Will it be Screws-ville in Middle-earth?

Speculation about Lord of the Rings Online moving to a Free to Play business model popped up yesterday.

And then I got an IM today from Gaff this morning saying that Turbine just announced that LOTRO was, indeed, moving to that model, following on the success they have been having with Dungeons and Dragons Online.

Great news for Turbine.  Great news for a lot of players.

But what does it mean to me?  I am more than a bit invested in the old business plan.

Founder.  Beta. Collectors Edition. Lifetime Subscription. Expansions. Adventurer’s Pack.

If you could buy it, I have it.

Now all of that is going to change.

And it is not that I am against the free to play model, but I have quite a bit of interest in the status quo.  Moving to a free to play business model has the potential to make my early and ongoing financial commitment to the game moot.

Obviously Turbine knows this, and they have a page up to try and reassure the current faithful.    You get VIP Access:

As a lifetime subscriber to LOTRO, you will keep all of your membership privileges and are automatically upgraded to VIP status. You will receive 500 Free Turbine Points every month like the other VIPs, but you do not have to pay a monthly fee since you are a lifetime member. All you have to do is keep playing the game and visit the LOTRO Store to spend your free Turbine Points.

Plus they are going to bribe us with Turbine Points, the new currency of Middle-earth via a program called Loyalty Rewards.

The following terms and conditions apply to The Lord of The Rings Online™ (“LOTRO”) Free-to-Play pre-launch Loyalty Reward Special Offers (“Special Offers”).

Individuals with active subscriptions in good standing (“Subscribers”) to LOTRO on the North American Turbine service may qualify for these Special Offers if they meet the following conditions below:

To qualify for the Special Offers, Non-Lifetime Membership Subscribers to LOTRO must maintain a paid subscription from June, 30th 2010 to the launch of LOTRO Free-to-Play (currently scheduled for Fall 2010) (“Special Offers Eligibility Date”). Lifetime Membership Subscribers must have at least one active play session per month during the Special Offers Eligibility Date. Only subscribers who meet these requirements are eligible for these offers (“Eligible Subscribers”).

  • Eligible Subscribers will automatically receive 500 free Turbine Points for each completed calendar month they remain eligible. This limited point grant starts on  June, 1st 2010 and continues until the first day of the month that LOTRO Free-to-Play becomes available to the general public (“Launches”).
  • In addition, Eligible Subscribers will receive 500 free Turbine Points at launch of LOTRO Free-to-Play for each LOTRO anniversary (April 24) that has elapsed since they first joined LOTRO, up to a maximum of 1,500 Turbine Points.
  • Eligible Subscribers who opted for the Founders program at the original launch of LOTRO will receive an additional 500 free Turbine Points.
  • Eligible Subscribers who are Lifetime members will also receive an additional 1,000 free Turbine Points.
  • Free Turbine Points will be automatically credited into the player’s account and will be made available for use in the LOTRO Free-to-Play Store after the launch of the LOTRO Free-to-Play service.
  • Points associated with the Special Offers have no cash value, are not transferrable, and are awarded at Turbine’s sole discretion.
  • Any points earned are accrued monthly, cannot be pro-rated, and will only be delivered to Eligible Subscribers with accounts in good standing after LOTRO Free-to-play Launches.
  • These Terms & Conditions are subject to change without notice. To view the latest version of this document return to this URL.

I’ll try not to worry about that last line, the “we reserve the right to serve refuse to anybody”” clause, hoping that Turbine won’t do anything to alienate its current customers.

How many Turbine points do I stand to accrue?

I will get 500 points a month between June 1st and when the free to play service actually launches, which is some time this fall, so call that 2,000 points.

I should also get another 1,500 Turbine points for each anniversary since I subscribed.

I am also eligible for another 500 points as a founder.

As a lifetime subscriber I get an extra 1,000 points.

So, if I log in at least once per calendar month, a minor restriction, I should be set with at least 5,000 Turbine points when the game swaps business models.

The question that comes up first is, what are Turbine points worth?

5,000 Turbine points cost about $50 on the Dungeons & Dragons Online side of their business.  That isn’t an insignificant amount compared to my $200 lifetime subscription investment.

Then, what will I be able to buy with these points?

If you look at the DDO Store Guide, you’ll see quite a few things up for sale.  What will make it to the LOTRO side of the store?  Will the LOTRO Store end up being a substitute for trade skills and the auction house?  I would like to see character server transfers on the list of items for sale.

And, finally, are Turbine points just Turbines points?  Can I use them with both DDO and LOTRO?

I’m going to bet yes, but we’ll see.

A big change coming to LOTRO.  In the end, I think I have gotten a lot of value out of my lifetime subscription.

And while I don’t feel that the servers are “dead” in LOTRO, there always seem to be groups forming for the Great Barrow for example, I am sure that free to play will breath new life into the game.

We shall see.

10 thoughts on “Will it be Screws-ville in Middle-earth?

  1. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    As an after thought, if bank slots and housing become available via Turbine points, I may be completely sold on the idea.

    Also, will Turbine points kill the already weak in-game economy and when will I be able to buy a sparkle pony in Middle-earth?

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  2. Carlosjuero

    Turbine Points are non transferable between DDO & LotRO (confirmed by Sapience in the F2P sub forum).

    I believe that Bank Slots will be available in the LotRO store (from what I have gleaned between the multiple FAQ’s and forum posts) – don’t know about anything housing related though.

    The economy thing is a big concern for crafters – in DDO you can buy pots easily for low # of TP in the DDO Store; VIP/Premium players will not have to spend in game gold when they could spend free TP for the pots instead. Only time and testing will tell.

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  3. GreenArmadillo

    As a lifetimer, it sounds like your game won’t change that much. They’re being moderately careful to make sure that they’re not taking away any features from current subscribers. I’m a bit more curious to see how the model will handle lapsed subscribers – they say that you’ll have access to expansions you’ve purchased, but the implication is that the pre-Moria content will be carved up into “quest packs”, whatever that means.

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  4. Nelson Minar

    You’re remarkably balanced about this. To me a “lifetime subscription” would have meant a subscription for the lifetime of the game to all content. It’s clear now why that business model no longer looks great to Turbine, but didn’t they make a commitment to customers like you? Giving you $10 as a way to say “sorry about your $200 lifetime subscription” seems like poor compensation. OTOH, if it lets them keep the game running maybe that’s a fair tradeoff?

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  5. Tesh

    Of course, then the question becomes: Did you already get your $200ish out of the game, or was that only a fair purchase when it would be a sub game forever? In other words, at what point does the lifetime sub become a good deal for you? Also, at what point does it become a liability for Turbine? I have to wonder if that might be one aspect underlying the timing on this change.

    …also, what about those who recently bought the half price lifer’s pass on the EU servers? Curious timing, curious.

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  6. Mordor or Bust

    Lifetime Subscribers get free VIP access, which gives free access to all game content. Premium and Free players will have free access to Ered Luin, Shire, Bree-land and can purchase additional access as well.

    So a Lifetime Subscriber gets exactly what they had before — completely free access — PLUS some free Turbine Points to spend. As a Lifetime Subscriber I think it continues to be a good deal.

    It is important to understand that Premium and Free Players do NOT have access to the entire game for free. At some point they have to pay to gain access to certain content. So there is a distinct advantage to being VIP.

    Best way to wrap your head around this is to go play DDO. Once you are in check out the access you have for free vs. what the VIP people get. it will be similar for LOTRO.

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  7. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Mordor or Bust – Thanks, I was focused on the Turbine points part of the equation and left out the VIP Access for Life part of it. As a Lifetime subscriber, I won’t be denied anything I had before. And I get another 500 Turbine points per month, as long as I log in during that month.

    I added in the VIP access to the post, since it was in my head while I was weighing this change.

    @Nelson – I’m balanced because I read the part about lifetime VIP access, I just neglected to mention it. It is detailed in the first link. This is what happens when you post stream of consciousness style.

    @Tesh – If you bought a lifetime recently, you still get lifetime VIP access. Whether that is as good of a deal as it once was… well, the price was pretty good, so it seems okay to me. You don’t have to play many months before it breaks even.

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  8. SynCaine

    Turbine’s F2P model for PvE games is not a bad way to go at all. So long as they keep the option to get everything for a set cost a month and don’t start making the more normal F2P-style changes to the games, all good.

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  9. Ian

    If you’re Lifetime, you’re not a subscriber, as they dont get money off you every month.

    This is a problem for them, if they want to keep going as an ongoing business, so getting off your high horse could be a plan.

    Next, a bunch of the revenue for the boxed sets and so on went to retailers, CD manufacturers and so on.

    Selling you Turbine points directly cuts these people out.

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  10. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Ian – Your comment is so disjointed I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

    Are you telling me to get off of my high horse and start paying a subscription? If so, kindly go fuck yourself. I paid for a lifetime subscription and I am not being unreasonable in expecting that to be honored. Fortunately, Turbine seems to agree and has been quite reasonable in their approach to lifetime subscribers.

    If you meant something else, then all I can say, in my best Emily Litella voice, is, “Never mind.”

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