LOTRO Legendarium: How much value does a VIP subscription offer these days?

    
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Probably the biggest question any Lord of the Rings Online player has to ask him or herself is whether to go subscription or free-to-play while making a way through Middle-earth. It’s not as simple as you might suspect, as LOTRO’s business model is a little on the convoluted side. Also, it really depends on your needs, finances, and current place in the game itself.

So I thought today we’d break down what a VIP membership (which is accessed either via a monthly subscription or a lifetime sub) offers — and how its “value” is changing in the current landscape.

Assuming that you’re coming into the game fresh, there’s one reality you need to face: Unless you’re an extreme masochist with a whole lot of spare time on your hand, you’re going to be spending money on LOTRO. Playing completely free is hobbled by content gating that takes an incredible amount of grinding to earn, and even then, you’ll find yourself hitting limitations left and right.

So players have to figure out how they want to spend their money. While some choose to purchase unlocks and content a la carte as needed, others figure that a one-subscription-to-rule-them-all is a much simpler solution. Just pony up for that monthly sub and bam, you’ve got access to the whole game. Right?

Not right.

Before we get into that, let’s quickly cover what a VIP membership gets you. First, it unlocks (while active) all non-expansion quest packs for zones, all non-expansion instances, and all non-expansion skirmishes. That’s a chunk of content, but it isn’t everything. Next, you get a 500 LOTRO Point stipend (which can be saved up to use on expansions, among other things), rest experience, lots of account unlocks, a free mount quest, no chat restrictions, a weekly gold Hobbit present, and a whole lot of other quality-of-life goodies. LOTRO Wiki has the full break-down if you want to dig into specifics.

The subscription doesn’t cover everything, unfortunately. As I said, all expansions are locked, even for VIPs, until they are purchased through the LOTRO Market or the LOTRO Store. Back at the start of 2021, Standing Stone Games offered a new expansion bundle for $60 that would get you every expansion through Mordor.

If you’re starting out or haven’t taken the leap to buy most of these packs, it’s a pretty good deal. One somewhat pricey purchase and you’ve got yourself a wide-open road to leveling and adventuring that won’t hit a price wall until you get to Minas Morgul much, much later. I think it’s a pretty good deal, although I think an even better one would be for LOTRO to copy the industry standard by making every expansion but the newest one free. But let’s be honest: That’s not happening.

Last fall’s War of the Three Peaks “mini-expansion” (yes, SSG, I’m going to be putting this forever in quotes until your marketing division drops this horrid term) threw a mighty wrench into the VIP membership package. For the first time in LOTRO’s history, a quest pack wasn’t given out to VIPs for free; these players had to buy it with cash or else wait months to purchase it with LOTRO Points.

It was, as we’ve talked about before, a very shameless cash grab that twisted the arms of VIPs. It tried to make a quick buck, but in the process, the move decreased the value of the subscription. Now you were getting less than you would have previously, and players who were paying a monthly fee found a new reason to reconsider whether that subscription was worth it.

SSG knows full well what it did and how this impacted the perception of VIP memberships, which is why you’re hearing a lot of talk from Rob Ciccolini about increasing the “value” of these subs in other ways. We’ve already seen one of those, which is the admittedly excellent ability to get access a vendor/wardrobe/bank/legendary forge from anywhere in the game world and also to take repair costs down to nil.

If SSG insists on persisting with the “mini-expansion” model (and I fear that it will, as Dungeons and Dragons Online is getting its own version this coming summer), then it really has to sweeten the VIP package in other ways to keep it an attractive prospect. At this point, I don’t know what else could be added that isn’t game-breaking in some way. Perhaps a larger LP stipend? Eagle mounts? A weekly parade through Bree where VIP members can sit on floats and be admired by the unwashed masses?

The problem as I see it is that a subscription shouldn’t be an “and” model for players. As in, I shouldn’t feel that I have to subscribe and buy expansions, or subscribe and buy quest packs. It should be one or the other – because both is what we call “double-dipping,” and that’s a value killer.

What are your thoughts on the value of VIP membership? Is it worth it to you?

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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Stormsong Minstrel
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Stormsong Minstrel

I see VIP as one of two:
A) Subscribe for 1 month, grind everything you can. Gained Lotro points would go to expansions or
B) Show you are the patriot that wants to see game running.
Unfortunately for me, do not have wish for neither. “Mini-expansion” was the last nail for my thoughts “well, maybe one day subscribe just to show support” (because they made content free at CoVid peak, you know).
For me, VIP could have been an option – but only if expansions were included.
Of course, $$G could improve VIPs’ quality of life. Let’s start with idea, that all content is free for VIPs, even mini-midi-mega expansions. Then we could discuss idea that VIP can have as many houses as he’she wants (provided that rent is paid)…as long as person is VIP.
And then – we turn to developers. One who avoid questions that are politely asked. One who lies. Who just dream of how to monetize anything (“mini-expansion”, be cursed). If I am to pay money – it is not current developers whom I’d like to pay to.

Reader
Slaphammer

Things were better in the old days when it was subscription only, but that subscription included EVERYTHING (except big expansions). There was no nickel-and-diming like there is now. The free-to-play model has been twisted around to where you need to pay both a subscription and microtransactions in order to have all content available to you. Grinding things out for free is unrealistic for most players and is only possible so that the business can always claim that you don’t HAVE to pay.

I suspect that many players are paying more now that it’s “free” than they did when it was sub-only, so I don’t really understand the aversion to subscriptions in the first place.

Reader
Jim Bergevin Jr

Because free to play gives you freedoms that a subscription doesn’t. Not being able to afford a subscription back in the “good ole days” meant that you didn’t get to play the game at all. A subscription also made many people feel that they had to log in and play the game, even when they didn’t feel like it, leading to burn out.

Let’s also take a look at the subscription back in the “good ole days.” Generally, it was $15 a month. That is still standard today. We are talking about a span of 15-20 years for a cost that has not changed one iota. We know for a fact that the cost of making a game that would normally require a subscription has risen exponentially. So in order to maintain the status quo, a subscription game would have to either raise the cost of a subscription substantially, or increase the playerbase substantially – and maintain that. Neither one is feasible in today’s climate. in terms of how many players are paying more now for free games actually turns out to be a very small percentage – less than 10% of the playerbase, those so-called whales. The majority of a F2P game’s playerbase averages $15 or less a month in costs.

Reader
Matthew Yetter

I have never regretted my lifetime sub and have been happy to pay for expansions over the years as they came out, but I do feel that they’re being kind of sleazy with how they’re dealing with these mini-expansions.

The sad thing is that at this point trying to bring new players into the game is almost impossible due to the fact that they have to buy all those expansions in order to fully play the game. It’s almost like they’re actively hostile toward new players. But that means that the player base is going to slowly atrophy and they will need to be increasingly aggressive with finding ways to monetize the existing players. That will drive said players away, forcing them into a vicious cycle that spirals ever downward.

They really should make all expansions free for VIP’s, except for the most recent. The free players could continue to play free, buying expansions with points as they earn them. A long slog, but viable. But for the rest of the player base, I can pretty much guarantee that they would gain far more in revenue from the increased number of VIP’s than they lose from expansion sales.

Reader
his_email

I’m so, so, SO glad I got that lifetimer sub when it was half price about 10 years ago… I barely play now, but I still get the 500pts / month which really builds up. One of the best things the companys owning the game through changes did was honour the lifetimer agreement.

Reader
Lethia Myune

I’m very new to LOTRO and the first step i took was to get the free quest packs last year. Then i subscribed for a month and got the expansions (on that super sale they had) with the lotro points i got from that month sub.

I didn’t have time to play very much last year but came back last month. I am pretty much settled with all i got all the way to Mordor. I subscribed last month for the nice deal they have with 3 months at the price of 2 (or 3 months with 15 $ discount lol) Using LP mostly for mythril coins because i hate all that running around and the rest i’ll save for an eventual sale on the other expansions i don’t have.

I personally find the VIP ok for what this sort of “optional” sub means. I don’t find it much worse than what ESO does just that LOTRO does the bad BAD thing of asking you to buy all the expansions instead of just the last one. Quest packs are like the ESO DLCs that get in the VIP price. Now with the latest quest pack being sold separately, yeah that’s stupid and shouldn’t have been done.

All in all i have now access to 80% of LOTRO content (give or take) for, overall 30ish $ I paid in the last year. And there’s a crap ton of content to go through so i don’t feel “robbed” haha. If the expansions get on a decent sale soon, i’ll probably have everything except for Three Peaks. I think it’s…fine?

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Yuge McBigly

I bought the lifetime sub way back in the open beta. These days I don’t really play much anymore. That said, it doesn’t surprise me that they charge VIP for expansions. All these shady moves to try and get around people like myself that bought the lifetime sub makes me not want to login. Though I probably have a good chuck of LP saved up.

It’s almost like they made a bad long term financial decision in offering the lifetime sub, and are now making more bad financial decisions to cover that one.

One thing about LOTRO, can they just copy and paste that music system into every MMO past, present or future? Ok thanks!

jimthomasUS
Reader
jimthomasUS

Game development costs and maintaining a virtual world costs extra.

If you’re not willing to support something you love play Fortnite. This site likes to blame WoW for the death of the mmorpg and while that argument has merit I’d suggest it was the “f2p” business model that killed mmorpgs.

Pay the peeps that build your world.

Reader
bahramnima

they are paying the devs with their sub fee, but more and more people left the game forcing the devs to monetize their game more aggressively, you are sub, not enough, purchase mini-expansions in this case, what you should be asking why most mmos are losing players to games like fortnite, fortnite is f2p and has mostly cosmetic cash shop, why people are willing to spend a lot of money over there while, most of mmos are struggling except for few.

Reader
Jim Bergevin Jr

I guess you don’t realize that the F2P model has been around as long as the Sub model for MMOs. F2P just came to the forefront when D&D went F2P in 2009. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t see MOP blaming WoW for the death of the MMO, in fact I only see a small subset of the MMO community claiming that MMOs are in fact dead when it is clear that the opposite is true. The genre has never been more alive and healthy. And it has the F2P model and WoW to directly thank for that situation.

WoW brought MMOs to the masses. It made the genre accessible to more than just a handful of neckbeards wiping Cheetos dust on the front of their shirt while they sit for hours in front of a computer screen in the basement of their parents’ house. Free to Play only enhanced that and said that you no longer have to consider playing a game as a full time job and you can simply play, and pay, when you want, and how much you can afford to spend at any given time.

Without either of those facets, we wouldn’t be here discussing the merits of MMOs today – as part of current events at least.

cambruin
Reader
cambruin

With all the proof handed to you, with all the knowledge you have, you dare defend the F2P model?!

I could elaborate, but I’ll just let you wither away in front of your screen, picking 35 flowers, an animation that takes 2-3s in lotro, I’ll just let you waste time slaying 600 wurms and 900 brigands to get that necessary 4K virtue Xp to increase your will stat by an impressive amount of… 10, a stat currently sitting at 600.
Yeah, you go and support this game. Go ahead and buy those slayer accelerators for 20€ from their very convenient store..

You have gotten the game you deserve and the genre is in the state it is in because of you and people like you.

Now off you go skinner’s lil’ rat. Go press that button and go pull that lever. 900 times over.

Reader
bahramnima

that is why ( or one the major reasons) that mmo genre is dying , youtuber lazypeon has good video about how current mmos are average at best and few upcoming mmos have potential to be big, as matter of fact he said only one mmo which is ashes of creation, has potential to succeed, and if that one fails, he is out of mmo world, and he built his youtube channel on mmo genre and gained 600k subscribers, but he is right, the genre is dying.
most of current mmos are milking their remaining players as much as they can before shut down.
only 3 mmos in my opinion have chance to go beyond current generation and have sequel and those are:
eso, wow, and final fantasy , peopel would love wow 2 or eso 2 or better final fantasy mmo.
for the rest they will continue to live as long as they can, after that company behind them will move on to other genre of games rather than mmo.
the possibility of big company invest into making a big mmo is very low specially in vest, even in east only korea is still investing in mmo rarely other countries.
personally i do not see much of future for mmos in next 10 years we will see more closure of mmos rather than opening new mmos.

Reader
Sarah Cushaway

AOC is just more PVP gank crap that will end up like all PVP gank games: very niche. It’s not going to be a huge MMO genre savior. At all.

Reader
Ironwu

Less and less ‘VIP’ as time goes on.

No, it is no longer worth it to me.

And, LOTRO’s “F2P” model really isn’t. I see it as more of a “Free to try out the game for a while.” model.

Just my 2c.

Reader
2Ton Gamer

more like Free to Grind. Sure you can make a new character and play the 3 starter zones, get a few Lotro Points, then delete, rinse and repeat, but that’s not worth it.

MilitiaMasterV
Reader
MilitiaMasterV

I would’ve bought this back when Turbine owned it, but they’d stopped doing them. It probably would’ve kept me with the game more too. (Would’ve given me reason to return after my flameout.) But they removed the ability to buy them, so all they got was a year’s worth, and then they went F2P and I never had need to buy anything and could just earn it in-game with enough work, so I tended to do that instead. So I’d say it was pretty valuable. Nowadays? Probably not so much since they’ve run that ship aground and treated it so poorly it’s now rotting timbers…