How F2P ‘Founder’s Packs’ Offer Great Deals at Great Risk

Founder’s packs for Mechwarrior Online

Kickstarter-inspired founder’s packages are here to stay.

While Kickstarter itself has had varying degrees of success, founder’s packs have been universally profitable. Free-to-play games have realized the benefit of frontloading part of their income, and in the process have been raking in oodles and oodles of money. But what about a founder’s pack drives our urge to buy? Why are they so wildly successful? Why are they exploding across the free-to-play scene like an oil slick across the ocean surface?

A founder’s pack is a tiered, purchased reward akin to the reward tiers on Kickstarter. A player pays a chunk of money – usually in the $40-$100 range, although there are more expensive packs floating out there – to receive beta access (if the game isn’t in open beta), unique founder’s items, and a large chunk of in-game currency. Founders are usually identified in-game by badges of some sort, and the gear they receive is usually better than standard player gear in some aspect.

The explosion of founder’s packs can be traced back to Mechwarrior Online and the enormous success Piranha Games had with their founder’s program. Players were given three tiers to choose from: $30, $60, and $120. Every tier included premium time, an in-game badge, and microtransaction currency, but only the higher tiers included founder’s mechs. These special robots earn more in-game currency per match, giving the founders a nice edge for progression on those who didn’t shell out.

This model worked out so well for MWO that the developers held the founder’s sale open for much longer than they originally said they would. While MWO has since moved on from founder’s gear, other free-to-play MMOs – Firefall, Warframe, and Dirty Bomb, just to name a few – have taken to the unique selling model. We are in an age where founder’s packs are becoming the norm thanks to their unbounded success. But why do they succeed?

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19 Comments on How F2P ‘Founder’s Packs’ Offer Great Deals at Great Risk


On April 17, 2013 at 6:45 pm

“You might not get the game you paid for”

You can go see a movie and not get what you paid for.

You can buy Carl’s Jr’s new Jim Beam burger and not get what you paid for.

It’s ty how more mainstream gaming gets the more whiney and entitled players feel and as a result makes the Devs all paranoid about not ing anything up and staying with the same bull designs that have worked for the masses.


On April 17, 2013 at 8:09 pm


The theater is not asking for the better part of a hundred bucks just to see it.

The burger probably didn’t cost $50.

In the case of the restaraunt, you can ask for your money back because they didn’t give you the quality you were expecting. In either case, you also have the right to throw a stink about it on the internet, whether you got your money back or not.

It’s funny how the word “entitlement” gets thrown around a lot these days, especially since politicians like to argue over it. If I’m paying the money, I better be getting the quality I paid for, or the dev’s going to hear about it.

Maybe you have the ability to excrete the money for games so that you can discard the games you decide you don’t like without a second thought or complaint, but some of the rest of us, in the REAL WORLD, actually have to deal with paying bills and whatnot. So, when we don’t have much money to spend on games, we have to save up and budget our money wisely. Imagine saving up to buy a new game, only to find out that the gameplay sucks, the game is too short, the developer is trying to nickle-and-dime you out of more money, etc. And that, “in the business to make money” argument only holds water to a point.


On April 17, 2013 at 8:20 pm

From what I’ve read, you can actually get a refund for MWO through their support system.

If pre-purchasing games continues to be such a gamble we’re going to see some serious issues in the gaming industry.


On April 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm

I am a MWO founder and I’m pretty sure I’m happy with I paid for… I did get my founder mech with a CBill bonus, I did get my founder badge, did get my 20,000 MC, did get my access to the beta on August 7th of 2012.

I did get what I was promised and paid for. If I didn’t like it, I still can get my refund, but I won’t because I’m enjoying the game.

What the am I reading here? Another whining bastard or just another crappy player?


On April 18, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Good article.

I’m glad MWO is in the spotlight. and especially glad they being referenced for trying to make the game P2W with consumables.

Though they went back on their consumable design to not be P2W.

Victor Morson

On April 18, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Consumables were fixed. Free versions match pay versions.

Coolant is not the game ruining thing it was in past games. It is a one time emergency use deal that takes away other capabilities to use it.

This article is poorly informed and the author sounds like a bitter low-tier player of MW:O. There is no reason that has to be a “cautionary tale.” PGI said some inaccurate things in an interview that have been cleared up weeks ago now.

Victor Morson

On April 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Were comments blocked on this article? There’s only 3 posted? Really lame.


On April 18, 2013 at 7:36 pm

“You can go see a movie and not get what you paid for.
You can buy Carl’s Jr’s new Jim Beam burger and not get what you paid for.”

Mm, not quite the same. You aren’t funding the movie from the start, or the burger joint from the start. It’s already made and you’re going to see it. This is an entirely different animal that your analogy doesn’t cover.

If the burger joint said they would only have lots of beef, and you support them for it, then they only sell anything but beef, then your investment isn’t going to be something you’re happy with.

If the movie says it will feature Morgan Freeman, and you go in there and he’s not in it, you’ll be disappointed.

If the developer of MWO says they won’t have coolant flush, and then they put it in and start selling it to boot, you’ll be disappointed.

You see?


On April 18, 2013 at 10:59 pm

So… some of the packs are “pay to win”? Why would I want to participate in that?


On April 18, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Biased article.
As a founder I’m completely satisfied with my purchase. At no point do I have any regrets, or feel cheated for my purchase. I was told up front what content I got for my my $120. I liked it, it appealed to me. I’ve been playing for 9 months already and I’ve gotten more playtime out of MWO than I have for my dollar value since Diablo 2 and Mechwarrior 4. PGI is doing a great job with the game, and every month it gets better and better and better. Coolant Flush? The only people making a big deal about that are short-sighted infants that can’t let go of the past and don’t look to the future. Coolant Flush helps revenue for the company. Coolant Flush is not game-breaking. The Coolant Flush that they said they would not implemented was with MW4′s design in mind, and NOT the consumable one-time-use version that is in the game today.

I don’t like this article because 1) it’s needlessly long. 2) can’t prove a point. 3) too much information is left out. 4) it’s terribly biased.


On April 19, 2013 at 5:08 am

I am a legendary founder on mechwarrior and I for one will never buy another founder package the rest of my life . If your thinking of buying a founder package don’t do it wait for the game to launch, then buy the in game currency on sale for cheaper than you would have gotten it in the founders program.

James Murff

On April 19, 2013 at 9:04 am

@Victor Morson: No, comments aren’t blocked.


On April 19, 2013 at 6:32 pm


I am Purplefluffybunny form the MWO boards. James Murrf, do you have an email I can contact you on regarding other things that you may want to write about?

Joseph Mallan

On April 20, 2013 at 10:35 am

As said by a few others. I got the Mech I was promised, I got the MC I was Promised & The Premium time I was promised. So as far as getting what I paid for. I say I have. I was not promised no Coolant flush or anything else. As the game is not finished yet we have to see if these items will remain or I they will fall off the table. If you don’t want to take the risk you do not have to. So far, I am not let down.

Unkown Soldier

On April 20, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Short version at the end.

Weee I’m a founder of MW:O, so what. The founder packages listed in this article are for a few games. Yes there’s a risk with buying a founder package, yes founder packages can create false or spent out whales. The article just seems to be pointing out that there are pro’s and con’s to the founder business model. I got what I paid for with with MW:O, I also understood what I was paying for which seems to be part of what this article is about.

Walking into a store and buying something doesn’t give you free rain of the store. Walking into a store and not buying anything because they don’t have what you want just means you need to move on to another store. If said store asks you why you didn’t buy anything, the next time you go there they might have what your looking for. The same applies to MMO games, the developer will make changes and add things to there “store” (game/cash shop) if it appeals to enough players and wouldn’t upset or change the game in a negative way. My point with this part is a well done founder package can be a great quick cash marketing ploy as well as be a means to “kickstart” a game as long as the package doesn’t give a player an edge over another player that would negate skill (so as to prevent alienating future players). Players just need to understand that buying a founder package only gets you what ever is in the package and nothing more. Owning a founder package gives me and anyone else with the same one the same thing, in game items. If you don’t like how the game changes after you buy a founder package express your option and if your not alone in it then the change may be undone or altered to better fit what you (and others) where expecting.

Too many nerd rages over this that and the other thing does nothing to improve a game. Bring up a point and nailing it home, explaining it and have other players support and evolve it. Making demands or saying “do it my way or I quit” has the same weight from a paying player as it does with a free player, none. If you buy a founders package and later don’t like the way the game is heading then express that and explain what you don’t like and start a dialog with ways to ether change it back (unlikely but possible) or evolve the change to more fit in with the game you where expecting. MMO games will always change to try and pull in as many paying players as it can. The formula for success yesterday is the same one for failure tomorrow. An example would be WoW which was the last big success in monthly payment MMOs and has been slowly combining servers do to a stead (all be it very slow) drop in there player base.

“Do you have an opinion on founder’s packs?”

Yes if they’re done well. No if they create a skill subsidizing gap.

“Do you love them or hate them?”


“Let us know in the comments below!”

I agree about them having pros and cons, it doesn’t make it so you have more or less “rights” about how a game develops.


On April 21, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Veteran founder here. I paid $30 to play this game earlier. No founders mech etc. The $30 paid was to be part of closed beta and play a mech simulator game (something we have been missing for far too long).

In defence of MWO, if there was no founder’s program we probably wouldn’t have the game at all. Regardless of what PGI are doing with the game, that $30 investment of mine is a no brainer.
Without the investment, NO MECHWARRIOR AT ALL.

Am I a whale or a false whale? Maybe I’m a blue whale falling out of the sky. Maybe I’m a fat whale with poka dots. What a load of crap. Honestly. The whole premise of this article is stupid. Consumer fatigue? WTF. I have played video games for my whole life of 37 years and mentioning a PR term like consumer fatigue makes me laugh. I will buy a game if I like it or think I will like it. PERIOD.

People find something they like, they spend money on it. It’s that simple.

I am not defending MWO, they do heaps of that pisses me off, but cry a river, it was $30. I could buy a new tshirt or take a risk on a genre I absolutely love. NO BRAINER. Stupid article.


On April 26, 2013 at 1:55 am

saves complaint posts PGI deletes.


On April 29, 2013 at 12:47 am

I bought the MWO Founder package at the ‘Elite’ level. Sixty bucks. Technically, I got what I paid for. A Founders’ mech of my choice, some in-game currency, a couple of months of premium time, and a snazzy forum tag.

What I didn’t get however, was a game that in any way beyond ‘stompy robots’ bears any likeness to the previous Mechwarrior titles or Battletech. While not part of the Founders’ Packages, this essence of MW and BT was a bill of goods being sold from the very beginning that has not been delivered by PIG (PGI/IGP), and doesn’t appear to be likely to be delivered. MWO has taken such a huge departure from the original IP is it supposed to be based on that I don’t see how it could be considered to be part of that IP anymore.

Adding insult to injury, I have been treated in the most contemptuous and manner by by developer and publisher alike because a portion of the feedback I’ve given them as first a closed and then open beta tester has been critical in nature.

I put a lot of my time and effort into trying to help PIG release an AAA Mechwarrior title and all I’ve got to show for it is the feeling of being violated.

I suppose though it could be said I was asking for it by putting my trust in a Dev Studio with it’s claim to fame being a stupid fishing game.


On June 20, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I purchased the Legendary Founders Pack ($120)

I have been playing closed beta for a year now, (got in prior to Founders date) and still love the game. I feel I got my money’s worth with this. I have been a Battletech fan for 25 years so throwing down some cash on a game I have been waiting for for 10 years (since MW4) was a no brainer.

I LOVE playing with my Founders Mechs. The C-Bill bonus is extremely enticing.

I understand the points of this article and yes, people need to be more informed about Founder’s Packs, but if MW:O was the first (Yeah! I’m part of gaming history!) they haven’t been around long, but things change fast. And on the internet, success feeds like wildfire.

But, to your point specifically about money invested vs. promised features:

I played World of Warcraft for 9 years. That’s $15 x 12 months x 8 years (1 year was beta)
That is $1440 ! After even the first year I had sunk $180 into the game and they were already making changes such that the game was very different that what it started out as.

Now yes, that was month to month, but as you stated, once I had put in that money it was hard to leave because of the investment. Doesn’t matter that it was not a F2P game….the money invested (As well as the time) was just as green. Now, maybe devs should be a bit more cautious on what they “promise” vs what they deliver. But, if you go back through all the DEVBLOGS, Q&As and magazine articles…PGI has been VERY CONSISTENT in their wording to avoid promises, and deadlines.

Sure, they try to skirt those boundaries best they can. But, it’s like with politicians. We hate them when they LIE to use, but we hate them EVEN MORE when they tell us truths we do not like.

With the Founder’s Pack, subsequent patches and development timelines, I challenge anyone to find any outright lies. Coolant flush is pretty close, but they never say there would not be a coolant flush of any kind, ever.

In the end though, the game is great fun, will be awesome soon and if you haven’t tried it yet… should. It’s still FREE TO PLAY and ALWAYS will be. THAT….is the only promise they have ever made.

Peace out.