Non-Buyer's Remorse Remorse?
Posted by Player Versus Developer [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 29 May 2013, 10:20 pm
The Marvel Heroes online Diablo clone game is attempting to get off the ground right now with mixed and generally unfortunate results.

The game was down for the entire first day of the promised early access period for $200 ultimate founder's pack customers.  It appears from the forums that the game's account systems somehow completely failed to correctly flag accounts with what people had purchased.  Some folks who had NOT paid for the first wave of early access got in briefly this morning, some folks who did pay did not get in, and almost everyone did not receive the correct amount of bonus in-game currency - the devs were so busy trying to make sure people were able to log in that they gave up and credited everyone with the minimum amount of currency and promised to fix the remaining balance later.

On the one hand, this type of debacle is precisely why I don't pay for early access deals, and think they are a terrible (though industry-wide) idea.  When access a certain number of days in advance is a specific selling point, customers have every right to be irked if you fail to deliver.  On the other hand, part of me feels a bit of remorse that I'm not in the crowd that's currently feeling the buyer's remorse for their purchases.

The Pre-Sales Campaign
If you'd asked me back in January when pre-purchases were announced - without any knowledge of what was actually going to be in the game - what hero and what costume from the entire Marvel universe I'd like to play in the upcoming title, I would have said Cyclops in his 90's era costume.  Cyclops has been portrayed very inconsistently over the years, but that particular era's plotlines - and that particular visual look - were amongst my favorite memories of the comics I read in my high school years.  Ironically, that very character with that particular costume was offered as one of the $20 starter packs.

I didn't bite.  It didn't occur to me that the studio would engage in an incredibly aggressive hard-sell campaign.  Shortly after that first post, they reduced the amount of cash store currency included in all bundles without advance notice, and threatened that the deal could get even worse with no notice.  Then they started removing popular characters (i.e. most characters with recent movies) from the $20 tier so that they would only be available in the $60 premium packages.

Then they announced at PAX East that the pre-orders would be the only way to guarantee that you got the specific character you wanted.  At the time, they intended to disallow players from purchasing specific characters post-launch, instead offering a lottery ticket that would contain a random hero instead.  This went over so poorly that they had to walk it back - apparently even MMO players have an upper limit of how much business model abuse we will take.  (Instead, they've rolled out a system where all heroes are available in the store, with most costing $9-12 and a few popular picks as high as $20.)

Overall, as I wrote in February, the pre-sales campaign treated customers in a way that I do not want to be treated.

The alternative...
Of course, I didn't know any of this when I decided not to buy a starter pack back in January.  Rather, my decision was driven by lack of information about how the individual characters would turn out.  Sure enough, many people are saying very bad things about Cyclops on the forums and Reddit, referring to him as "Punchlops" since he seems to have to spend more time punching than firing optic blasts.  Even his defenders say he is a fragile character whose best contribution comes in the form of buffs for groups - and I'd anticipate spending more of my time solo.

Feeling locked into a character I don't enjoy playing because I paid for that character sight unseen months ago would irk me almost as much as the aggressive sales tactics and the significant issues with the game's launch.  On the other hand, in that scenario my decision would already be made, I'd be out $20 and left to make the best of the game one way or another.  In particular, I'd own that costume that I wanted and now know will cost $15 in the game's cash store post-launch - more than I can justify spending on an optional cosmetic item. This means that if I ever do get to play Cyclops - either as an unlikely random drop or by paying for the unlock - he almost certainly won't have that iconic look I remembered from high school and wanted to play. 

The good news is that I like The Thing, he's one of the free options for starter heroes, and supposedly he isn't bad.  I will now plan to roll into the game's non-pre-purchase launch next week without spending any money up front, and they will have a tough sell to convince me that I should give them money after all that I've seen and know now.  Objectively, I made exactly the right decision.  It just remains to be seen whether the cost of having been wrong would have been that bad. 

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