The Tribes: Ascend beta is in full swing and, being a fan of the previous games (maybe not Vengeance), I decided to pre-order the game and receive instant access to the beta. Does that sound crazy? Paying to pre-order a free-to-play game.. yeah, that sounds pretty stupid, but let me explain.
I wasn't paying to pre-order the game, that's not what this is about, the concept of "pre-order" is an idea conceived for conventional game releases, not the digital-only free-to-play distribution model which is popping up everywhere nowadays. However, I can imagine that there was no other real marketing term available to explain what you were giving your money away for. You're being given access to the public beta of a game which has yet to be released, which sounds like a pre-order to me, and it makes sense that you would have to part with some money for the privilege.
Anyway, terminology aside, the real push to why I would pay for a game that would eventually be free is not only to gain access to the beta, but it was to provide some sort of support for the developers... which sounds really stupid when I say it out loud. Making games is hard, it takes a lot of time and--if you're doing it professionally--a lot of money, so if a small contribution from a sizable group of people could in some way alleviate the pressure of the development process and perhaps lead to a better game in the end, then I think that it is something to support, especially for the small price which is asked.
I got access to the beta version of a game I want to play, as well as some micro-transaction fluff (gold coins, go figure), along with the sense of satisfaction for supporting something I like. The beta is fun, so despite that niggling feeling like I've been played I stand by my decision.