Server queue priority
Removing fairness for money
What is queue priority?
Battlefield 3 Premium members will be prioritized when they are waiting for a server slot to free up.
In other words, if you have Premium, you will be placed in front of other players who have already been waiting in line to get into a game.
What is wrong with queue priority?
This Premium "feature" is removing a fair system that was already in place for all players who bought Battlefield 3. It is not just giving a bonus to Premium players, but rather penalizing users who choose not to purchase this additional service. It degrades the original product sold (post-sale for most users) through changing how the feature works and ultimately requires you to pay more to, at the very least, maintain the level of quality you once had.
To describe it in simpler terms, they took a fair system for all players and turned it into a system where players can pay more to cut you in line.
Give and give some more, but never take away.
Value-negative bonuses at their best
What is "early access"?
All Battlefield 3 Premium members will have two weeks early access to all upcoming expansion packs including Battlefield 3 Close Quarters.
PlayStation 3 players will still also enjoy one additional week early access to all expansions. This means that PlayStation 3 players with Battlefield 3 Premium will be able to access expansion packs one week earlier than other Battlefield 3 Premium players.
What is wrong with "early access"?
If you're gamer, you probably already know all about "exclusive early access" in relation to what is often referred to as the platform/console wars. It's where companies such as Microsoft and Sony pay for exclusive rights to get certain games released to their platform before they get released to other platforms. The commonly believed reason for this is to persuade users into going to the platform where the games you love come out first. It's a corporate dealing that doesn't help the customer in any way, but apparently it's good for business.
So why is this relevant? It's relevant because we are now seeing "early access" being sold as a cross-platform "bonus" directly to players. At first glance many people may not see the issue here. They'll probably think "If I buy this I get access to the game early? Cool." This is marketing team's dream!
Stick with me and I'll explain why this is actually bad for you, the consumer. Earlier I mentioned that the "exclusive early access" doesn't help the consumer and is merely a businesses ploy to get you to buy, or buy for, a particular platform. Even though that doesn't seem entirely true here because of it being a cross-platform deal, it's actually worse. What is so bad about platform exclusives is that they do nothing but delay the release to certain platforms. For consumers, all it does is make your purchasing choice harder by adding another thing to consider. Do you want to get the game on your preferred platform or do you want to get the game earlier? So the business pays their money for the exclusivity and hopes consumers choose to go with them.
With Premium though, it's not a question of platform and there is no company that has to pay for exclusivity. Instead, and the part that is worse, is that now they are making YOU, the consumer, pay for what is ultimately a business incentive. There is no longer multiple businesses competing and bidding for your attention with exclusivity. No, you are now competing with other customers to get the game all of you want. It's such a brilliant scheme because EA wins no matter what you choose.
"Early access" is nothing but the creation of a delayed access. For without "early access" there is only a release date that is all too likely to be the same "early access" date. It's not a bonus for the consumer as they would like you to believe, but rather an artificially created delay to punish those who don't buy Premium. It's value-negative. The product is finalized, but they are delaying it for the purpose of selling you a "benefit" that you would have had, had the "benefit" never been created in the first place.
All bonuses should be value-positive. Creating a negative to sell a positive isn't a positive at all.
Premium spam / status symbol
Premium! Premium! Premium!
I'm sorry, what did you say?
PREMIUM! Yes, yes, we heard you. Players like to know about special promotions, we do. However, there is a thing called going overboard and it is something that makes players resentful. You will be hard pressed to find any official Battlefield pages that do not mention Premium and in most cases multiple mentions. It's on most website pages, all over Battlelog, and even in game.
Premium takes it to a new level though and has turned advertising into status symbol. If you don't own Premium...well, let's just say DICE/EA are going to make sure you know it. So much so that you're probably going to feel bad for it and maybe even resent those who have it. Nobody likes to be excluded and they're using that to their full advantage.
The biggest issue, as I see it, is they force players who bought Premium to advertise that they bought Premium and do so on their Battlelog profile, their battle feed, and worst of all in-game. Every time a player is killed by a Premium player, they are metaphorically slapped in the face with a message telling them they've been killed by a Premium player. What does having Premium have to do with killing someone? Nothing, but it's good advertising...right? This status symbol of being Premium is no option either. You wanted Premium, so now you better like it and accept that you're going to be a walking billboard.
The solution for this one is easy, remove the forced labels. Premium players are already given special dog tags that say Premium. That gives players the option of showing their love and support for Premium. However, forcing players to flaunt it as a title in-game and on your profile is too much. We can already tell if a player has it by their unlocks, their guns, their camo, etc. That's in-game content. Show that all you want, but leave the rest to us.
Then there are the lessor forms of Premium annoyances for non-premium players, mostly around UI placement. Such as on the assignments page. Premium assignments are placed above all other assignments, even if you have not been assigned them. Makes sense, right? From an advertising perspective, certainly...but from a player perspective? Not at all. If it is locked, it should be placed at the bottom of the page. Not above the assignments that can actually be done. You should not have to bypass all the locked content that you have to pay extra for just to get to what has already been bought. Advertising should not overpower actual content. This is UX/UI design 101.
A good product sells itself with a little bit of help. Overburdening players and pitting them against each other creates resentment. Tread carefully for it may come back to bite you later.
Battlefield 3 Premium pricing
Disparaging fans for pre-ordering and buying existing DLC
How do pre-ordering and Premium relate?
Battlefield 3 Premium includes five expansion packs. One of those expansion packs is Back to Karkand (B2K). Back to Karkand was marketed as a bonus for anybody who pre-ordered Battlefield 3 and was recognized as a way to reward hardcore fans for willing to put trust into the game being good on release. So if you supported DICE/EA by pre-ordering Battlefield 3 (a benefit to DICE/EA), you got Back to Karkand with it (a benefit to hardcore fans).
What went wrong?
Premium is a promotion that largely targets hardcore fans. Most hardcore fans, and some more casual, want all of the DLC. Premium includes all of the DLC. However, it also includes what almost all the biggest fans already have. Back to Karkand. Something that was supposed to be a bonus. Something that many other fans paid $15 for...as late as the day before Premium was announced.
What went wrong was that people who pre-ordered or bought B2K separately did not and as of writing this, do not get a discount on buying Premium. If you want to buy Premium and already own B2K, you have to pay in full and essentially re-buy that DLC...and no, you can't gift it to somebody else.
So for pre-ordering Battlefield 3, something DICE/EA wanted, you are now getting a worse deal. A worse deal on Premium for being a hardcore fan and wanting to buy more. A worse deal for buying DLC. EA has attempted to excuse this by saying hardcore fans are still saving $10, but the fact of the matter is that you get a worse deal for having supported them early on. The bonus of pre-ordering was essentially removed post-sale for anybody wanting to continue to support the game and it's higher services.
Offering bonuses can be great incentive for a sale. Asking people to pay for them later, the opposite.
What's the benefit?
What do Premium servers provide?
I have attempted to figure out what "Premium" servers provide that a regular server does not, but have fallen flat in my search. The only visible difference I have found is that it requires players to have Premium to join.
If correct, this feature provides nothing but a way to exclude players and divide the community. It appears to have nothing to do with whether or not you have the DLC, as you could buy them separately and there are other filters to do that. Double XP can (or should, I would think) be awarded on a user basis and not require special servers. If there is some needed reason for this that I am not seeing, I'd be happy to strike this off my list of things Premium did wrong...but up til now, I haven't found or heard one.
Then there is the question, why spend time on adding Premium filters that serve no good purpose, while existing filters and the filter system in general is not entirely working. Reports of these issues can be found all over, from GetSatisfaction, the official forums, reddit, and probably plenty of other places. You'll find examples of these problems showing little to no results for filter setups that clearly match existing servers. I'm willing to bet Premium and non-Premium members alike would prefer these issues fixed before adding more features that have little use beyond dividing the community more.
A strong community that wants to play together stays together.