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Lord of the Rings Online: Founder's System

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Outside The Box: Turbine's Founder's System By: Garrett Fuller

Editor's Note: This is a weekly column from our News Editor Garrett Fuller. Each week, Fuller will highlight new innovations in MMO gaming as well as smaller games that you may not be so familiar with.

When it comes to playing MMOs, there are many ways we can discuss the game play aspects. Mechanics, design, characters, skills, PvP. All of these things can be topics for debate or articles. In today’s Outside the Box I wanted to bring up something that Turbine is doing with Lord of the Rings Online. It is about paying for an MMO. There are many pricing schemes that companies use to keep players in their game. Most charge the monthly fee, some charge for items and gear in game (a scary thought), but overall the business plans presented by MMOs are designed to keep you paying and playing.

The market is becoming more and more competitive. Players have less time on their hands to try and play every game out there. Most players stick to one or two MMOs and enjoy them over the lifespan of the game. If you eventually get bored, there are plenty of options. MMO developers need to start thinking of new ways to bring players in and keep them in the game while balancing their costs over time. Turbine has put an interesting plan in place for players getting in at the ground level. Not only does it address pricing, but it adds to the competition in the market.

The Founder’s Plan, as it is called, begins when a player pre-orders a copy of Lord of the Rings Online. The player will not only get into Open Beta (expected at the end of March or beginning of April) but they will be able to carry their characters over into launch. This may seem unfair, but it really is not. It is simply giving players some advantages to getting in at the beginning. Plus, the Open Beta doesn’t have too long before the game’s launch, and it really is just a test of the launch client anyway. So keeping my character will be a great step in playing the game. Players often complain about games launched even though they are in a Beta phase. LOTRO seems to be combining the process.

The pricing of the Founder’s Program is also something different. Players can buy a lifetime membership for $199. If you plan to play this game for over a year, this is a great offer. You don’t have to worry about monthly fees; it’s just one payment to play. Also, if you begin as a Founder, the pricing plan allows you to pay $9.99 a month to play the game. In today’s MMO market with the $14.99 average, the $9.99 seems like a pretty good bargain. Please understand there are terms to all of these features to prevent people from exploiting the service. Turbine will still be making the money, but these offers at least allow players some options.

Last year at GDC the pricing of MMOs was a hot topic. As the year has passed, I am sure next week many developers and business people will be discussing MMO pricing again at GDC. Some of the plans were very scary. It seemed like developers were really out to get whatever they could from players, money-wise. Keep in mind that first and foremost, making MMORPGs is a business. As with any business, you have to make money. I for one have no problem paying for a good game. I would gladly spend a monthly fee to keep my account going and enjoy new game content. I don’t even mind paying for expansions as long as the game is fun.

This pricing program from Turbine is a great way to get players in and enjoying the game right from launch. If you are a fan of LOTR and plan on playing the game, then the Founder’s Program is for you. Considering some of the other pricing programs I have seen, the Founder’s Plan seems very player friendly. While the difference between $9.99 and $14.99 is not a lot, it is better than paying more for a game.

Overall, I think the Founders Program is great for fans and players who are excited about the game. Why not reward the players who you know can’t wait to get in and play by giving them a more friendly system. In the end, we all have to pay to play. At least it seems like Turbine is giving us some options. That being said, if all else fails, you also get two magic items. It is good to see companies coming up with more payment options that are…outside the box.