How F2P ‘Founder’s Packs’ Offer Great Deals at Great Risk
Founder’s packs for Warframe
Now we’ve got to look at why founder’s packs might not be the best idea. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, after all; every good deal has a downside. Just because founder’s packs don’t have many doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Funnily enough, most these downsides exist exclusively for the developer, not the consumer. There is one pretty big tripping point for the end-user, though.
You might not get the game you paid for
While gazing ahead at the collection of new founder’s packs and F2P titles is tempting, sometimes we have to look back at what came before. In this case, what came before was Mechwarrior Online. As already mentioned, MWO’s founder’s sale was an incredible success that paved the way for developers to create and promote founder’s packs across the medium. It also serves as an abject lesson in how you might not get what you expected, and that the higher price of a founder’s pack can often make you feel like you’ve been cheated. Preordering a normal game comes with the guarantee that you’ll at least get an approximation of the game you ask for, and at minimum only costs a few dollars. Purchasing a founder’s pack comes with no such guarantee, as you are buying into a game that is still undergoing continuous development and iterative change. It’s also a lot more expensive than a few dollars.
MWO’s developers released an announcement at the beginning of March about consumables. While this isn’t unusual in itself, they also mentioned that they would be implementing a coolant flush system. For those unaware, coolant flush was a controversial mechanic in Mechwarrior 4, and the developers told the userbase that it would not be implemented into the game. Now the developers were saying it was, in fact, going to be implemented, and the best version was going to cost real money and be consumed on completing a battle.
The forums erupted shortly thereafter in a furious rampage of anger. The most outspoken Mechwarrior fans – the ones who were hoping MWO would turn out to be like their beloved Mechwarrior 2 – railed against the design decision. They also publicly complained about the founder’s packs they had purchased, lamenting the fact that they had spent so much money only to have the game change in a way contrary to their expectations. A few demanded refunds, but that will never happen.
This conflux of nerd rage serves as a cautionary tale for both consumers and developers. To all you buyers: Be wary of your purchases. That $250 pack sure looks like a great deal, but it comes with the risk of the game changing in a way that you just can’t stand. Can you really afford to spend that much on a game you stand a good chance of abandoning later due to developer mismanagement? To all you developers: Remember that you are asking quite a lot of money for your project. Ignoring the feedback of the players who have spent over $100 on your game is a dangerous proposition, and could lead to widespread abandonment.
Proliferation leads to consumer fatigue
When every free-to-play game uses founder’s packs – and it’s entirely plausible, given how crazy profitable they are – there’s going to be some massive consumer fatigue. I’m already feeling a bit tired of all these packs myself. They are great deals, but they are being packed behind massive paywalls. The number of games that use this scheme will only grow as the genre expands.
The problem with this is that there’s only so much money a person can put into gaming. Founder’s packs force a person to pay a lot of money – often over a hundred dollars – up front. Not many games require you to do that. By comparison, the average free-to-play game tempts you to pay at regular intervals, but doesn’t require one massive purchase. Normal games require you pay around $60 immediately, but that’s (usually) it. Founder’s packs make you pay a huge amount immediately and then proceed to ask for more as they game expands. It’s quite hard on the wallet.
Founder’s packs create “false whales”
A false whale is a player who has spent a lot of money on your game, but will not be spending more in the future. They are generally created when some incredibly good deal comes out – let’s say all current items in the game for $100 – that saps them of their mental capacity for consumerism. In other words, they spent so much that they are all spent out. They don’t want to spend any more.
While false whales are a relatively small problem in the normal free-to-play space, as most whales space out their purchases over time, they are definitely a potential problem for games using founder’s packs. Packs exhaust the player’s willingness to spend any more money. After all, they have already spent a lot just to play the game and get those exclusive founder’s items. They are “false whales” because, unlike a normal whale, they don’t continue to spend. They are done giving you money. The $100 you have now is good enough.
Founder’s packs accentuate elitism
Free-to-play games are rife with elitism. Players look down on others because they didn’t spend enough money on the game to get fancy cosmetics or items. It’s a segregation of class based on money. You’ve got your upper class folks – those who own every item – the middle class – those who own a few cosmetics for their favorites – and the poor – those who play the game for free.
This is greatly accentuated by founder’s packs. As founder’s packs often impart special gear, titles, and badges on players that buy them, they add a way for those differing classes of player to distinguish each other. This segregation is seen a lot in Mechwarrior Online – the only game I know of with a closed founder’s program – and players use it to determine skill. Seeing a team of all legendary founder’s badges on the enemy team is often enough to make free players outright leave, even if those enemy players are terrible. It’s all about perception.
Founder’s packs are here to stay. Don’t be surprised if you see a lot more free-to-play titles using it as the model for pre-purchases. Honestly, I think it’s a good thing. Founder’s packs allow players to support developers they trust make games they love. Just don’t let all those benefits blind you from how much money you’ll be spending and the sort of class system you are buying into.
Do you have an opinion on founder’s packs? Do you love them or hate them? Let us know in the comments below!