The other day, I was talking with a friend who raised an interesting point that’s still sticking in my head. She was talking about the many, many free-to-play MMOs offering some form of “starter bundle,” usually with various helpful consumables and a few cosmetic items. And she wasn’t a fan – but not because of the usual free-to-play issues. Rather, her issue entirely had to do with how bundles like that set up player expectations that wouldn’t be met later.
I had to admit, she had a point. Starter bundles aren’t unusual, of course; a lot of free-to-play games offer you something similar, and Founder’s Packs for various titles fulfill a similar function. The idea is that it feels like the price of a new box game, so you feel as if you’ve bought in and you get to ease into the game, then you’ll be ready later if your experience gains or reputation or whatever drops off. But these sorts of bundles do set your expectations when you start playing, with your rate of gaining levels, how many consumables you have, and so forth becoming… well, the expected default. For the price of a bundle, you’re getting accustomed to, say, experience boosts that will cost you a lot more further on down the road.
Of course, to some extent this could also be seen as a criticism of experience boosts in general, which is what makes it an interesting question. What do you think? Are starter bundles a bad thing for free-to-play MMOs, giving you an inaccurate sense of how the game actually plays and thus providing an incentive to just keep spending money? Or is that a product of how the game itself is designed rather than the bundles?