It is my theory that "winning" all depends on the opinion of the winner, and is also pretty dependent on if the "other side" has lost anything. Let's look at the stakes: access to a new "expansion" (the definition varies) for the MMORPG "Champions Online." Now let's look at the price: the usual 50 bucks or so that the expansion might have cost.
Fans screamed that it was silly at best to ask for their money. The game was not even completed and was buggy (although I have to admit that my month of playing it was incredibly fun and mostly bug-free) and to ask for more money for an expansion that represented little content added onto a buggy incomplete game was downright insulting. In fact, most of these type of outcries came from blogs/posts of fans that have been playing the game since launch.
So what was Cryptic to do?
Simple...hand out this "tiny bit of content" for free. Now..I am not even sure of when the release date is, or how long the content will last the average high-level player of the game. I had my time in the game and will probably return again. But I can tell you this with some accuracy: you, the fans of the game and the ones who cried foul, will continue to play this game and the expansion for at the least the next 4 months. While that is a guess, I will be that it is a safe guess.
That means that over the next 4 months they will get another 60 bucks from you. Not including, of course, any cash-shop type purchases you might make. Also, add on players that will return to the game for a month or two in order to check the expansion out. I even know a few people that have expressed concern for returning now so that they might be the right level by the time it comes out.
Add all that up, and you will see how smart it is to give out expansions for free.
Right now I am sitting, typing this blog after a long dog walk. I am waiting impatiently for the new free "Alchemy" expansion to be released for Mabinogi. I will log in and explore all the new content, I will check out and purchase the new cash-shop services/items and I will have a damn fine time doing it. It is a brilliant business model, something Nexon has attested to.
And while many subscription model lovers would think that I am getting "raked over the coals" while being "nickeled and dimed to death" while also having "one pulled over on me", I say that if you are happy about the news that Cryptic is releasing the content for free and will play that free content that you are actually doing the same thing. Nexon gets my cash, and Cryptic gets yours.
The goal for Cryptic, or any other developer, is firstly to get your money. Let's be honest. Good intentions in art mean nothing if no one consumes it and if you cannot survive while making it. Cryptic, while possibly losing money on an expansion that indeed contained little content, will still get not only your 15 bucks a month but the 15 dollars a month for returning (and reinvigorated) players as well as people that pick it up thanks to your confessions that Cryptic is now "smarter and respects their player-base more." You will do the PR work for them.
But c'mon...this is normal practice for business. This should be normal practice for business. This is how business and consumers become smarter..they make mistakes and they learn. Ask SOE about learning, with it's up-and-coming MMO's and hundreds of thousands of paying customers. Ask Blizzard about their ability to have one of the largest NA paying player-bases for one of the games with the least depth out there. Ask Aventurine about their ability to give "hard core" players a place to call home, despite the fact that their hard-core experience is really equal to an FPS.
The customers playing those games, and Cryptics customers, are part of an exchange that has gone on for thousands of years. A give and a take...a learning process for everyone involved.
So yeh, you might have won something. But that does not mean Cryptic has lost anything.
And, by the way...you and I would have paid for that expansion anyway. No one can resist the allure of shiny new pixels.