My feelings haven't changed. But while launching into a full-on rant was certainly cathartic and managed to hit a lot of good points, there were a lot of good points brought up in the comments that I simply hadn't touched on. So it's time to address some of the those ideas and complaints, both the good and the bad. (Although under the circumstances, it's pretty much all bad in varying flavors.)
"If you don't like it, just don't buy it."
This is the position I've taken on many other points, and it's certainly valid. I mean, no one is standing in my house with a gun to my head daring me to purchase Super Packs. Why not just ignore them?
The reason is the same reason I wasn't happy with the Party Pack, only more so: There are some moves that need to be flagged as unacceptable beyond just saying that you'll pass. There are times when a service can move too far into unconscionable territory, and at that point, simply not buying anything doesn't send a strong enough message.
In the case of the Super Pack, it's more than just a matter of consumers' being charged too much for too little product. It's the start down a very uncomfortable slippery slope. Better to say that outright than hope that my non-purchase conveys the message.
"Other companies have made a lot of money doing this; you can't be surprised by it."
It's very possible for something to be successful without necessarily being right. You can make a lot of money in insurance by collecting payments and then doing everything possible to avoid paying out to the insured, but that doesn't make your actions laudable. It just means that you've found a way to make money without spending much, and that's clearly higher on your priority list than ethics.
And that gets to the heart of the matter of why I'm surprised. There's no doubt in my mind that other companies using similar grab bags have made a great deal of money; the problem is that it's dirty money, it's an unfair practice toward players, and it's the sort of thing that I honestly feel is beneath Paragon Studios. It's on par with forcing players to pay money in order to fix broken elements of game design (another ongoing trend with a different free-to-play game, which isn't really my place to discuss beyond this mention).
Whether or not this will make money for City of Heroes is not the issue. Charging for access to every zone in the game would make money, too. That doesn't make it a good idea.
"It's the same business model as trading card games, and those are fine."
Those same business models are the source of endless debate among fans of the game, many of whom feel that their ability to play competitively is sharply limited by the price and availability of cards. It's an apt comparison, but I think it's making the opposite of the argument you want.
"All of the drop rates for things are reasonable, so it's not like you have to buy a lot of them."
First of all, I will say that I haven't tested the drop rates myself for obvious reasons. (Writing a column about how something is wrong and then going out and buying it would be... well, dumb isn't a strong enough term, but you get the idea.) I have no reason to believe that the people claiming the drop rates are fine are lying, however. I fully believe that you can reliably expect to see all of the costume parts unlocked in a timely manner.
With this pack.
There's a danger in assuming that because this example didn't turn out nearly as badly as it could have, future installments in the same vein would also adhere to the same rules. As it stands now, there are no rules because no rules have been set forth. No promises have been broken, but no promises have been made, either. Absolutely nothing prevents the next pack from having a worse drop rate, a full powerset as the rare drop, or something progressively worse.
All that would be different is that letting the first marginal case pass without incident made the second case much easier to push through. I don't honestly think that the inevitable future for the game involves this horrid roulette's becoming the sole source of desirable rewards. Then again, I didn't honestly think that the first one would see its way to release, so my ability to accurately gauge these things is rather suspect.
"But they're just costume pieces. Who cares, right?"
Are we playing the same game?
Costume pieces are more valuable than Enhancements here. Seriously.
As always, I welcome feedback and opinions in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. That includes your comments suggesting I'm full of it and have made a mountain out of a molehill. (It looks like a mountain from my perspective, anyway.) Next week, as prompted by a staff discussion, I'm going to talk about Enhancements to the best of my ability.
By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre unveils his secret identity in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles every Wednesday. Filled with all the news that's fit to analyze and all the muck that's fit to rake, this look at City of Heroes analyzes everything from the game's connection to its four-color roots to the latest changes in the game's mechanics.