The base “Warlords Awakening Game” is $11.99 and offers no “bells and whistles.” For additional perks, you can pay $22.99 for the “Warlords Awakening Early Access Limited Package,” which does not include the base game. You can buy them together, in the $29.99 “Warlords Awakening Bundle,” or later, as a separate purchase, in which case you’ll be spending $34.99 total.
So why isn’t the game going to be free-to-play? That’s answered in a FAQ on the game’s website, but only barely. The second question leads off by asking about damage numbers and then immediately shifts to asking about whether the game will be free-to-play. Not ones to waste space with paragraph breaks, Playwith’s reply is:
“As for the business model, we feel it is much better to have people buy the game as a package so that they’re not hampered by required purchases in the game to keep up with other users. That’s a very quick way for a game to turn Pay2Win and terrible for users who don’t wish to spend hundreds of dollars … We certainly don’t want to drive users away because of the business model; we want to keep costs down so that everyone who wants to enjoy Warlords Awakening, will be able to.”
Later in the FAQ, however … well …
“The cash shop is meant to be updated frequently with changes so that the items do not go sale. You can also expect a large amount of items to have limited releases. Of what use is a cool pet or costume if everyone else has it?”
The developers don’t think they can do free-to-play without making it exploitative — the Bless Online team nods in assent, as does Cliff Bleszinski — but there will still be a cash shop. Sure, you can say that whatever it sells won’t be “required purchases in the game to keep up with other users,” but it’s not as if people don’t spend oodles of cash on “non-required” purchases in cash shops.
Maybe, like Bless, this is just how you have to try things when your game has already failed once or twice and you’re trying something new in a new region. I think you could just remove the crappy bits and go with that, but what do I, and a bunch of other successful developers, know?