LOTRO Legendarium: Mordor’s pre-order is flat-out ridiculous

Outrageous. Ridiculous. Exciting. Exploitative. Controversial.

This past week’s announcement of Lord of the Rings Online: Mordor’s launch date and pre-order packages set ablaze discussions and arguments among the community, both in-game and without. World chat was streaming by quickly as players debated the pros and cons of the reveal, while the forums blew up with huge posts defending and criticizing the pre-order packages.

While this is not the travesty that some are making it out to be, I definitely agree with those that say Standing Stone Games misstepped with this announcement and needs to take some action to rectify the confusion and value of the upcoming expansion. While LOTRO players seem united in their anticipation for Mordor, some of that enthusiasm has been dashed with how the dating and packages have been handled, and that is a shame.

Let’s break it all down and see what we’ve learned and what pre-order might be best for you!

The launch date

Perhaps the strangest part of this pre-order reveal was the fact that the launch date was tucked right into the fine print: July 31st. Stranger still, in the very next sentence, the devs gave themselves leeway for a potential delay, saying that if July 31st doesn’t work out, the game will definitely, assuredly (probably) be out by August 31st.

Why not make the launch date its own announcement or more prominent? No idea. But the answer might be in the wishy-washy way that the fine print allows for a delay, telegraphing that the studio is not sure about when it will actually get the expansion out but wants to date it anyway. “Having your cake and delaying it too” is the expression that comes to mind.

July 31st, a mere two weeks away, seems awfully soon for an expansion that recently went into beta testing, and some players are calling for SSG to actually make that delay happen. Turbine, er, Standing Stone certainly has a history of under-testing and fixing after the fact, and that would not help the reputation of this momentous occasion. Others have asked for a delay because of needing that time to save up some money for the expansion.

No matter what, the studio’s assertion that Mordor will be out this summer gives it a release window that can’t be missed without major PR egg to the face. It’s certainly a good time to get a new game or expansion out without the rush of other titles that’s coming this fall, and it allows the team to work on the instance cluster and the follow-up update that is promised for later this year.

The price point

Moving on to the pre-order itself, we see that Mordor will come in three editions: standard ($40), collector’s ($80), and ultimate fan bundle ($130). For comparison, Rise of Isengard had a range of $30 to $50, Riders of Rohan’s editions went from $40 to $70, and Helm’s Deep offered a $40 base, a $60 premium edition, and no legendary package.

You can see the huge uptick in prices here for the special editions, which seem much higher than in the Turbine era. The $40 for the standard xpack feels right and is the edition I’ll be buying because these other two are way too high and don’t offer enough to really justify the purchase. Extras such as mounts, armor sets, kites (!), titles, and some advancement options aren’t “must haves” in my book, just niceties that might be better to buy a la carte down the road.

My problem here is that this all comes off as the studio really pushing it as far as it can to try to appeal more to the whales than the bulk of the playerbase. I said to some friends the other day that when it comes to pre-orders like these, studios should always err on the side of giving players a really good deal instead of coming off like they’re trying to shake every last dollar out of our pockets.

The more I look at this pre-order page, the more issues arise. The studio didn’t provide screenshots of several of the collector’s and ultimate fan bundle extras, so people are buying partially blind here. Lifetime subscribers won’t really benefit from the ultimate fan bundle’s month of VIP time (they can gift it away, but that’s it). We have no explanation for how this housing teleport functions any different than what’s already in the game. And I hate that marketing ploy that studios like this use to grey out the other options and have your default selection be the most pricey option. It’s kind of insulting.

To be fair, all editions do toss in a level boost that will take a new or existing character right to level 105 and Mordor’s gates. I’m sure that will appeal to some players as a method to catch up, although in a story-driven game like LOTRO, it still feels out of place to just leapfrog over the bulk of the narrative to get to the end of the tale.

Very few players seem satisfied with the pricing here, and it’s not just people being cheap. The collector’s edition is twice the cost of the standard without offering twice the value, and the ultimate fan bundle is over three times the price point of the standard while giving less than you’d find in other MMORPG expansion deluxe packages.

The High Elf controversy

Then we get to the fact that the High Elf as a race isn’t actually included in the standard bundle, which I feel is the biggest mistake in this whole deal. At Mordor’s launch, if you want to play a High Elf, you’re going to need to drop at least $80 to play this racial variation. I’m nearly at a loss for words because what MMO does this? Seriously! What MMO unbundles and decouples a major selling point for an expansion that it’s been promoting as part of the expansion’s offerings from the base edition?

World of Warcraft: Legion didn’t sell its Demon Hunter separately or as part of a more expensive package. FFXIV: Stormblood threw in two new classes a month ago, and Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind — which is no stranger to parceling and selling DLC — included the Warden as part of the expansion. But along comes LOTRO, and suddenly a slightly different hairstyle and racial skills on Elves makes this so special that it requires a separate (with LP down the road) or more expensive purchase? I call “bull” on that.

This is ridiculous, and I don’t give a fig about Elves at all. But you don’t pressure players to spend double the cost of a base expansion just to get a new race. I’m sure SSG is looking back at the Beorning and seeing a new race or class as being a premium extra, but the Beornings weren’t advertised as part of any expansion. And what’s worse here is that the future cost of the High Elves in the LOTRO store — 1,000 LP — indicates that the race is only worth $10 in the eyes of the studio. So why are we paying $80 for it now if we don’t care about extra character slots and mounts?

Making it right

I’m being hard on all of this not because I have a vendetta against LOTRO, but because I love the game and know that this move makes the MMO appear foolish and laughable to the larger gaming community. It hurts the reputation of the studio and game, and it could push potential players away instead of draw them in.

So what does SSG need to do here? It’s probably too late to adjust prices, since people have already purchased and refunds would be a pain in the butt. But there are a few moves that I think would help to alleviate the price point and the issues with these bundles to make them more attractive.

For starters, offer the High Elf in the standard edition, full stop. You don’t have to give an extra character slot or any of the other extras, but the race should be part of all of Mordor’s editions.

Second, offer a lot more in the collector’s edition. While I’m not that tempted by the ultimate fan bundle, it does seem to be a better value for the price than what you get for $80. Why not throw in Chance Thomas’ new soundtrack in both of the pricier editions? I was a little surprised not to see that included in the pre-orders.

Third, include some extra LOTRO points, at least in the top two tiers but maybe in all three. When Turbine was selling Helm’s Deep, players revolted against what they saw as meager offerings for the sticker cost, and the studio tossed in store currency to make all editions better. That should happen here.

Again, I’m excited to play Mordor no matter what, and at least $40 for the expansion isn’t out of this world for what we’re reportedly receiving. It’s just a shame that I’m not tempted in the least by the more expensive editions, as that’s a failure in marketing more than anything else. Hopefully the studio will learn from it.

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.
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168 Comments on "LOTRO Legendarium: Mordor’s pre-order is flat-out ridiculous"

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Ben Fuller

I’m not a finacial expert so i can’t really comment to much on the 3 bundles value at as a passionate lotr person I have so far boycotted buying mordor. For the cosy of the middle range bundle you could basically buy to games. For the ultinate bundle you could by 3 xbox games or at current prices find and extra 100$ and buy a brand new xbox 1.

My issue with the bundles is the fact in the first stream they made it seem like high elves were apart of expansion and everyone would get them. Then somewhere down the line greed took over and they decided to limited them to overly priced editions and leave it out of standard version. What’s worse is they won’t allow players to buy high elf from the store until winter.

To me there entire plan with this was to just focus enteroly on maximizing money. For first time you can’t by expansion with store points from launch day. No high elf outside of high end editions it’s basically just a blatant cry for money.

To the point I’m not sure I want to bother with game at all from this point on. The difficulty? I also don’t want to leave my middle earth journey incomplete either lol

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Crowe

Nicely written article with well-thought out points. Thanks, Justin!

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Dreema

Nothing about the ultimate or collector’s edition appeals to me much so I certainly won’t be wasting my money on them. A new title? Big deal. I have more titles than I know what to do with anyway. A new mount? Likewise. The high elf I’m interested in, but I can play a standard elf any time I want for free so why would this appeal to me? I don’t have any intention of paying money for something that I feel should have been included in the basis edition. Most likely, I’ll wait till it appears in the cash shop and they have a sale on and blow some Turbine Points on it.

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kody

High spenders (“whales” for those of you using out-of-date or demeaning terminology) are the primary source of revenue for free to play games, so of course they’re going to create bundles that appeal to them.

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John Kennedy

Oh we got a whale here… Hey, let me hold something.

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kody

Or maybe I worked in free to play for the last five years, and some companies don’t like to refer to their best customers as whales.

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John Kennedy

Gonna call bullshit on that one. They totally call em’ whales. You don’t design this kind of shit while having any kind of respect for your whales. So why would you not call them whales?

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kody

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinvanness/

When I ran the community department I was directly responsible for monetization bundles for North America.

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Castagere Shaikura

YEAH this is what happened to STO also. Mmo’s are turning into games for whales because of the f2p models in most of them.

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Fenryr Grey

Soon the whales will have turned most f2p mmo’s into single player games…The little devil in me is hopping for just that and is totally indifferent towards the people working in that business, contributing to everything that is utter shait in the industry.

@kody call them whatever you want.

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Viktor Budusov

SSG took its Turbine marketologist with them. And look’s like he lost his mind. Very bad decisions

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Vladimir Vladimirovic

Ah more whining i love it.Btw – we do know what that housing port do – it’s a object that you put in your house and it ports you to Mordor,if you payed more attention you would know .Also expansions were never part of deal for lifetimers so cool down your self-entitlement for once .

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David Harrison

I think the word you are looking for is paid.

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Vladimir Vladimirovic

I think next meal you should look for is salad instead of big mac,just sayin’

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John Kennedy

Oh shut the fuck up with that entitlement bullshit.

Reader

As a lifer and someone with sense. I can certainly wait them out. It will show up for points at some point and I have somewhere in the realm of 11,000 banked from my monthly stipend. Its not hard these days to find superior value somewhere else. We can also see how it fairs over the next few months. If the sales are bad, then they will come off of it quickly enough. Time will tell. If there was more value I would consider it, but for me… nah.

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Diego Camargo

I’ve been back to the game and even subed for the first time. However, this news got me pissed with the game.

To be honest, I am not in the cap level, so I still have all the other xpacs I bought to play before running into Mordor. But one thing’s for sure, I am not buying any of these, not until I see a big big big sale anytime next year so I get the xpac for 20 $ top.

This is where the industry is at. Why? Players pay and later they complain about how things are going. You want a change? Don’t pay for this kind of BS :)

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Kickstarter Donor
Dividion

If you wait until it’s in the store you can grab it for $25 in LotRO points.

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odin valhalla

This is turbine. I know its SSG now but this is the same company who for years allowed the community the fools hope that WB was somehow the one pulling the strings for some absolutely horrific decisions. Come to find out, WB had very little to do with LOTRO at all and that in fact it was Turbine the entire time. Then we get the SSG announcement saying they are the ones who have been working on the title all along.

This is yet another crystal clear example of why in the end it was the right decision to drop this game. Its too bad they exploit their loyal player base but we’ve come to expect that from this group.

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Ben Fuller

I agree. As a lifetime member and someone that over the years of f2p has spent over £500 on store points over the years I feel the decision to exclude the high elf from base decision is an insult.

Not everyone is made of money and can at the short notice of release date to release get that money just like that like it’s no big deal. I don’t care about pricing per say but having to buy a more expensive version just to play high elf is a joke. I just can’t see any reason why they did that. Rewarding high spenders with a race that was a marketing tool for the whole expansion is moronic. They could have done that in other ways. I just dont no its worth it and if this is the way they will deal with this in future then the gane will die sooner than they think

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Kickstarter Donor
Kayweg

I felt immediately reminded of this recent thread:

Massively Overthinking: Consumer protections in the MMORPG industry


Also, ANY pre-order is flat-out ridiculous !
Yeah, i know, i’ll get my coat now.

Reader
eboe

I mean, I see Daybreak mentioned and blamed a lot in these comments, but I don’t know how much they really are to blame. I mean, they are technically the publisher, but if you look at the preorder page, their name is nowhere to be found. So I don’t know what they actually DO. Does Standing Stone run the servers? It’s sort of messy as to who actually does what.

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starbuck1771

They are in fact just the publisher nothing more.