It’s Okay to Insta-level (WoW)

In what was probably a mistake, earlier today the live WoW servers briefly displayed a price for automatically levelling a character to 90, and that price was $60. While $60 seems too steep to me, everything is still up in the air and it doesn’t seem worth the effort to get too upset (or too happy) about that number right now.

What did stand out to me was a number of tweets with variations of the argument that $60 is a high enough price point to discourage players from using it “too much”. To be fair I get a little shirty around any authority (you can’t tell me what to do!!), but I kind of bridle at the idea that Blizzard is pricing this service to help save us from ourselves.

First, I don’t think it’s true. Blizzard knows they have a game full of people willing to spend $25 on a horse or a costume hat, and pricing something high to limit sales is pretty counter-intuitive in today’s markets. It seems far more likely that they would price it as high as people will still pay.

But aside from that, I guess I just don’t understand why some feel we need to artificially discourage people from insta-levelling.

A game like WoW has the vast majority of its content for level-capped players. Between heirlooms and the Cataclysm world changes, not to mention the monk XP buff, it’s faster than ever to level a character, to the point where a particularly determined person could probably do it in a long weekend. I appreciate arguments that levelling is an important part of MMOs or RPGs, but it’s hard to argue in the specific that levelling is important in WoW.

And even with paid level 90s, all the levelling content will still be there. If you like to level your characters, that’s cool. And other MMOs still have an emphasis on levelling. Diversity in products is a positive thing for us all!

The argument in favor of curtailing insta-levelling strikes me as another verse of that old favorite tune “You have to play MMOs the way I want to you play them”. And look, I get it, it’s a song I’ve sung myself on more than one occasion. But it’s not a good one.

Author: Jessica Cook

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18 Comments

  1. I was one of the people who that, and while know we won’t agree I still think it is a valid statement. Basically paying to skip most of the content is a game, is a luxury. The process of playing a MMO more or less is about leveling your way to the promised land that awaits at the end. It is a matter of debate if there is actually a promised land or not, but that is a totally different discussion.

    With the release of Warlords they will be giving everyone that buys a copy of the game a free boost to 90. This takes care of the whole catching up to play with your friends concept. Anything past that becomes a luxury and as such it has a luxury price-tag attached to it. This after all is a luxury that some folks have been paying $150-200 to a power leveling service to receive.

    Matthew Rossi had a great quote today that I mostly agree with.
    https://twitter.com/MatthewWRossi/status/435849643490934784

    “Honestly, I kind of feel like, if you don’t enjoy leveling a character, you won’t like playing it either.”

    In my liking the price point as a discouragement of using the service… I feel like more or less you are squandering the game as it stands by skipping to the end of the line. I realize my standpoint is going to be super controversial. But for what it is, I feel like the $60 is a fair price, especially considering a server move/faction change combination is $55.
    Belghast´s last post: Rails Are What You Make of Them

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      • Cat-forced early submission, maybe I need to improve my herding skills …

        Anyway!

        I disagree that it’s a luxury. To me, it is a stopgap option to circumvent bad MMORPG design where most of the real game is gated behind “content” that has minimal value for most players.

        The price isn’t terrible, but I do think it should be cheaper.
        Murf´s last post: Guest Post: Gaming Addiction, or Learning to Skip Cake for Salad

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        • Good point. I want to quote @soetzufit from Twitter earlier today: “The level 90 boost seems like a pretty clear indication of recognition that 90 is where the fun begins, for the most part. The studio’s time is being spent on things you do at the end of the game and not getting to the end game.”

          (Her blog is here.)

          Blizzard has arguably put little time into the levelling content and built in more and more ways to pass through it quickly. I would be sad if *every* MMO did that, but the paid insta-level seems in line with Blizzard’s game design philosophy for WoW.

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    • Will all people actually get a free insta-90? As far as I understood it, the free boost is for those people who pre-order WoD.

      I don’t oppose the idea. The new level cap will be 100. The game will be 10 years old this year. I have leveled so many characters through content a million times that I am not averse to getting to the new level cap without that additional burden. Leveling does not really teach you that much about your class anymore, specs are too tuned towards endgame performance and leveling is pretty much a faceroll. I can spend time in Proving Grounds and figure out if I understand the class or if I don’t. Bring on the boosts for those who want to take them.

      Btw, Belghast, I got a good chuckle out of you calling a level boost a luxury, but paid alpha access democratic and fair. They’re both paid services for those who can afford them. :)
      Kadomi´s last post: Kadomi’s WoW catharsis

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  2. As much as cynical me wants to believe this was a sophisticated attempt to test the water on pricing, I expect this was really an “oops” and we saw a placeholder item in the store with the price set at $60.

    I’ve been on the “oops” side enough times.

    As for price, didn’t your podcast have a discussion at some point back about pricing? Basically, it cannot be so cheap as to kill off the other services. I don’t think it needs be as much as any two services to meet that goal, but it won’t be $25. My guess was $35.

    Why $35?

    Because, to my mind, it has to be less than the price of an expansion to not be viewed as outrageous. Why wouldn’t I just but more WoD boxes… assuming I could apply infinite codes… for more level cap increases? I expect the box will be $40, so it must be less than that.

    Conspiracy theory: It will be $60 for exactly that reason, to push more WoD boxes to set an expansion sales record.

    Fear: This is actually a signal that the expansion will be $60.
    Wilhelm Arcturus´s last post: An EVE Online Screen Shot Contest – Show Me the Planets!

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    • We did indeed discuss this on the podcast a while back! Elly predicted that it would be more expensive than a realm+faction switch, so he is feeling slightly vindicated today I think. I was hoping for something closer to $25, but I realize I am a poor businessman.

      Excellent point about it having to be not more than the price of the expansion. That was actually one of the first things I thought about when I saw the $60 price tag — “That’s as much as the game itself!”. I hope this means a service price drop and not, as you say, a $60 box price.

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      • I’m not sure I’m feeling vindicated so much as I am unsurprised. I want it to cost slightly more than a realm+faction transfer because that will incentivize me to continue to play my already-made characters, rather than having the cheaper option be to abandon character-specific accomplishments (mostly things like gear/vanity items these days).

        Also, consider that the price of a “full” version of WoD will probably be about $60 ($30 for Vanilla -> MoP, $30 for WoD), and I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to learn that every copy of WoD essentially comes with a level 90 upgrade for one character. If that’s the case then this pricing makes perfect sense – and is maybe even a bit of a bargain since you don’t have to pay for an account transfer to your primary account.

        I’m absolutely open to the argument that all of these services should be more reasonably priced, at this point, but a max (or near-max) level character really does have to cost more than moving a current one.
        Ellyndrial´s last post: Totally Legit Movies, Ep. 2

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  3. I have no problem with them adding this to the game. I’ll never use it myself, not because of the price, but because leveling is what I enjoy most in MMO’s. I personally feel like the only way for me to really play a class well is to level it up and get used to my abilities as I go along rather than having it all dumped on me at once and then following a guide that tells me how to play it. If I don’t level up using my spells when the time comes, then I’m not going to be able to just magically know what to cast and when.

    Looking at the price, $60 seems a bit expensive when you consider that’s basically the cost of owning the game in the first place. But when you compare it to other things they have for sale it’s probably about right in relation. That being said, I’d say reducing prices on everything they sale across the board would be a good move. There’s no reason to charge the amount that they do for things like changing factions or recustomization. If they dropped prices for things across the board and then made level 90 characters cost $20-40 I think it would be a better value overall.

    I know people who love their high level characters who hated actually leveling them. Most of those circumstances are rooted in specific expansions, though. Like leveling a Holy Paladin used to suck, but people did it even though they hated it. Now in Mists, leveling a Holy Pally is faster and easier than ever. Then they got to max level and now they love the character. It’s kind of like leveling a Shadow Priest right now in Mists. The class freaking sucks to level until you get to the mid-40′s. People hate it. During Wrath, leveling a SPriest wasn’t too terrible except for some mana issues. Level 90 SPriest in Mists though? Boss.
    Psynister´s last post: Trinity: Evolution vs Annihilation

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    • I know people who love their high level characters who hated actually levelling them.

      This is me, completely! I really enjoy healing, much more than DPSing, but low level healing is plagued with limited tools and mana. At WoW’s advanced age the best way to level a healer is to pug a lot of dungeons, and pugging.. is.. not optimal for me.

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  4. If Blizzard know what they are doing, and the evidence suggests they do, it will be priced at the point that provides the optimal return. If they can sell more than twice as many at $30 than they can at $60 I would guess they would charge $30. I doubt they are considering any social engineering factors.

    The difficulty for them is deciding what the breaking point is. If they go for $35 it’s always possible that they could have sold almost as many at $40 or even $50. Don’t want to leave money in people’s pockets. My feeling is that pricing a single character at more than the cost of an expansion that contains the same benefit (although it may not be equally applicable) will be problematic but who knows?

    Personally I doubt I’d ever pay more than $10 for an instant max-level in any MMO, whereas I might pay as much as $25 or even more for a race or class, otherwise unavailable, that I particularly wanted. $60 is way out of my zone of rationality for anything less than a full game or at least a full expansion (he says having just paid exactly that for Alpha access to a F2P MMO…)

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  5. The reasoning that the high price tag is to discourage abuse of the service doesn’t make sense to me.

    If people are leaving a game because they’re forced to play a game then just how likely are they to stick around when the service to bypass the game playing is widely viewed as an overpriced rip-off at best.

    If that’s Blizz’ reasoning, I’d be less surprised than most, but I still feel that that is not the reasoning behind the price, assuming that’s even the final price.
    Grimmtooth´s last post: Guilt

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  6. A friend really wants to make a return to WoW for Warlords, and I have committed to returning with him. I have one level 90 that I no longer wish to play. I don’t like the leveling game, to the point where leveling from 85 to 90 was a struggle. The included insta-90 is perfect for grabbing a new character, BUT … what if I choose poorly and pick another class I don’t really like. As has been stated before, max level handles a lot differently than the leveling game, and I am making guesses based on my own experience at lower levels and what other people say about classes.

    I was hoping that the buy-a-90 plan would be there as a backup, but that was at a lower price point for a game that already costs $15 a month. At a $60 price point as a backup, I don’t know if coming back to WoW is in the cards, as this go at the game won’t likely last for more than a couple of months. I’m willing to spend money to play with my friends, but there are limits.

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  7. I do think there is a bit of wanting to discourage players from using it “too much”, but not for any social engineering reasons – rather they have to weigh the cost of the boost vs. subscription money lost from taking away time that people would usually spend levelling.
    Shintar´s last post: Some Podcast Recommendations

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  8. “…but it’s hard to argue in the specific that levelling is important in WoW.”

    This was pretty much also my main argument pro instant class switches in a post a while ago. the whole ‘players need to experience the leveling process’ rings completely hollow for WoW. I don’t understand why player freedom is still being policed in this way when WoW allows for pretty much eeeeeverything else if you pay the fee. what3v3r, right? ;)
    Syl´s last post: So that Elder Scrolls Online NDA was lifted, if not my Spirits

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  9. It’s bizarre how far we’ve come. We used to have fierce values. I guess we all grew up and realised it didn’t matter because it really doesn’t.

    They should just make vendors that sell BiS epics for RMT gems and be done with it. It doesn’t matter anymore. Just give everyone what they want for money. Sell all of the things. Do it!

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    • I doubt they’ll sell gear mostly because the gear grind is a bigger retention tool then leveling. Also people value what they pay for things. If you start a priest and you hate it by level 40 you’re only out 20 hours (or so) and it’s easy to walk away. If you paid $60 (the cost of an entirely new AAA game) then you’re more motivated to stick with it and start the gear treadmill.

      Also, they’ve said before that a lot of churn is new players quitting because leveling is hard. I assume that they expect to reduce new player churn by selling boosts. Also even if it doesn’t work, they got an extra $60 out of them.

      And retention at level cap is even easier. Between VP caps and instance locks, you can only gain so much gear per week. So you’re more likely to keep paying month to month.

      By increasing the amount of things to do at max level they actually increase the value of the paid boost without harming their long-term player retention significantly.

      I mean look at Timeless Isle. It’s basically T14 for free. Except it sits in your bags and makes you think “I wish I had a level 90 alt for all these epics”.

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      • I want to be clear. I think the days of “we won’t sell power” are long behind Blizzard.

        The sad thing about paid boosts (to me) is that leveling was given the same treatment that aspects/auras/stances is getting. It started off something complicated and interesting, but got streamlined and “balanced” to the point that now Blizz can say “we’re taking it out of the game because it’s boring” and the playerbase agrees. Aspects/Auras/Stances are boring as they are currently implemented. Leveling is dead dull because anything interesting or hard was taken out years ago.

        And Blizzard made those choices.

        As to selling gear. Despite what I’ve said above, I do expect them to sell “old tiers” at some point because they are grooming the playerbase to accept it.

        “I want to play with my friends!”

        Step 1: Level
        But leveling is long, boring, and doesn’t teach us anything
        -that’s ok, we’ll sell you boosts to 90 and put in proving grounds

        Step 2: Gear up
        But my friends are in SoO and have an ilevel of 540. It’s going to take me months of farming LFR to be able to help at all!
        -That’s ok, a set of 522 gear from ToT is only $80

        “Yay! I can play with my friends! Thanks for letting me pay you instead of designing the game to let me play with them!”\

        Not that I’m bitter! :-)

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