A Thanksgiving Miracle!

November 24th, 2010

OK, it's not exactly a huge miracle or anything, but, if you recall my previous LOTRO post, my free press account got demoted to premium with the F2P transition. Well, later in September, Turbine took pity and upgraded my account with the two expansions and 5000 Turbine Points to spend on the game. I logged in again, bought the Angmar quest zone, and resumed play with my hunter! It was fun for a few hours, but that creeping desire to buy more stuff at the store started to nip at my heels. What about those skirmishes, eh? What about another zone or two? What about some content for your alts?

This is where my experience diverged with that of "normal people." Normal people, it seems to me, would spend their big chunk of free Turbine Points on whatever content they wanted. They're free points, why not? I'd imagine they'd go on a Turbine Store shopping spree.

Me? Not so much. I'm frugal. I don't like to waste anything, least of all money or money-like things. When I got given free Turbine Points, I tried to itemize every possible spending avenue and determine each unit value and... well, the point is, I thought I had better hold on to as many points as possible until I reach the end of the game, and determine then where best to spend the points. The problem is that you have to spend some points on adventure areas to reach the end of the game. I had already bought the one adventure pack, I should just focus on that until I at least finished every last quest and got my points' worth.

But I felt trapped in that one zone. The novelty of it wore off quickly. I hate quest grinding - a topic about which I plan on writing a blog entry on Gamasutra soon. Anyhow, I especially missed Skirmishes, and I didn't want to buy just one or two or even all of them. It turns out, the F2P system really turns me off, at a base level. It disagrees with my penchant to avoid spending.

So it was somewhat random when I logged in to my LOTRO account today on a whim and, to my bemusement, found out that it had been flagged VIP, re-enabling all the content I had prior to the F2P transition. This is, to me, really fantastic. Although I'm playing LOTRO casually enough to actually have a perfectly fine time with just buying stuff, the psychological effects of feeling left out were dragging me down in the game. Now I feel... well, like a VIP. So I think I'll post about LOTRO more again in the future, as well as play it. Turbine succeeded in getting press coverage, and I get to have fun playing the game. It's win-win, right?

Of course, this also reveals that their F2P strategy isn't without its flaws. Ever since DDO I hailed the hybrid Turbine model as fantastic for casual and hardcore players alike, but I did this from the high ground of being a VIP. After spending some time in the Premium trenches, I see that it's not so flawless. I'm not even sure if there is a way to counter the psychological effects of the store on someone like me who abhors spending. Then again, what businessman wants to cater their business to customers who hate to spend?!

The secret though is how to convert frugal people into paying customers. It turns out the traditional subscription model is definitely the way to go if you want to monetize people like me. I've never spent a cent on item stores or virtual markets, but I've happily dumped hundreds into monthly subscriptions over the years. The new wave of F2P might be picking up plenty of new customers, but companies shouldn't ignore the old bones who like their classical subscription-only models!

Posted by: Soulrift

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