LOTRO: More Public Relations Problems
I’m not currently playing LOTRO but it hasn’t escaped my notice that there’s been a “wee stooshie” this week regarding Standing Stone Games handling of the “Incomparable Item” debacle. To summarise, the cost of some specific high-end gear was set too low (about 75% cheaper than it should have been). Naturally, players bought these items from the barter vendor in good faith. Once the error was discovered, SSG’s initial solution was to patch the game and remove the item(s) from those who currently had it, without adequate compensation. Naturally this was not well received by those affected by the issue, many of whom had bought the new items, then broken down and asset stripped the gear it was replacing. Drama, rancour and poor public relations ensued, further damaging community relations between SSG and the LOTRO player base. It should be noted that SSG is still trying to recover from the last marketing blunder they made back in July when they announced the profligate pricing range of the Mordor expansion.
Like all problems of this nature, a compromise solution has been eventually found. Community Manager Cordovan released the following statement, although it can be cogently argued that the manner and tone of his previous comments have hardly helped the matter. “For players who already purchased Item Level 330 Incomparable gear, we have several options available. When the hotfix is released, already-purchased level 330 Incomparable items will be able to be disenchanted with the Flame of Ancalamir to return the full Ash of Gorgoroth cost, plus a number of Shadowed Essence Boxes equal to the number of Essence Slots on the gear. Already-purchased Item Level 330 Incomparable Gear will also have its stats adjusted to be approximately equivalent to the level 330 rare gear available through the High-Enchanter, and the Essence Slots will remain. This allows players to utilize the gear if they choose. Following the hotfix, Incomparable gear will have its correct vendor cost.”
It would appear that some LOTRO players are still not entirely happy with this solution but I get the impression that SSG are now done with this issue. Sadly, once again we see a lack of proactive community management and a lack of sensitivity towards paying customers. Stepping back from this issue per se and looking at the bigger picture, it presents yet further proof that SSG’s QA processes are inadequate. Too often “preview builds” from the Bullroarer test server are released into the live game environment with a wealth of bugs, flaws and mistakes. Players have raised this issue time and time again but their legitimate concerns habitually fall upon deaf ears. It’s become a common place to see SSG scrabbling franticly to release a patch or hotfix, within days of major new content going live. As I mentioned in previous posts, we should remember that SSG is just a new label and that the core LOTRO team is the same from the Turbine days. This new broom obviously doesn’t sweep clean.
Returning to the matter of the gear debacle, it’s a textbook example of poor customer service. This problem should have never made it into the live game to begin with, however it did. SSG should have held their hands up, admitted to a mistake and taken this hit directly on the chin. Under UK consumer legislation if you have already bought an item that was incorrectly priced, the retailer has to accept the transaction as it stands. That’s exactly what SSG should have done; let those who bought the gear at the incorrect price, keep it and then fix the problem so the error didn’t continue. If they had done all this with a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour, then the entire problem could have been avoided. Such goodwill would no doubt done much to improve ongoing community relations. But SSG seems to lack such business acumen and chose to do the opposite. Their high-handed attitude as well as their “blame and inconvenience the customer” mindset is incredibly counterproductive. This blunder is certainly not the final nail in LOTRO’s coffin but it is yet another unnecessary “own goal”. And there have been so many in the game’s history. Player goodwill is not an infinite resource. Therefore beware, Standing Stone Games.
Today's hotfix for this issue, did not go well. It "incorrectly reduced the power of Level 330 Incomparable items acquired through the new Instances and Gorgoroth Steel-bound Lootboxes" according to Community Manager Cordovan. Therefore as a sign of goodwill SSG have granted all players 50 Mithril Coins from the LOTRO Store with the Code MORDORMITHRIL, now through October 22nd, 1/Account. This is a positive step forward. Let us hope that the next hotfix that comes this weekend resolves the issue for good.