Friday, October 24, 2008

I pay Blizzard to let me power-level myself

I really can't decide who's the sucker here.

With my rogue and druid both sitting at 70 in full epics, I've basically had nothing to do in WoW for the past few weeks except raid, and even that's been sparse thanks to WAR. Until patch 3.02, my guild hadn't gotten a 25 man raid off the ground for over a month. I had a regular ZA group attempting every reset to get a bear mount (we got one on the Saturday before the patch removed them forever!), but other than that...not much.

So, of course, I started feeling the dreaded alt itch.

"Hunters will be able to tame Silithids!" I thought to myself. "These new mage talents look cool...I've never played a pure caster before..." I tried to resist it, but I couldn't hold out for long, and was soon sending bags and cash to my 23 mage and a new level 1 hunter. I wanted to play them, but the release of the patch and the imminent arrival of the xpac kept me away.

That is, until I stumbled upon a FAQ explaining the Recruit-A-Friend program.

I had previously dismissed the program because it just seemed like cynical attempt by Blizzard to wring more money out of you. At 11 million subs, they really must have exhausted every target demographic they can think of, so now they're targeting the only market that they know is a guaranteed sell: all the people who already have subscriptions. I have a few guildies who were using the system to level alts, and the basic premise is that that you can pay Blizzard $50 for another account and a few months subscription, and in return you get the privilege of manually power-leveling yourself via dual-boxing.

It works like this:
-The recruited account is "linked" to your account.
-A pair of "linked" characters get TRIPLE XP from quests AND mobs while grouped and near each other
-Characters on the recruited account can "gift" free levels to characters on the original linked account, as long as the character receiving the level is lower level than the character giving it.
-This all only works up to level 59.
-ZEBRA MOUNT! 'nuff said. I'm a sucker for novelties.

If I was going to level alts, obviously I was going to have to use this system. I figured that I can make $50 in like 2 hours at my job, and using the system would save me more than 2 hours.

But there's less than 2 weeks left until the xpac releases and when it does I'll be spending all my game time levelling my rogue. After all my calculations (I'll explain in my next post), I have less than 2 weeks to gain about 180 levels across four characters, all the while leading Hyjal/BT raids for my guild and trying to get a Sinister Squashling from the Halloween event. And remember, I have a job, friends (who I can tell you right now are barely going to see me for the next month or two), and live with my girlfriend (who, thanks to luck I can't even fathom, is also an avid WoW player), so it's not like I can catass it either.

Am I crazy? Clearly. Am I a sucker, or is Blizzard? I'm not sure. Can I pull this off? Stay tuned to find out.


Tesh said...

I see the RAF promotion as one more step to outright selling of high level characters and/or loot. (Other cogs in the system are the Death Knight starting at 55 and the TCG game.)

Thing is, that doesn't really bother me all that much. No, what bothers me is that they don't really embrace the idea and run with it. Certainly there's demand for high level characters, so why not sell them directly to players instead of selling them tools to go grind them out? It's like punishing those players who are most loyal to your business... and I don't understand that at all.

Disclosure: I hate the subscription business model, and have waxed long about it on my blog. My views are considerably more capitalistic than the "one size fits all" socialism of subscription.

Hatch said...

That's the thing I like least about the RAF system: that I actually have to grind out the levels on these guys. I'm cramming all of the levelling into 2 weeks so I can get the lame part out of the way fast. It reminds me of Luke Smith's comments on 1up's Legendary Thread that once you have a 60, you should be able to buy another one. He wasn't the first one to think of it, but he was the first high-profile person I heard promote the idea.

But as much as I'd rather they just give me the characters for my cash, I have to concede that they are being very shrewd. I don't think they want to put an explicit dollar value on a leveled character. They want to keep the illusion that it takes some personal investment aside from money. So they don't explicitly endorse powerlevelling yourself (and essentially buying new high-level characters from Blizz), but they don't forbid it either. They can get more money out of the hardcore that way without having to step completely over the line into selling characters directly.

I am not yet sure where I stand on the idea, because I do know that I would start to become even more skeptical of anyone I don't already know. If character buying is officially sanctioned, we will see a lot more of it, rather than "ebaying" being relatively rare as it is now (as Tobold says, it's suppressed by efforts to ban it).

Tesh said...

True, things could get dicey when dealing with people you don't know. I wonder how much different that would be from how the way things are at the moment.

I guess what gets me is that the devs already see the game as "staring at 70" or whatever the current endgame level is. That's largely who they design for; the folks at the level cap. Why even pretend that the old world of Azeroth matters any more when every business and design decision indicates otherwise? Why even pretend that the leveling content is anything but a time sink, sucking up subscription money?

If they could get the same amount of money for the company, but without wasting the time of the players, why not do so?

If it's meant to give a faint veneer of credibility and integrity to "how it's always been done", I'm pretty sure that's blown already. The cracks in the facade are widening, pushed by the natural market force of demand. The vast majority of active players are sitting at the level cap. Many don't want to go through the old world again, and making them do so is just irritating those customers who are keeping the game alive.

It all just looks like they are shooting themselves in the foot by trying to juggle mutually conflicting positions (focus on the endgame vs. making people play the whole game). Wasting players' time isn't good business. The game itself has to evolve to stay relevant, and the business model should be mutable as well.