Hot Rod Howitzer skin not included. I just love him and try to put him in every Paragon post.

Having to purchase a special founder’s pack to gain exclusive beta access and special content for a free-to-play game like Paragon is quickly becoming the norm. Releasing a $60 physical copy of a free-to-play downloadable game that scores players the same sort of benefits is a bit odd.

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The Unreal Engine 4 (because what else would they use?) MOBA with the pretty characters and third-person shooter vibe is in its Early Access season right now, which means that only players who have purchased founder’s packs can play. An open beta is coming this summer, prior to the game’s official release on PC and PlayStation 4, but until then only the most willing to drop at least $20 can play the free-to-play game.

Tiered founder’s packs have become a staple of the online gaming industry over the past few years, granting players willing to put money down for free-to-play MMOs or MOBAs some exclusive play time and other special benefits.

Paragon offers three tiers of founder’s packs, each giving players early access, a series of master challenges to complete, boosts and exclusive skins. All of these are available for purchase on the game’s web page, granting access on both platforms. These digital founder’s packs are also available via PSN.

The Essentials Edition of Paragon is pretty much the $60 challenger founder’s pack with a side of 6,000 Paragon coins and five skins, one exclusive to the pack.

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What strikes me as strange is that the content included in the Essentials Edition is easily delivered digitally, the way most players will obtain the game, free or paid. The disc inside the case is pretty much useless. All you need is the codes for access, as anyone can download the game itself on PlayStation 4—they just can’t play right now without founder’s pack access.

Why release a physical version at all? An Epic Games rep told me that it’s for players that want early access to the game and still prefer having a physical product in their hands, which is lovely and considerate. It seems obvious to me that it’s also about getting a Paragon presence in retail outlets, with the extra coins and skins serving as incentive for players to hit up participating stores.

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Is this basically paying for beta access? Of course it’s paying for beta access. That’s what online games do these days. They just don’t generally do it with physical product.If anything rubs me the wrong way, it’s that folks picking up a physical copy are actually getting more content for the same price. Sure makes going to the game store tempting. Just keep in mind the coins included will not transfer from PlayStation 4 to PC.

I’ll be playing Paragon more in the weeks to come. Hopefully I’ll get good before the open beta floodgates open this summer.