World of Warcraft is undeniably the 800 pound gorilla of the MMORPG genre right now boasting some 8 million subscribers (more people than many countries’ populations) and sporting the fastest selling expansion of all time (TBC sold 2.4 million copies in its first 24 hours in North America and Europe). It leaves you wondering what other companies can possibly do to compete.
Electronic Arts and Turbine entertainment think they have a winner with their upcoming The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar offering, but they’re not resting on their laurels hoping that having the Tolkien universe alone will be enough to bring gamers running to the game. They’ve decided to sweeten the pot for players who pre-order the game:
This exciting Founder’s Program rewards all players who pre-order The Lord of the Rings Online with special $9.99 monthly subscription pricing, early access to the game (beta version), character roll-over and unique in-game bonus items. Players can become a Founder by pre-ordering the title at www.lotro.com/preorder or at retail stores nationwide beginning February 1, 2007. This limited-time offer is exclusively available to pre-order customers.
As far as I know they’ve not yet announced what the monthly cost for LotR:SoA will be so the possibility of having your monthly pricing set in stone at $9.99 a month may or may not be a great deal. If the monthly pricing ends up being $15.99, which is what WoW’s monthly charge happens to be, then pre-order is definitely worth it if you end up liking the game. There’s also some other benefits such as a ring of agility and a cloak of regeneration, but it’s hard to say how valuable those really are as you could end up replacing them within a couple of hours of adventuring. Not mentioned in the press blurb above, however, is the option to do a single $199 lifetime payment—pay once and play as much as you want. Now that could definitely be worthwhile if you end up liking the game, not so much if you don’t. Consider that at $15.99 a month for WoW you’ll spend (and I have spent) around $191.88 a year for continuing access to the game. I’ve been playing WoW for about two years now, off and on, so had they offered something similar it would’ve paid for itself by now.
Of course the big question is: Is the game any good? Sure it’s got what is probably the ultimate fantasy license for a setting, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be any good. I’ve not been following the game as closely as I once was so I have no idea what the answer to that question happens to be, but I may get a chance to find out this weekend. I signed up for the beta awhile back and then promptly forgot about it and was never invited anyway, but the other day I did get an invitation to download the client and participate in a three day stress test this weekend. That should be enough time to get a feel for how the game will play and what it’ll offer so I think I’ll invest the time in downloading the huge client just to see what there is to see.
More later after I’ve poked around a bit…