[The Welcoming Committee is a category of posts created in the spirit of Meavar’s New Player Relations initiative.]
Now that the dust has (hopefully) settled on Turbine’s announcement last week about a new free-to-play pricing option for Lord of the Rings Online, I’d like to kick off a new category of posts called The Welcoming Committee. The goal of these posts is to introduce basic aspects of LOTRO to players who are just starting out, or who are considering joining us once the new pricing model goes into effect this coming fall.
One topic I feel was overlooked in the passionate discussions that took place immediately following the announcement was the fact that people have many reasons for choosing to play a game without subscribing to it. Free or Premium players were often branded as cheap in comment after comment, and their maturity was usually called into question. There will, of course, be all kinds of player coming into the game once the free-to-play option launches; and yes, I’m sure many of them will come simply because it’s “free” (though that’s not really the case, if you read the player chart linked below). However, there are also many players for whom the new pricing model might be a great incentive to immerse themselves in Tolkien’s world. In this post, I’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of the three play options that will make up the LOTRO community in a few months, and who might best benefit from them. For a full description of what each category has access to, and for answers to common questions, please see the official FAQ, the Player Chart, and this great resource thread posted in the forums.
Who are they? Free Players are those who have not (yet) paid for any content in Lord of the Rings Online.
Advantages: It’s free!
Disadvantages: Well, it’s kind of free. As you will see in the player chart linked above, Free Players are quite limited as to where they can quest, what they can own (money, storage space), and what classes they can play.
The Free option is great for players who want to try out the game without having to make a quick decision as to whether they want to subscribe. Think of it as an unlimited free trial. It’s also an interesting option for anyone simply wanting to role-play a character: make your hobbit, set him/her in the Shire, and role-play to your heart’s content!
However, my guess is that the Free Players who choose to remain in the game will normally take one of the following two options.
Who are they? Premium Players are those who are either (a) former subscribers to the game, and now want to keep playing without a subscription, choosing rather to pay through Turbine Points for the content/items they’re interested in; or (b) Free Players who have purchased Turbine Points in the Turbine Store. As soon as a Free Player purchases Turbine Points, they become Premium Players.
Advantages: Premium play is like ordering from an à la carte menu. Players can quest at their own pace, without worrying about “making the most of” a monthly subscription, and they can purchase only the content/items that they want at any given time.
Disadvantages: Being a Premium Player might feel cumbersome to people who have become deeply invested in the game and its community, since the have to make sure they are “on level” with the people they normally play with if these fellowship members/friends/kinmates are subscribers. For example, making sure you all have the skirmish you want to go into; or being able to enter Moria or Mirkwood. Premium Players are also limited in terms of possessions (unless they purchase cap removals).
The Premium category is a wonderful option for players who go through content slowly. These might be players for whom LOTRO is a second (or third, or fourth...) game, and who don’t feel they can justify another subscription; or they may not get a lot of play time(or be able to afford it) due to work/personal circumstances. To them, it makes more sense to expand their content as needed, instead of being given 50 levels’ worth of quests that will take them many months of subscribing to complete. This is a model that works for me as a DDO player. LOTRO is my main game, but I like DDO too; I just know I won’t be playing it enough to go through the content at “subscription-rate.” Whenever I’m ready to move ahead, I’ll purchase adventure modules separately; and if I want to try out one of the restricted classes/races, I’ll buy those separately too.
Who are they? Any player who subscribes to LOTRO is a V.I.P. Player. This category includes players with Lifetime Subscriptions.
Advantages: With a V.I.P. account, there’s no need to worry about limits to money/mail/etc. At this point, it also seems like this category of players will receive some content updates free of charge (although I’m sure there will be expansions/packs that they’ll also have to purchase, as they do now). Thus, the play experience is more seamless, since there will be no barriers to the game for V.I.P. Players. V.I.P. Players also receive 500 Turbine Points a month, just for being subscribers.
Disadvantages: Some players may feel that they’re not taking full advantage of a subscription model, especially if they don’t have a lot of time to play (for work/personal reasons, or because LOTRO isn’t their only game).
The V.I.P. category seems best for players who have decided that LOTRO is the game for them, and that they want all the available content at once. They may have established themselves as part of the community, joined a kinship, and have a desire to experience the highest level content.
As you can see, there are reasons to choose each one of the three pricing models that Turbine will offer within the next months. There are good reasons for being a Free or Premium Player, just as there are good ones for following the traditional MMO subscription scheme.
We are all part of the community.
The Welcoming Committee