotRO forums, this is a world first, but technically it’s a second since Isengard dungeons were also sold separately. That’s the way I bought them months after Isengard released. I haven’t even played them yet–the first tier of the grind plus catching up with the virtue cap increase was enough work.
The Rohan pre-order table of perks and bonuses is another complicated beast that requires study to decipher. Am I going to do this for you? No. Just thinking about the Rohan pricing and when/how to pay gives me a headache. I like shoe-shopping. I know what the shoes will do. I don’t have to pay extra for the laces or straps. They have one price, and that price is on the tag.
When I tried to play DDO, Turbine’s other MMO recently, (and quit before I really got started), I spent days studying character builds, the Turbine store, and the DDO F2P pricing to decide what all to unlock and how much it was going to cost. I decided I had to unlock 32 point builds just to start playing because +1 to two of my attributes seemed important in the D&D system. It’s also important for me as a player to feel like my ladies are half-heroic and well-played, not ragamuffins that gimp a group.
For example, the cost in $ to buy higher stats at L1 (an objectionable idea to begin with) was $X, but that was a bad deal. I needed to spend $X+10 or better yet $X+20=Z, leaving me with (Z-X)*points + bonus points – (price of must-unlock item A) – (price of must-unlock item B) – (I hope you get the picture). I was boggling over the money. I wasn’t having fun, and I knew it was a tip-of-the-iceberg situation.
Based on what I’ve seen in the LotRO forums, a lot of players are starting to feel the same way.
What is the MMO industry coming to? Surely players are going to get fed up at some point with these repetitive sales pitches. Who likes dealing with a flood of deals, perks, bonuses, 10% offs, 20% offs, buy-now buttons, XBOX-exclusives, and on-DVD-pay-to-unlocks? It’s all driven by the money, but its getting out of control.
I was thinking a lot today about this, and I thought of my Netflix membership. I love Netflix. It delivers great entertainment to my home, and the payments show up on my credit card bill–“out of sight and out of mind”. I’m happy paying. I don’t even know quite how much I’m paying. I just know it seems cheap even though it’s more expensive than an MMO subscription.
If the gods erased the Turbine store forever from DDO, I’d subscribe right now. I’m confident that underneath the OMG! Buy Now! buttons, it’s a great MMO. As it stands, it’s too much of a headache to deal with. I hope future F2P MMOs will incorporate a “pure” no-store-presence-whatsoever subscription option. This has been requested in LotRO, but it’s an impossibility. The store is fully integrated into every panel and game system, and it grows like the Borg.
I’m playing Dragon Age 2 tonight. I won’t need a degree in Accounting or Marketing Psychology to play that game. If a merchant NPC in Ferelden tries to sell me a dungeon for $10 U.S., I’ve got a bottle of Smirnoff vodka ready in the kitchen–an old Russian remedy re-purposed against the increasing madness of capitalism.