Turbine and Codemasters dropped a huge news bomb on the MMO community today by announcing that LotRO is going free to play on both the US and EU servers.
First reaction? I have to say I was disappointed. Going F2P makes it seem like the game was in trouble, which was a reaction I saw from several people on Twitter. Also, with the recent acquisition by Warner Brothers, was this really Turbine’s idea? Not that it makes any difference, I’m just curious.
After I read through what the free-to-play switch means for me as a founder and lifetime subscriber, my initial disappointment subsided partially. For me the game will not change much. I will still have access to all of the same features and content as before, and I still won’t be paying any money except for expansions. There will be a new button somewhere to launch the store, and I’m betting it will be up on the minimap near where the lorebook button is now. There will also be a new UI interface to show me how many Turbine Points I have somewhere assuming they’re handled like they are in DDO. Thank Eru that TP’s probably won’t take up bag space like Skirmish Marks. As far as getting Turbine Points in game? I’m ambivalent about having a message congratulating me on getting a TP reward, this seems like it is going just a hair’s breadth over the immersion line for me.
Beyond all of the game and financial mechanics, my major concern regarding the free-to-play switch is what impact this will have on the community. LotRO is well known for having some of the most mature and friendly player communities. I can personally vouch for Landroval. Even in the hub areas (like Bree and 21st Hall) the chat is wonderfully free of complaints, Chuck Norris jokes, and WoW comparisons. The user channel GLFF does get a bit woolly, but it’s not one tenth as bad as the infamous Barrens chat. So will we see an influx of bad apples in the fall? How much of a barrier was that $15 a month to keep all the bored level capped players in other games from rolling on a LotRO server just to try and stir things up?
There’s a discussion about this very topic on the forums today. Clover posted that it’s up to the existing players to keep the community feel by welcoming newcomers. That is partly true where a new player is actually interested in the game, but it ignores the type of player who is just there to grief people. With monsterplay restricted to subscribers only and fully-consensual, there’s no concern about spawn camps or ganking, but someone can still come over and grief in chat.
The community impacts are my biggest concern. Turbine has to be banking on a big influx of players, their current F2P policies aren’t going to yield any additional revenue from lifetime subscribers (soon to be lifetime VIPs). Actually they may lose some revenue there, since further expansions will be purchasable through the store with TPs. So if there’s nothing I’m interested in purchasing, I’ll be collecting 500 points a month waiting on an expansion to spend them on.
So, after having a few hours to educate myself and emotionally adjust to the announcements, the only thing that I’m upset about was this:
When does LOTRO F2P go live?
Free-to-Play will go live when Volume 3, Book 2 releases this fall.
No new content until this fall? When Book 1 came out I enjoyed the content but at the time I was expecting to see Book 2 within a few months, right around now actually. Now that I know there’s likely a six month gap? Book 1 feels pretty pitiful.