Sunday, March 1

Lifetime products

While I am not someone who'd read Turbine's Lifetime account offer as a rock solid guarantee that Id still be able to play the game 20 years, I must say I'm a bit shocked to learn they were offering such a thing while they only had a licensing agreement which had to be extended in 2009. The Lifetime account deal was offered as a $200,- single purchase at launch which would allow you to keep playing LotrO 'forever' without a subscription fee. For anyone expecting to play more than ten months, this would be a good deal and I wouldn't be surprised to learn they're being sold on secondary markets for more money than they initially cost.

Turbine has now extended their license to use the Middle Earth IP to 2014. As the game launched in April 2007 (if memory serves, didn't Google it) I suspect their initial License ran for 4 years from 2006-2010 and they've now renewed for another four years, with an option at another three to 2017. In a way that's good news as it means Turbine expects not to close doors anytime soon, yet are realistic enough not to speculate more than five years into the future. It all makes sense to renew the license at this time me thinks.
And EverQuest players aside, I doubt there's anyone who'll really still be playing any MMO after ten years.

However, what is hidden in the fine print of the Agreement to catch the possible situation of Turbine deciding to discontinue their service in 2012 or so. Something that's a whole lot less likely today then it was back then. In consumerism lifetime usually means 20-25 years. Consequently I'd not expect a product that comes with a lifetime guarantee to actually last the 80-90 years that is a human's expected lifespan these days. But 25 years, the same as a life sentence in most Western World penal systems isn't to preposterous an expectation I'd say.
Then again 25 years in software isn't a lifetime, it's about five software life-cycles!

So, was Turbine morally right or wrong to offer a "lifetime account" in 2007 even though they only had guarantee'd lcensing rights until sometime before 2014?


  1. It all depends whose life the lifetime refers too. The way I read 'lifetime' it means as long as LotRO is alive. So if they have to shutdown the game next month because it is making big losses, then I would not be upset if I would have had that lifetime account. Well, I probably would be upset, but not so much for cheating me on this deal, but more for not attracting more new players. I don't think they ripped anybody off if they would close their doors now, although I hope they will be around till 2017 and beyond, of course.

    On a different note, I think the lifetime offer is a nasty two edged sword for Turbine. Sure it is nice to collect all the money at release, but now they are stuck with a game filled with players that don't bring in any new money, well not directly at least.

    I am not sure how many 'free' players are there vs subscription players, so perhaps it is not a big deal. And on the other hand the lifetime players are always there to keep the community somewhat going, and they might try to convince friends and family to join. So they could be a free ad campaign.

  2. I understand your point. Lifetime account to me means for as long as the game exists as well. But just imagine if Tabula Rasa had done this? You'd not have broken even on it.

    I'm not sure if the Lifetime account really cuts on two edges. I mean, Turbine has some pretty good figures on Player Churn. They probably know that more people play less than 10-12 months than play more. The risk factor is in how many of the less-than-10-months would lay down the $200 and how many of the certain-to-spend-years-in-the-game players would buy it.
    Turbine obviously hoped a lot more people that don't actually play for 10 months would buy it. As Turbine's pretty tight-lipped regarding subscription/active player numbers there's nothing to do but speculate.