You sure they just didn't get the game on sale? The retail price is $59.99 - early access is just the bonus for preorder - they're not charging anyone extra for anything. I fail to see this hidden $5 fee. Pre-order bonuses are pretty standard nowadays. Now if you're talking the collector's edition - the content vs. sticker price is debatable.
Either way, my point about the head start was that with the amount of servers they plan on launch and the technology already available, staggering the head start shouldn't matter. It makes me feel like they're just trying to save money. All staggering is going to do is spread out players across the various zones - while it may relieve area congestion in regards to quests, none of it is going to matter if its a 5 hour queue to get in come launch day. It's not like there's going to be a lull in player activity once pre-launch starts. You have people who are taking time off for this launch, as well as going into the holiday season with school being out. Their server loads are going to be constantly rising. If anything, I think there's going to be a third wave, possibly stronger than the 12/20 crowd as the fence-sitters join in with the Christmas/holiday crowd. I think its would be better to open the dam so they can identify the cracks and fix them before the actual launch instead of being lulled into a false sense of security in a controlled environment. That's five days to finalize server deployment, update server code and revamp any of your networking needs so that the actual launch is smooth as silk. Anyone remember how bad the WoW and Aion launches were in regards to broken clients/server queues?
Anyway, they're not going to change their mind so I really hope they have an open beta so they can really get a true stress test instead of a planned one. I know they're not stupid, they opened up like 6 new servers for this weekend test, and it helped a ton. I'm sure they have a plan - I just think it would be better to tackle it sooner, rather than later. Launching a game this big during the holiday season is unprecedented, they really can't afford to make a bad impression. MMO players are a fickle crowd to begin with.