When is an Expansion not an Expansion?

September 14, 2009

Back in the day I was a bit mean about Warhammer’s ‘live expansion’, calling it a mere update. People are already saying the same about Siege of Mirkwood. Both undoubtedly add content to the game, one through digital download and payment, the other through a summer of added content. The Warhammer one was free, deservedly so, as the game needed the changes it brought badly. The Mirkwood one will only be available to purchase as a download. Not seen either before in my MMO-ing, but that IS limited to Dark Age of Camelot and World of Warcraft before either of the above games.

Perhaps we’re too harsh sometimes on definitions. If the developer calls it an expansion it’s an expansion. Just because it doesn’t fit into our preconceived idea of one, hey, things change… it’s expanded/added content and the word mostly fits. Now, whether Mirkwood is smaller or bigger than one of LotRO’s content updates (that are traditionally free), remains to be seen. We’re a cynical bunch, we love to remind ourselves that LotRO launched with the promise of an expansion a year. Come on, did anyone necessarily expect them to keep that pace? Especially seeing/reading what was left out of the Mines of Moria due to time constraints.

And would you rather a developer rushed out some content to make good on such a promise, or just released stuff when they felt it was ready? Yes, they may lose some players in the intervening period, and they make their money on a monthly basis, but there will always now be a degree of MMO curiosity (or tourism) in the playerbase. We’re all too interested to see what the new games come up with, and how some of the features could be added to the game we actually like. Or, we could find a new home! We’re fickle, and that’s no bad thing. It keeps devs adding improvements and content! And so the cycle continues.

I’m sure my views of Mirkwood are coloured by the fact I bought a Lifetime sub in beta for LotRO, so I really haven’t paid for it for its entire life. I paid £15 for Moria, Mirkwood should be similar if they keep the $20 and just convert it to sterling. And I have no problem spending £15/year on a game I love! My feeling is though, and I’m usually a natural cynic, so take this with a punch of salt, that Mirkwood will be worth the money. It may feel like a large book update, which we’ve previously had free, but if Turbine can’t support providing them for free, then I’ll live with that. The company will have to live with it, and see where people vote with their money.


  1. I think people are being unfair about it, but who doesn’t want things for free?

    What I’ve seen and read about it is beyond the typical book update. $20 is easy to swallow, honestly, especially what I consider Turbine does otherwise for just the sub fee.

    Can’t please everyone, I suppose. Some people never feel like they get their money’s worth, nor do they seem to understand that $10 to $15 a month doesn’t solely go to content development.

    What can you do, though? 🙂

    • I’m just happy we’ll get a whack of new content before the end of the year, and think perhaps people shouldn’t judge the cost until we’ve really been able to see how much content it is. I’d rather they did this than gave us smaller free ones, or lost so much money they had to rethink LotRO!

    • I do think that Mirkwood will be more than a few regular book updates (unlike Warhammer’s “live expansion”), though it remains to be seen whether they will, in the future, be holding back content that has previously gone into book updates to pad out paid mini-expansions. (See Yeebo’s rundown of book patch features in the SoA era vs the Moria era.) It may well be the case that their revenue stream, with all the lifetime members and discounted subscribers, won’t support what they have been producing without the occasional paid mini-expansion.

      At any rate, they’re calling it a mini-expansion and pricing it accordingly, so I’m not that inclined to complain. Personally, I might even prefer annual $20 mini-expansions to $40 full-sized expansions every two years.

      As to the cost, if you’re bargain conscious you can make a point of holding out for the next $30/3 month promotion and basically wipe out the expansion fees. (Personally, I think they should just make that price permanent – at this point, it’s been offered so frequently that NOT having it is a dis-incentive to resubscribe since it’s so sure to come back.)

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