Yes, the LotRO community got thrown for a loop this week, as Turbine announced that Riders of Rohan has been shoved back a month and a half for additional work. So we've gone from a mere two-week countdown to nearly two months, and that takes a bit of mental adjustment. On top of all that, the studio demolished the NDA wall, which sort of seems like a risky move when you've just disappointed players with news of a delay.
I think we should talk about it, don't you? I'll say this up front: It's actually a very good thing.
This gets said all the time when it comes to MMO delays, but it bears repeating: It's always, always better to have a better product later than a crappy product now. No game or expansion can ever launch without any issues, but there's certainly a threshold that needs to be crossed or else the title will forever be associated with failure. MMO players are always more willing to hold a grudge than grant forgiveness, in my experience.
So Turbine looked at its work on Riders of Rohan, took in feedback from testers, and made the call. It couldn't have been an easy call to make because there's a significant PR hit when you do so. It disgruntles those waiting, makes people feel uneasy about the final product, and keeps money out of the hands of the studio.
Of course, Turbine has a lot of players' money in the form of pre-purchases right now, which is why the studio absolutely had to compensate them for this delay. The 500 TP and some consumables may not assuage all bad feelings, but it's a far cry better than nothing and feels adequate to me.
One always has to question whether a company is being 100% transparent and whether there are other factors at play. A healthy dose of paranoia is good to maintain when dealing with press statements, methinks. When it comes to this delay, sure, it could be as simple as "it needs more work; it'll get dinged hard by the community if we released it now." Seeing as how the expansion is introducing a radically new system into the game, I would readily understand if this were the case.
However, I have to admit that there may be more going on than Turbine is saying, perhaps a two-birds-with-one-stone scenario. Riders of Rohan needs more work, but it's also in Turbine's best interest to get the expansion out of that September 5th slot.
Need you ask, really?
When Turbine first scheduled this expansion's launch date, it looked to have the surrounding dates free and clear to itself. The beginning of fall made sense, and all of the other major releases were still being coy with specifics. That's since changed, and I can only imagine the dismay as Turbine saw its flagship MMO's big expansion -- and big moneymaker -- suddenly sandwiched between Guild Wars 2 and Mists of Pandaria. September became a killing field for any other new titles, and RoR stood to suffer greatly because of it.
In my opinion, it's always better to release after everything else than before because that makes you the newest thing. With an October 15th date, Riders of Rohan scoots neatly out of the immediate shadow of both of those major fantasy releases, and I think it gives it a much better shot to succeed with multiple-MMO players. Why? Because when a new shiny comes along, all you want to do is play with it. But that obsessive desire often scales back after a few weeks, allowing for other games to get back into your rotation.
Whether planned or not, this move helps give Riders of Rohan a good shot at getting more attention and interest. Unless, of course, RIFT decides to release its expansion in October as well!
Really, it's hard to be upset at all unless you've already scheduled time off or need your horse fix so dang bad. In addition to the more advantageous date, the additional work on the end product, and the goodies given to pre-purchasers, there's quite a lot to be excited about.
The first is the news that Turbine's created a native OSX client for Mac users, meaning that Apple players will no longer need Bootcamp to play LotRO. That was completely unexpected (at least for me), and I know quite a few Mac players who always cheer when a studio pays attention to them.
The second is the dropping of the NDA. As I said before, it was a little surprising that Turbine effectively opened itself up to public critique from those in the beta, but it probably helps to keep players from wondering just how bad it is in the beta and fretting while the silence remained. I'm not a fan of NDAs in general, so I'm glad that we can get some discussion with those on the scene.
Finally, we got the start of the Summerdays festival, so at least there's something new going on to keep us distracted. Personally, I'm going to use the extra weeks to mop up all of the remaining content I need to do and see if I can't cap my virtues.
Next week we'll take a look at beta impressions and what we can expect from Riders of Rohan come this October!
When not enjoying second breakfast and a pint of ale, Justin "Syp" Olivetti jaws about hobbits in his Lord of the Rings Online column, The Road to Mordor. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.