The past few months I have been completely boggled by the path Turbine has been taking with the LOTRO Store.
I’m all for trying new things and different ways to get get our interest to buy. Every store everywhere is essentially doing the same thing. The goal is get me to buy and I’m not adverse to buying things that I want/need. I will happily hand over my cash for something that will make my life easier, prettier or more enjoyable.
Lately though it seems, at least in this writers eyes, that something really wonky is happening with the LOTRO Store. Not just the high ticket items like the Hobby Horse Turbine was testing the waters with or the raise in some prices after Rohan. Those are changes I expect with a store, try something a little zany and adjust prices. That’s typical store behavior.
It feels more like general day to day communication seems to have broken down in some fashion.
My first thought goes to unannounced sales. I mean good sales that people would love to hear about and would take advantage of but Turbine didn’t announce it anywhere. We’ve had a couple examples of these that luckily we’ve caught due to diligent store users such as a complete crafter sale, war-steed color pack sale, and monster class sale.
It is completely possible these types of sales are simply human error. They were missed in the announcement or they were not supposed to be on sale at all and were turned on accidently. These things happen and I’m not damning Turbine for making mistakes if this is the case.
But unannounced sales hasn’t been limited to the in-game store. Just before the new year there were huge 50% off sales on the LOTRO Market and Steam that I didn’t see a mention of anywhere. Earlier this week there was a 50% off sale on LOTRO items from GameStop which again didn’t seem to make any announcements.
I’m completely baffled why Turbine would have sales that they don’t tell their customer’s about? I looked in the forums, on the announcements, twitter, Facebook, and in their weekly e-mail but didn’t see anything on these sales. I don’t know anything about business or marketing but it seems a half off sale would be worth at least mentioning.
Items Added / Removed without Notice
I’m mostly talking here about Turbine adding new items and then I guess expecting us to just find it for ourselves. A perfect example of this would be the new store exclusive steeds added with Update 9: Victory and Dol Baran. They’re added to the store, have the benefit of cosmetic options for war-steeds and no one is told they exist! We had the horse models in game at the only real clue to finding these.
We sometimes get store release notes that would show us new items but they seem to be a bit scarce and scattered in their frequency.
I want to know what’s new and if I need it and if it can be dyed pink. Is that too much to ask?
Closely related would be items that are deemed as limited time items that have no announcement or timeline shared of when they will be in or out of the store. One such example is the Bone Set of war-steed cosmetics.
I don’t have a problem with limited time items. It’s a little silly for a digital product but I have enough understanding to know that it’s a marketing strategy that tends to work to get immediate purchases. That’s fine if they want to do this.
The problem is communication of these limited time offers. To our eyes this item appears to be popping in and out of the store at random. One day it’s there and then it’s not and it is completely up to the players to notice when it is there to spread the word.
Perhaps these types of things are marketing tactics or trial programs Turbine is trying but as a consumer all I can say is this is frustrating. Expecting players to notice and share is one way to try to make us more attentive to your store, but I think the true outcome is people just missing buying the items they wanted and being rather annoyed when they realized the item is gone.
Removal of In-Game Sales/Special Items on Web Site
This week Turbine tried something new and is encouraging players to get in game to see the sales. Again, I’m not faulting them for trying new things. There probably is some underlying business reason I don’t understand as to why Turbine would think making their players go through extra effort to see the sales is worth a try. They’re even asking for feedback which is good to see they value our opinion of their little experiment.
This is the most crazy thing I’ve ever heard of. I can’t think of any other store who would just put up a flier saying that “We have stuff on sale, come on in to check it out!”.
Also it was rather unfortunate this week’s sale included cosmetics which made for pages and pages of content to click through. Merric was likening it to those $5 DVD bins you see at Wal-Mart where you have to sit and dig through the random assortment of items to see if there’s anything of interest to you.
PRO TIP: There is a “list” option in the store that will show much more than the 4 items at a time which was helpful for this sale. It’s located in the upper right corner of the store window. Also I would sort them by price as like items are typically priced the same so it would do a pseudo grouping of items for you to page through. I’d then find all the hats together and all the cloaks together, etc..
They’ve also change the Store Exclusives Steeds page to just a list of the steeds they have created. It doesn’t indicate which of these items is currently for sale in the store.
As I said, I’m sure there has to be a business reason for this but to a consumer it just looks like laziness. Like they don’t want to bother updating their site any longer so they’ll just add some static stuff and be done with it.
Suggestions for Improvement
I am neither a business person or a marketing person so I likely don’t understand the grand scheme of Turbine’s plans but I can give my opinion on things I as a customer would like to see improved.
Improvements to the store is needed if your true goal is get us to browse it aimlessly looking for goodies.
- It was actually pretty snappy for me last night while I was looking for the sale items but that has not been my experience overall with using the LOTRO Store. It needs to be as responsive as browsing any other online store.
- It should show everything regardless of race/level/etc. of the character logged in. Make it an option to toggle on and off the show everything. Items not applicable to my character can be greyed out but it should still be shown in case one of my alts might want it.
- The search feature needs to be improved. I can type out the exact name of the item and have it not show up in the results.
- The sales listing needs to replace the general information that was on the web site. Instead of an endless listing, give us categories and links to browse those categories.
Improvements to the web site would be welcomed.
The web site is a gateway for players to still feel connected to your game when not in it. Maybe I am an anomaly but I’m typically not browsing around my.lotro.com when in game. I’m playing when I’m in game. Share with me what’s going on in the world when I can’t be in it!
Like-wise, when I’m in game I want to play. I don’t want to be browsing around looking for deals. I’m not the window shopper or aisle wanderer type shopper even in real life. I go into a store with a list, walk directly to what I want, pay for it and leave. I’m like this in LOTRO as well that I shop like “oh I need this now” and buy it. The only time I may spend time browsing a bit is a determine your discount sale where I want to get items I need but want it to add up to a minimum amount for the sale price.
- I truly think it is worth your time to put up a page of weekly sales. In our small site poll a few week’s back over half of the players said they wait to buy things on sale. Making us find the sale items is not going to help.
- More communication of what is coming in and out of the store. Let us know what’s there to buy and when it will be going away.
- Regular Store Release Notes or some sort of index of what’s been added / changed for reference.
- Lore-book updated with store items and their functions/prices included.
- Utilize the launcher announcements for store sale listings.
- I’d actually love to see it go further and connect to the in-game store out of game. Let me just give you a little wishful thinking: Give me options to send Merric a gift from my account to his. Encourage community sharing. People do this on Steam all the time!
I was under the impression that the LOTRO Store was a major component of generating revenue for the game. Why would it not make sense to take the time to communicate these things?