Yeah I'm not in a hurry. Maybe my OP gave the wrong impression: the issue isn't the price, but rather the respect that I have for this game, its developers and the expectations that I have. I'l wait it out I guess. Thanks for the reply.
Honest question: was this game released too early?
Absolutely not. "Released too early" implies quality control issues and/or massive missing features from core gameplay. That's not the same thing as a game which hasn't been able to fully replicate all the features of a predecessor (which had 10+ years of development to reach that apex) AND add new things. It's also not fair to call lack of tuning "unready", since tuning, by virtual definition, depends on having a large amount of experience to draw upon to make those tuning choices, and that experience is really only available with a large AND diverse userbase (yes, the GC3 alpha/beta had a pretty decent userbase, but you're still only talking about several thousand, not multiple tens of thousands, and a *very* different type of user).
Upon launch, certainly GC3 wasn't as complete as GC2 Twilight of the Arnor. But that's an unfair comparison. It certainly was playable and enjoyable, and if certain features simply didn't exist, they weren't part of core gameplay by any definition.
The DLC/Expansions will continue to broaden the sandbox, and it will only ever get more enjoyable in the future. That said, there's an opportunity cost to waiting - you put off playing because it'll get better later, but you deny yourself the pleasure now. It's a lot like CPUs - there's always something better/cheaper over the horizon, but at some point you need to buy one so you actually get to use it.
Frankly, that "why wait?" point was about the 1.7 patch. Right now, GC3 is more playable than GC2 ToTA. They have disjoint featuresets (i.e. stuff in either GC2 or GC3 which isn't in the other), so don't expect to be doing everything in GC3 you could in GC2 (yet). But outside that, if you're planning on buying it anyway, there's simply not a good reason to do so NOW (absent any price sensitivity).
In addition, the existence of the "Gold" version on Steam is a great deal: at any time, it will allow you to "round out" all the DLC/expansions you don't own, at a 25% price break. You only pay for what you don't have. You'll also be able to buy that multiple times; think of it as a "Gimme everything I'm missing right now" item - you'll never have to rebuy some piece you already have.
If you're price sensitive, wait until the base GC3 game goes on sale (it'll sells for half off regularly). Buy that, and play that to get familiar with it - being aware that a lot of very fun things are in the DLC/Expansions - and then go buy the Gold bundle to get all the DLC once you're satisfied you like the game.
For me, I kinda like the way it's being released. It always leaves something neat and new for just around the corner (every month or two there's some new DLC), which gives me plenty of time to play the EXISTING configuration and enjoy that (not to mention figure out how to properly play those features) before I'm presented with a new batch of challenges.
And a final poke-in-the-eye to those of who complained about the "ridiculous" $100 Founders' version - to quote Lord John Whorfin: "Laugh-a while you can, monkey-boy. "