To Free Or Not To Free: Are Pre-Launch Packages Worth It?

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor June 18, 2013
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I have never bought a pre-launch package for a F2P game.

I'm not like some people, who think they're an evil on par with Rebecca Black's “Friday,” or that they're a cunning scheme by corporate bigwigs looking to separate overeager gamers from their money – OK, they are that, I suppose.

Some people think they go against the very nature of a free-to-play game, which has “free” right there in the description. Of course, it's optional; you don't have to pay to play the game... but that stuff is so shiny! And it's for a limited time only! JUST TAKE MY MONEY!

Most of the time, these packages consist of some cosmetic gear and other non-combat goodies, like a pet or mount, as well as some low-level “power” equipment, like a sword or armor that's better than what a beginning character can normally acquire. There might also be an XP boost, to help you speed through those first few levels, or early access to the game, letting you in a few days early.

Personally, I find it all rather valueless. The first time I play a game, I savor those first few levels and don't want them to go by too quickly. The game isn't much of a challenge, so an item that boosts my power isn't really needed. That leaves just the cosmetics as a potentially unique “bonus” – but weighed against the cost of the entire package, it seems like a poor value.

Developers do occasionally include treats that are significant and can't be obtained any other way. Neverwinter's Hero of the North package opens up the Menzobarranzen Renegade drow race, as well as giving players two million Astral Diamonds. Apart from those (and maybe three extra character slots), there's not much else in the package I'd deem “essential,” so are those perks, plus a bunch of cosmetic stuff worth $200?

While they do enrich the developers' bank accounts, I think these packages also create a much higher demand for perfection right out of the gate. If I'm not paying for a game, I might be a little more tolerant of bugs, crashes, and generally mediocre gameplay, or maybe I'll just set the game aside until those issues are solved.

If I've paid for a game, however, it's a different story. Now I'm financially invested and, like any financial investment, I expect a good return for my money from day one. Geek rage for substandard games is always going to be strong, but combine geek rage with money and it's a force that even a reconfigured deflector dish would have a tough time stopping – and, as Star Trek fans know, those suckers can do anything.

I think the only thing that would get me to buy a pre-launch package would be the absolute assurance that I would play the game for a very long time – years, probably. That's a rare feeling these days, with as many games as I've seen and tried that have, for one reason or another, failed to live up to expectations. I'd have to play a crapton out of it in beta to make sure I absolutely loved the gameplay, and even then, I'd want to be fairly certain I'd have a lot of friends committed to the game so I'm not left all alone after a few weeks.

Pre-launch packages are the definition of an “impulse buy,” in that they're usually marketed based on your feelings for a game before you've played it extensively and have yet to fully form an opinion. Again, I won't go as far to say they're an Evil Corporate Trick(TM), but they're made less to appeal to reason and more to passion. Let the buyer beware.

So, how about you? Have you ever purchased a pre-launch package for a F2P game? Did you regret it later? Are you going to do it again?

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About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

Discussion (27)

Alper 8 years ago
It's a trap.

Clockwerkninja 8 years ago
Neverwinter was the first game i ever bought a founder pack for..lol...Yea, it is going to be the last also...

Worst game I have ever played.

anip 8 years ago
Many Founder Packs are fail...

They either cost too much, or the items you get sucks.

OR in instances like Ecol Tactics... Founders still haven't receive their items in 2 month, lol.

irkulow 8 years ago
what i don't understand is why products cost with those $.99 its just 1 cent less but its better off rounding up to its full value instead........ I don't get it, it sounds stupid to me. How many people in the world actually cares for that 1 cent less anyway???

Bptamblyn 8 years ago
I bought into Warframe $100 founder's pack. Worth every penny. Plus I get to support a developer who actually cares about their players.

View 1 reply
jellopy 8 years ago
Bought the $40 neverwinter package since i'd planned to spend some in the cash shop after the first week or so and I don't regret it even though I don't play constantly now. If a game is good and deserving I don't mind supporting it but I do agree about guaranteed beta access and stuff being a questionable tactic and counter productive to what beta testing should be about. I think you are absolutely right with the 'ooooh shiny' comment though and it being impulsive. I've had times when I have been astounded by a new game for a week or so then dropped it shortly after when the newness wore off and in that time with being amazed it could be easy to part some people with their cash for a few shinies and an exp booster. I recall upgrading to the collectors edition of rift at launch only to find myself bored two weeks in. Same concept.

Bic Boi 8 years ago
Honestly? With all the hype, huge promises and raving about Neverwinter--and then looking how Neverwinter turned out? No. No, no, a million times NO. Never pay for an unfinished product. PERIOD. I'm going to stick to that adage till the day I die. I've never pre-ordered a game or paid to get into a beta and I'm not about to start.

Jakoul 8 years ago
Frankly it depends on the game and the prices. If it is a game made or hosted by a huge company (Perfect World) and the prices are $100+ (Neverwinter) then it is simply ridiculous. I could agree with 'paying' to get into beta if you got the same benefits as if you paid at launch, like say paying $20 for special item X and some of that company's cash shop currency if the prices were the same at launch, Path of Exiles did something similar as well, but other than that it isn't worth it.

The kicker is that this is happening while the quality of games is dwindling. To put it in a nutshell, games used to be made by nerds and now they are made by suits. They expect X profit for Y amount of money from Z target audience instead of trying to come up with unique and interesting ideas. Korean f2p games are kind of an exception, but Korea's problem is they stick to the same formula every time. Come up with 1-3 unique elements > throw the usual stuff together > release > slowly release new 'content' over time > repeat.

Games in general are kind of sad right now as they are either all aiming for a casual audience that won't support them long term or they are so stupidly simple that only a casual audience would play it. By casual audience I mean people who don't generally play games and are the least likely to support them, so developers are pretty much shooting themselves in the foot.

T-BONEz 8 years ago
It's called capitalism, it is spreading to every corner of the world. It takes advantage of people's greed and is whats been causing the collapse of video games over the past 10 years.

View 1 reply
Mr,Heartless 8 years ago
I agree with your article Jason, I have seen the emergence of F2P way back from its inception as I started out as a kid with no money and definitely no credit card so subscription based MMO's were always out of reach. I am now an appalled adult that sees companies blatantly disregarding the tag they have placed on their own game and have become so audacious that they would request that persons pay their way into a beta to help prepare their game for release. Its an abhorrent affront to the consumer and a slap in the face of its staunch supporters.

When I first saw dragon's prophet I loved it. After weaseling my way into the beta test by being active on the forums I was sorely disappointed. The game was a joke. I personally sat down and reported about 4-6 bugs and watched my threat get deleted without some form of acknowledgement and to this day, now of the bugs have been fixed. That is what people paid 20$+ to get into. It should never be a feature of this business model but as person are so anxious their desire gets the best of them, and any company who preys on that is as bad as they come in my book.

sionzion 8 years ago
i got a pack for neverwinter and feel ripped off. $60 basically for a dumb wolf.

SonneillonZ 8 years ago
I actually like the Firefall 100 USD package. because you actually get physical stuff out of it. a Beanie and a poster.

Azure Le Rook 8 years ago
rather pick the fire fall one

Rufinus 8 years ago
if the price is right yes, but i wont pay 200$ on a free game that's just dumb. the most il ever pay for a pack and dont get me wrong it has to contain a lot of good items its 20$

BullsI 8 years ago
I buy founders packs for two reasons: 1.) I'm playing the game already and enjoy it to the point that I feel the developer/publisher deserves to be rewarded. To this day the only game that's done that is Planet Side 2. 2.) The package gives me something of value that can be used outside that game. For instance, when Sony does it's founder packs, they always include with it station cash. Even if the game turns into a flop, that station cash is usable on two other games I play off and on already.

I should really stop doing #2. Paying for something sight unseen is about the stupidest thing to do.

Tio_Z 8 years ago
I'm pondering getting a founders pack on Warframe, after all the bugs that stopped me from properly playing are almost all gone, game is staring to shine again for me.

What I do regret not buying is way back when the World of Tanks beta pack. Had no idea I'd like the game as much as I do now (it came a loooooooooong way).

Atonal 8 years ago
It's getting worse cause people are actually buying this crap. How the crap are you going to spend more than $100 on a game that isn't guaranteed to have it's bugs fixed, etc.

God, I swear people are stupid. They complain about how unoriginal mmo's are these days, yet pay for these kinds of crap packages without a single thought. If you want better mmo's to come out, than stop paying crap mmo's. It's that simple.

View 1 reply
Freshundead 8 years ago
I liked the article and I did for Dragons Prophet n love the game, that said it is no different than when anyone who preorders a new game like the newest halo or CoD and get a wep skin or such with the pre order I think its certainly an impulse thing but I pay for my games and no one else so if I pre order or buy a pre-launch package its for my entertainment and those that don't agree don't have to spend there hard earned money.

View 1 reply
some random scottish guy 8 years ago
Age of wushu Elite Box, and yes I regretted it. Im starting to get sick of these company's that sell beta invites or box sets. Some company's are legit and really do need funding to help there game with development mainly independent company's like crate and there alpha grim dawn.

Other big companys such as perfect world are just out to rip people off, they take a developers game and publish it in a manor that ruins it for every one except them self.

Its going to get worse aswell with f2p models hitting the consoles.

If people are willing to pay for these things then there is obviously nothing wrong with it, but they normally always take advantage of the customer in some way or form. Just look at path of exile for example it started off all innocent with the aesthetics only stuff and yes they have i suppose stuck to those words but there price range is a freaking joke.

dumbface 8 years ago
this is that old story P2W

Extasist 8 years ago
marvel ultimate pack 200 $ pff that gave sucks pay to have fun no thanks for that money you can buy 10 legit games.

Mystika 8 years ago
Pre launch for a F2P game? Oh...if you could count the Dota 2 TI3 Compendium...then yes I have. Don't regret it one bit.

But apart from that, then no.


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