Tobold's Blog
Friday, November 15, 2013
Pay to level - You heard it here first!

I know the traditional time to make predictions is right before a big event like Blizzcon, or right at the end of a year or the beginning of the new one. But I wasn't planning on do any of those. I would just like to make a single prediction on one single feature of one single game expansion: The WoW expansion Warlords of Draenor. My prediction is the following:

At some point not later than 12 months after release of Warlords of Draenor, you will in addition of getting your one free "level to 90" pass be able to buy more of these "level to 90" passes for real money from Blizzard.

You heard it here first! :)

The reason I feel confident to make this prediction is that neither of the alternatives makes much sense. A single character per account leveled to 90 for free will not suffice for many players: They might play on more than one server, they might have several Goblin/Worgen/Pandaren alts they never had the energy to level to the cap, they might need a new raid character quicker. On the other hand Blizzard is not going to give out unlimited free passes per player: If you can make people pay to change server or name, selling them levels is obviously the much easier sell. And if free level 90 would be available for all characters, you might as well shut down the level 1 to 90 game.

Basically the free pass is a test balloon. It will be well received by most people, and by doing so it will destroy the argument that leveling is a necessary "learning step" for a high-level character. And it is a bit like handing out free samples of drugs on a school yard, people will quickly demand more of the same. As the feature is already programmed in and is in demand, there is nothing easier than adding it to the store for account services and mounts / pets. Pay to level is the logical next step after free leveling.

At Blizzcon, I think it was Ghostcrawler who said that they they are already aware that people can do this by purchasing multiple copies of WoD and transferring the boosted characters to their main accounts. As such, let me add a further prediction. They've planted the seed that this account transfer dance is the best way to get multiple instant 90s. They will add the service as you've said, but not before they've let people buy multiple copies of the game, allowing them to make an announcement about how WoD is the fastest selling expansion yet.
Why not?

We already have payments for character transfer, name change, appearance change, race change, faction change, mobile AH, guild tools, few cosmetic items... Did I miss anything? And boy, all of these services are not cheap at all.

If people pay real money to change a name or to have yet-another-cute-pet, well... asking money for insta-leveling seems the most obvious choice.
Yeah, I can see this.

They make money on character transfers and renaming and other things, so why not this?
RTHC has hit the nail.

Desperate people will pay for multiple accounts to get insta-90s that then account merge. It happens today with RAF and is great for inflating the official numbers.
@Bernard: "desperate people"? Seriously, people are "desperate" because they lack a top-level character? Which can be obtained in what? Less than 50 hours chain-running instances?

It's not so sure that the market for fresh level 90 chars may be as huge: the last levels are still a pain (they are the slowest ones), and after you get your first top-level character and get heirlooms+guild bonus, you can level up alts real fast.
Allowing people buy such a character service is not all gloomy.

If they tweak previous content and revert levelling to what it once was in vanilla/tbc(before 2.3), it would then please both worlds,

a) the ones really into levelling and
b) the ones sick of it and skipping to endgame asap.
Not quite first. Or second. Or even third.

Blizzard themselves said this is the plan. It's been one all the websites that cover MMO's and WoW.

So not really a big prediction. Maybe if you time travel back a few months, it might be a prediction. Now it's just fact.
Another piece of supportive evidence is the way EQ2 implemented this feature - exactly as you describe.

There's been a weird relationship between WoW and EQ2 for years with both games borrowing ideas freely off each other right back to the beta where one had a level 18 dungeon called Wailing Caves and the other had a level 18 dungeon called Wailing Caverns.

EQ2 recently gave free level 85s and followed up the promotion by adding purchasable level 85s for 3500 Station Cash.
"So not really a big prediction. Maybe if you time travel back a few months, it might be a prediction. Now it's just fact."

Except it is not fact because they are not yet doing it, nor have they confirmed that they will do so in the future. Therefore, it cannot be fact.

Aside from that, I feel it makes sense mainly due to the age of the game and how much content stands between new players and potentially their friends. It would also make a fair amount of sense for pretty much any older MMO that is still going around. Are people more likely to try an old MMO if they can jump straight into the newest stuff that everyone else is playing? Sure they will.
Actually people were talking about when we will see a pay for additional insta-90s moments after they announced that WoD features included a boost to that level. So if you're trying to claim firsties, you're almost a week late.
People are willing to pay for 2 accounts and a battlechest in order to reduce the time to 85. Perhaps "desperate" put a negative spin- what I am trying to say is that 50 hours is too much for these people.
Sometimes I despair of the people who are so full of self-righteousness that they can't see the sarcasm (in spite of the smiley and exclamation mark) in my obviously fake claim. On the other hand the joke only works BECAUSE there are people like that who find it more important who talked about it first than what the effect of the feature would be on the game.
Seeing sarcasm on the internet is hard sometimes. Despairing of their self-righteousness is the same jumping to conclusions that these people did; perhaps they're drinking coffee and commenting on their smart phones in the subway on the way to work instead. Unless your comment was sarcastic too? I seriously don't know. If you're serious, instead of despairing, you could just be less sarcastic.
Frankly it never entered my mind that it *wouldn't* be a sold item, and sooner rather than later.

The only question is whether they price it at such an insane level that it's something a few will people will do occasionally, or price in a way that makes it a practical option for people that want to play lots of alts at endgame, and for new casual players that just want to hang out with their high-level friends.
I definitely 100% agree with your prediction. And I actually did hear it here first. :)

However, one thing I don't think I can agree with:

"Basically the free pass is a test balloon. It will be well received by most people, and by doing so it will destroy the argument that leveling is a necessary "learning step" for a high-level character."

Now, I'm not arguing that early leveling is all that important (since it differs so much from the end game anyway), but I don't think the perception will be this. Every time a player runs into a bad player in one of their groups, they will say something like, "these damn free level 90s, the don't know what they're doing."

A small minority will try and remind them that there were plenty of bad players before Warlords of Draenor, but they will sadly be drowned out by people claiming this "ruined the game."
I'm lost. Where's the sarcasm?
"It will be well received by most people, and by doing so it will destroy the argument that leveling is a necessary "learning step" for a high-level character.""

Why is this a bad or significant thing? No one argues that killing a boss is a necessary "learning step" for receiving the loot from the boss, it's merely how the game is designed, you kill the boss, he has weird loot that only sometimes appears. When blizz instituted epics from reputation instead of only from boss drops/craftables, did you post about how it destroyed the perception that killing bosses was a necessary learning step for learning how to use epics? If people actually ever did make that argument, then it's long past time for it to be destroyed.

Then, there's the separate argument, that this will lead to selling free level=-ups to 90. Well, Blizzard isn't selling epics for real-world cash yet, as far as I know, but as already pointed out, people can buy extra accounts to do this with the system as currently designed, so yea, it is what it is, like it or lump it.
Extra prediction - you will be able to buy such passes with gold as well.

Not that that's much of a concession in a subscription game.
don't give yourself so much credit tobold. they already mentioned it at blizzcon. it's not such a crazy thing to imagine.
Ultima Online has been selling leveled-up characters (Skills to 75%) for 15 years now.

Level 90 is probably just another thing "black hat" service that Blizzard takes over. Gold buying is next (unless they already did it and no one wrote about it).
I predicted this a couple of years back.

With players able to level new toons in less than a month,there is no danger to offering an instant 90 or even 100 toon for say the cost of a realm transfer - which is double the cost of a monthly sub. Especially as a first time player has to buy the full battlechest or latest expansion to do it!

The levelling grind only bought Blizzard one months sub from a player. So there is nothing to lose. If they get to end game and find they don't like it and quit then Blizzard have lost nothing. If anything they will gain by retaining the subs of those who would have grown bored and quit during levelling.

As others have said the claims that it will create bad players are false. There are no shortage of them now and there are plenty of good tanks/healers who never played their role until level cap.

I wonder if Blizzard could use this to fix the levelling content. Maybe use some form of scaling like in GW2 or at least make the XP gain less ridiculous so that it is worth finishing the story. If scaled levelling zone quests offered the same gold reward and lucky coins as daily quests then I'd love to go back and play zones I had previously missed.
I wouldn't say the people buy level 90s are desperate. And as far as price goes, if you worked a minimum wage job instead of leveling, you'd have earned $1000+, so even if they charge $100 per character it's a steal.
Dead right about the $100 thing but of course people would still whine as they have selective attitudes.

E.g. those who play the AH call miners dumb because the miners believe their ore was "free". Yet the AH players still believe their 18 hours a day camping and cancelling/re-listing is "free"!

Running raid finder every week for four months apparently gives dirty casuals "free" loot and no doubt the same people think that levelling to 90/100 is also free.

IMO it is only "free" if you enjoy it to the point that you have nothing better to do at that time. In which case you wouldn't pay to skip even if it were $1.

I don't understand why anyone would object anyway because it is optional so they can choose not to pay. Other players don't get an advantage as it isn't like you would get an instant level 100 with mythic raid gear for your money.

Just unfortunate that it is notoriously difficult to get MMORPG players to understand the concept of time being worth money.
Gold buying is next (unless they already did it and no one wrote about it).

They already do it. Or rather they sell you for money something that can be sold for gold on the AH, which ends up being pretty much the same thing.
It's about time they implement something like that.

The alternative to buyable 90's would be shortening the normal leveling experience again and again. Their goal is to have the time needed to level from 1 to last expansion top level roughly the same. It is ridiculously short even now, imagine how it'd be next or the expansion after that.

The other thing I'd really like to see is extensive downscaling. So that it is an option for top level players to join old dungeons to get at least some reward. Let's say you get like half the valor of a top level 5man if you go to low level dungeons downscaled.
the worst part of it is their cheap excuse..."people can already buy a second account and transfer the boosted character to their main"

They are either very stupid(which I doubt) or they think we are very stupid(probably). Here is the tip from a stupid player:

"Boosted characters are not eligible for account transfer for 3-6 months"

Not even F2P games offer a instant level up to their shop...
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