LOTRO – Friends With Benefits?

I still don’t get LOTRO. It’s confusing.

Is it free to play? Why are they selling expansions? I still want to try playing the Warden class past level 10, because it is the only class in that game that interests me (I have tried them all). But I can’t, because I have to buy the expansion OR pay for the character class. What if the class sucks by level 20?

I know, I know – companies are supposed to make money but for some reason they don’t get me. I paid a lot of money to League of Legends this year because they didn’t make me pay up front. They earned my dollars through my enjoyment. I love the Lord of the Rings books, and universe, but I’m not convinced on the game. Let me play the class I want and if the game is any good, I’ll give you some money.

Would you rather con $5 up front, or earn $100s over the long term?

I know this is nothing new. Doesn’t make it any less frustrating. I could have been paying and playing this game since 2009.

9 Comments

  1. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    Well, this is complicated by the fact that the class was part of an expansion. Giving the class away for free would potentially rankle those that actually did have to pay for it in the past. This is one of those artifacts from the transition from subscription-based game to free-to-play.

    But, is there other system where you get to sample all you want and pay later if you feel like it? Think the book store will let you take home books and pay for them later if you like them? Does Netflix let you watch any movie you want whenever you want, then ask for money afterwards? No. The best you’re going to get is a free preview, then a requirement to pay up front before you enjoy something. Even LoL will rotate that champion you liked out of the free group and make you pay if you want to play it whenever you want.

    Anyway, it’s been some years since I played LotRO, but the Warden class was pretty strong throughout the levels. My significant other even did some high level instances with hers as a tank. But, again, that was some years ago and things have almost certainly changed since then.

    Reply
  2. Isey (Post author)

    The MoM expansion was in 2008 and by most reporting accounts LOTRO is in decline – isn’t it better to have more participating at this point? Seems like a silly gate at this stage. I don’t entirely disagree here, as I am still not fond of STEAM because I bought a game one day, and the next day it went on sale for 90% off – and they didn’t credit for me (literally less than 24 hours). That is bad business practice. I’m less inclined to believe someone who bought an expansion 5 years ago would feel that same sting.

    STEAM routinely pisses off any customer that pays more for the same product than someone else.

    The character starting system/experience is the exact same in LOTRO. In comparison, when WoW introduced the Death Knight they were unable to play lower levels (no quest system for them etc.) so I understood that a bit more. I was able to play Warden from 1-10 in the existing environment – there is no barrier to FTP there.

    I am legitimately confused about their system still – why are they selling expansions? Is it a combo of item shop (most FTP) AND pay to get expansions (Secret World?)

    A nice exerpt from Seth’s blog this morning:

    If you’re going to add friction, if you’re going to create urgency and scarcity, understand that it always comes at a cost. By all means, we need to figure out how to make a living from the work we do. But with scalable goods, particularly those that have substitutes, don’t add friction unless there are enough benefits to make it worth our hassle.

    I found that entry somewhat relevant to this discussion, especially to counter-discuss the bricks and mortar argument. The digital marketplace is completely different and people selling in that marketplace need to be aware that conventional wisdom doesn’t always work

    Books – library. Read and do not buy at all. However, if it’s really good, I may buy it for myself or a friend.

    Music – gone are CD’s! I can listen to songs freely though on You-Tube, Slacker Radio, heck, I can even sample 30 seconds of it on iTunes

    Netflix is more like Wow in that the gating is by subscription. IF Netflix said FREE TO WATCH MOVIES! And then wanted to charge me to watch any movie with Brad Pitt in it, I would be confused by the model.

    LoL is unique in that I can literally play the game from start to finish without paying a SINGLE cent – and money is made on cosmetics. I can get every single champion in the game without paying a dime. The currency there with LoL is time though – that is how it is gated (isn’t that the same with LOTRO? Time to level? XP packs, etc?)

    I suppose I get LOTRO in the fact that some of their mistakes can be chalked up to being one of the first to go from Sub –> Free instead of planning from ground up for it. I just think at this point, they are missing opportunities.

    At least one.

    Reply
  3. Pasduil

    How did you manage to play the Warden class at all without spending any money? I didn’t think that was possible. If you could play it to level 10, surely you still have it and can keep playing it?

    I’d say if you can only imagine possibly liking the game playing one particular class then you don’t like the game.

    As for whether it’s a good business decision by Turbine, my guess is there aren’t many people like you that will only play at all if they can play Warden for free. The money they make from people who are willing to pay for extras like that is probably a lot more than the money they lose from people who won’t play at all unless they can get those things for free.

    FWIW, if you still want to play a Warden, at the moment you can get the Moria expansion half-price in the Black Friday sale.

    Reply
  4. Isey (Post author)

    Hi Pasduil!

    There was a free MoM expansion trial quite some time ago. I had actually bought the box and played the game at launch – so when MoM came out I *think* they had a free trial to ex-subscribers. I also think this happened before going free-to-play. The Warden made one of my personal favourite top 5 character class concepts of all time.

    While I may be a “one off” and not a targeted consumer, I believe at this point its better to cast a wide net and include as many players as possible. After all that is how free-to-play works. Get as many players as possible, and the few that pay a lot make up for the many which pay little.

    You are right though – they are the ones with all the metrics and maybe a lot of players had bought MoM and/or paid for the class separately. I am just pointing out that the gating for Lotro in general has me confused and is costing them a potential customer.

    Reply
  5. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    Well, I think there’s a difference between sales and getting something for free. You seem to be asking for the class to be given to you, not asking for it to be on sale. As upset as someone might be if they bought a game right before it goes on deep discount before a holiday, I think there would be a whole other level of anger if Steam decided to start giving a game away permanently for free after people had just bought it.

    The thing is, in all cases you eventually pay. Even the library is paid for with taxes, so you just don’t directly see the cost of the books you borrow from the library. (And, honestly, how many people really check out books before buying them? Most people I know either check them out to avoid buying them, or don’t visit the library at all and just by stuff online when they want a book.) As for music, notice iTunes only gives you a 30 second sample. That’s what you got: a 10 level sample. Go ahead and send Apple an email saying that you want them to provide the whole song for you as a sample, and you’ll pay if it’s worth it. See how far that gets you.

    Yeah, some games let you play entirely for free if you want to grind. Even in LotRO, you could keep rolling new characters and grinding through deeds to get enough TP to buy Warden. Gods help you and your last shred of sanity, of course. If you’re an adult with disposable income, it’s probably worth it to spend money instead of grind until you’re drooling, though.

    Ultimately, your complaint seems to boil down to the fact that you kinda like the Warden class, but you don’t want to pay for it. That’s fine, but that’s not going to help Turbine keep the servers running. And, expecting them to change the way things work for you because you think the game is in decline is about the very definition of counter-intuitive. If anything, they need more revenue instead of less if numbers are truly down.

    As a player, I sympathize. I’m a cheap bastard, and I don’t spend money if I can avoid it. On the other hand, I know I need to support games I truly enjoy, and I’ve thrown several hundred dollars into DDO for the years of enjoyment it’s given me. As a developer, though, I know nothing comes cheap and easy. You have to be careful about what you gate in a game, and giving away something that you’ve charged for before is not a decision to take lightly.

    Reply
  6. Isey

    Hi Psychochild!

    “Complaint” is probably not the right word. I have a lot of gaming opportunities and I’m not really complaining – I am fine without LOTRO. Question is, would they be better off with me? They are missing out on an opportunity to earn my dollars (of which, I give pretty freely when happy playing a FTP game!)

    I suppose “complaint” is the right word when trying to understand their model. What happens if I *don’t* buy their expansions? Does the game world stop, or is there still content? It is confusing and not clear what they are selling or trying to accomplish. With WOW, it’s easy. Pay a subscription and get the whole game. With GW2, it’s easy – pay for the game get free updates, and there is a cash shop. With SWTOR it’s easy, free game, pay character slots. With LOTRO, I’m confused! Free to play, unless you want certain classes which you can buy separately or part of the expansion or you can just buy things from the cash shop along with.. what?

    Also, not sure if I shared but I bought the game and paid a sub for several months when it launched (so they have already received money from me) and lack of a character class I enjoyed was the pure reason why I stopped as a subscriber.

    So while I understand your viewpoint that me wanted to try a character for free in a FTP game won’t keep the servers running, losing the opportunity to win me as a regular and paying customer also also does the same =)

    I am going to guess that they have made tons of adjustment since they started and have found a sweet spot – and in the dev cycle they really aren’t catering to new players, but focused on getting a much as they can out of regular and paying players they already have. And of course, that is fine.

    They are just missing the opportunity to relieve me of my money =)

    Reply
  7. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    If you subscribed, you should have gotten 500 points per month. The Warden class is 795 TP, so 2 months of subscription would be enough to get you enough to buy the warden class. I assume you spent the points elsewhere, though; why not on the Warden class?

    As you said before, part of the problem is that LotRO had to undergo some contortions to work under a free-to-play model. However, you are also oversimplifying other games. In WoW, if I want to play a Panda or a Monk, it’s not just a case of paying a sub; I have to buy the expansions up to and including the newest one to do so. There’s no option to just pay a fee to play a Monk. At least in LotRO you have the option to go a la carte if you want.

    Again, as a player I completely understand your complaint, although I have bought all the race/class options in DDO when they were on sale (or bundled with expansions). As a professional, though, what I’m reading in your post and in your comments is someone casting about for excuses not to spend any money. This doesn’t say “dedicated customer” to me. 😉

    Reply
  8. Isey (Post author)

    I stopped subscribing long before they went FTP. (or are you saying they rewarded past subscribers based on months paid?) Interesting – I have never seen those points if so. Or maybe you thought I was a subscriber during FTP.

    You can play any race in WoW, starter edition but you are right, the monk is currently locked. However, that is their model – they aren’t free to play. That is the disconnect for me. Same happened in EQ2 when it went FTP and had classes locked (they have since unlocked them all, iirc).

    Trust me, I’m not casting about excuses. I am NOT a dedicated customer, but given the opportunity I could become one. That is where I think they are missing out. My thoughts here is that if you have a pretty cool class that may interest players to play your game and invest funds into it, you may want to make them available.

    I’m fully aware of the counter argument that maybe it is so valuable to them that they make more money not making it available. It is from so many expansions ago, and with so few classes in the first place, I think it’s a pretty big miss.

    Reply
  9. Isey (Post author)

    Beating a dead horse, but I bought the Warden. Giving them a chance.

    I found out I wasn’t even using my right account – which was odd, and I had to recover my old account. I didn’t have ANY points though, but at least I am playing on the account I paid for.

    Looking forward to some classic MMO quest grinding. No doubt I’ll share here =)

    Reply

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