Sixty Dollar Boosts

A lot of people have already weighed in on the $60 cost for instant-level 90 WoW characters, but let’s tackle this topic a week late and a dollar short. The funny thing is some people were actually surprised the price was so low. After all, the reasoning goes, it would cost more to buy another boxed set + expansion + character transfer to your main account.

Personally, the discussion regarding the “reasonableness” merely cements in my mind how completely unmoored from reality one can get in the midst of an infatuation. I mean, in the context of a game with $25 mounts and $25 to have your character transferred to different servers (in a completely automated fashion), sure, $60 sounds kind of like par for the course.

At the appropriate distance, on the other hand, it’s fucking absurd. That’s an entirely new AAA game. With the current Steam sale, that’s FFXIV plus four months of playtime. Hell, that’s four months of WoW game time. It’s the same sort of logic that considers it reasonable to suggest “investing” $20 into a F2P app like Dungeon Keeper.

Nevermind that Blizzard was giving away level 80 characters for free almost exactly two years ago. But hey, what a happy coincidence that the Scroll of Resurrection “ran out of chargeson the exact day of the $60 purchase leak.

The value of anything is subjective, true. Different people have different levels of disposable income, tastes, desires, and sees their gameplay time as more or less important. That being said, the fundamental constant in all this is opportunity cost. Sixty dollars here is sixty dollars not over there. Blizzard is banking (perhaps literally) on players not thinking their options through. I could give you a dozen game suggestions, any one of which could provide more entertainment per dollar than this exchange, even if you play WoW for 4+ hours a day.

Hell, the more you play WoW, the less sense $60 makes; heirlooms and guild mates could power-level you in a weekend. Recruit-a-Friend makes it so you could do it solo even faster, at a fraction of the cost (not to mention netting you three high-level characters). Seriously, do the math: the base warchest is $12.50 on Amazon and includes a free month, but the next month is also free since the veteran account gets it as well, just in case your casual dual-boxing takes a bit longer. So you get one level 85 and 42 bonus levels on whatever character for $12.50. Or you can purchase a second level 85 for an additional $25. Or take all of it over two months for $42.50.

Or, you know, $60 for one dude, I guess.

Trouble is that Blizzard put themselves in somewhat of an awkward scenario here. I would have suggested $25 as being an appropriate price for instant level 90 – the equivalent of a server transfer without destroying the original – but as with anything RMT, its mere existence instantly puts a price on everyone’s gameplay. Even now, there are people straining to control their incredulity regarding my suggestion that it cost $25. “Oh, $40 is the least it should cost!” “They’d be justified in pricing it at $100!” All of which is silly, because I just told you the price of a may-as-well-be-instant level 85 is $12.50 on Amazon.

Time will eventually tell whether the price of the character boost will be $60 or something else. Perhaps it will debut at that price to make the preorder of the next expansion seem like such a good deal, and then eventually get discounted. What isn’t particularly up for debate is that something was necessary. WoW has been hemorrhaging subscribers for years, and even though the flow has been staunched for now, the largest potential growth market continues to be ex-WoW players and not new ones.

I am not particularly convinced, however, luring ex-players into the Draenor expansion is going to make them consider $60 to boost their alts out of Cataclysm hell to be reasonable. After all, it is only after you unsubscribe that you realize the fragility of the “$15/month is cheaper than anything” argument. It may actually still be cheaper than many alternatives, but if you at any point deviate from that narrow path onto character transfer-land or RMT mounts, a single Humble Bundle or Steam sale can demolish you in dollar per fun. I played Terraria and Don’t Starve for 60 hours apiece. A subscription might get you 80 hours for the same price, but it’s the wrong comparison. How does 60 hours stack up against a name change? Or that shiny new mount?

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Posted on February 25, 2014, in WoW and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. What about this:

    The free 90 included with WoD is a very good Idea. It allows you to get an old friend, who stoppled playing at the end of TBC, back into WoW, boost him to 90 and level together to 100. I think the free 90 is a necessity for a game of WoWs age.

    But the price of $60 isn’t there to sell you the boost. It’s there to prevent you from buying it. I personally enjoy leveling. It’s much better content then LFR. Doesn’t have a wait time and you can play as long as you like and without toxic players. There is no weekly cap and also no minimum time commitment required.

    If they would sell a boot for $10 it would devaluate leveling to much, everyone would buy boosted alts and then run out of things to do because raiding isn’t for everybody and quit. I think that’s ony of the places Blizzard will make more money by selling less of it.

    • But again, you can already get a RAF account going for $12.50, and that takes you to 85. Certainly more cumbersome than an in-store purchase, but the “convenience” markup is rather obscene.

      I agree with you generally though, that Blizzard is trying to thread the needle of endgame burnout. The problem is distinguishing between their “concern” and cynical cash grabs, such as character transfers still costing $25 long after they’ve been fully automated.

      • Yeah, you know how to get an 85 for $12.50. Most of the “leveling game customer” (non-raiding customer) haven’t ever thought of that. That’s why it doesn’t lure/mock them.

        The shop on the other side is in your face whenever you play WoW.

  2. That’s a … very stretchy narrative to fit a hypothesis.

    The reason the Scroll of Resurrection is going away is a) you only qualify if you haven’t played the game at ALL (including the free 7 day thing) for something like 4 years and b) it’s being usurped by the free 90 that’ll come with a WoD purchase. The freebie is replacing it, it’s that simple, it’s the same thing, except giving you a 90 instead of an 85, and without the HUGELY significant restriction.

    The comparison to RAF is more fair, I actually came to the same conclusion as you a while back (well before the price came out, I expected in the $50-100 range) and RAFfed myself… in the couple of months that I part-time dual-boxed (sorta) I managed to level three pairs up to 85 (at which point you loose the boosts) which also gave me enough gift levels to level two other toons most of the way to 85.

    How do I put this … it wasn’t instant and it was far from painless. I wouldn’t recommend it to most folks under any circumstances, moreso that it only works until 85 and the 85-90 stretch is, at this point for me at least, the most annoying. It also leaves me with 3 85+ toons on another account that I either have to leave active to maintain access or let lapse and lose. So, your argument for 3 max-level toons by leveling one pair is actually 1 main account L85 (not max level) toon plus 42 gifted levels to a second toon.

    As for your suggestion to get guild-mates to power-level you via RAF instead… I actually like my in-game friends, I’d pay $60 NOT to have to burden them with that. Are you even serious with that suggestion?

    Comparing it to pet and mount costs is pointless, two entirely different markets. When I’m trying to decide whether my next 90 should be purchased for $60 or leveled old-school I’m not thinking about the opportunity cost of a store mount, it’s not a factor in that equation. If my budget allows me to spend $60 on an instant 90 or 2 store mounts then that’s a separate consideration… if I spend the $60 on the 90 I don’t get mounts. If I don’t, then I have $60 that I can buy mounts with… or not. Which is kind of the exact same thought process I go through whenever I buy anything, anywhere. Do I need it? Is it worth the price? What will I not be able to buy if I do spend that money?

    Why $60? The combination of a server transfer + race change is apparently $55 which is currently the most expensive character service they offer. If a new 90 is less than that, they likely have to lower the prices of their other services as well and while their existing services aren’t cheap, I’ve heard almost no complaints about those prices, especially in comparison to the griping about $60. Sure, they’re not exactly identical services, the server transfer brings along any gear, but for those who just want A TOON on another server, rather than a specific one, it IS basically the same thing… so the instant 90 is basically buying a new toon for $5 by allowing you to keep your existing one where it is.

    Not everyone will pay the $60… I’m sure lots won’t. I won’t… I enjoy leveling enough, at least until they hit 85… I also have plenty of toons. If it was $5, though, I’d have trouble justifying leveling even though I do enjoy that part of the game. Any subtle pressure to have a 90 on some server that anyone else wants me to have will be tough to turn down… it’s only $5. $60, though? That’s significant enough that it won’t be an impulse purchase. It had to be a price that was reasonable within the scope of the current services prices and high enough to be non-impulse. $60 hits both of those, pretty much dead on. It’s actually the lowest price that DOES hit both of those.

    Responding to your comment above, the $25 transfer being “automated” has nothing to do with anything… the price is a control, it’s not meant for cost recovery, they don’t want people transferring toons on every whim by pricing it at a trivial level. The bottom 80% of servers population-wise are having enough trouble with players transferring off as it is, the last thing I want (I have 2 servers in that mix) is more people to transfer off to greener pastures. This is also why they haven’t implemented any sort of account-wide transfer at a discount… server community (mock as you will) is a strong consideration for them.

    Finally, nobody is being forced to buy the $60 option… it’s not something players can currently get for free, or for cheaper. It’s a new option for some %age of the player base that’s significantly less than 100%. Same with mounts, same with pets, same with any cosmetic (or non-cosmetic) store option. It would be a different story if they combined adding this $60 option to a more DIFFICULT leveling experience… removing heirlooms, increasing the amount of XP required, etc, but there’s no indication that’s happening. Nobody’s being forced or even influenced to pay the $60… and they’ll be getting a boost for free. Misguided teeth-gnashing aside, this will be a welcome addition of the game for the players who it’s intended for. If you don’t like the option it’s because you aren’t in the target market, simple as that. That you may not watch The View on TV doesn’t mean there isn’t a significant audience who appreciate it. It’s entirely not to my taste but I’m not about to start slagging it on the Internet, I recognize that while it exists on my TV and in my program listings, it isn’t intended for me.

    • First, I actually linked a post of mine regarding the Scroll of Resurrection, and the ridiculous value it provided. I haven’t kept up to date on whether the March 4th 2012 date never got moved around, but at the time I was able to take advantage of it after only being unsubscribed for six months. It included an instant-80, character/race transfers, and free upgrades to the latest expansions. This new deal with Warlords is obviously rolling a lot of the same benefits into a similar deal minus the need for someone to send you a Scroll, but it’s hard to argue that it’s straight-up better given the versatility of the Scroll (which counts as a boost or a free faction/server transfer).

      As for not wanting to subject your friends to RAF boosting, well… it’s like that old adage about finding out who your real friends are when you ask them to help you move. I don’t remember the exact figures, but I’m pretty sure I gained 20 levels from a few AoE runs of ZF in an hour. That’s not too much to ask from someone whom you have presumably did favors for in the past. Or, you know, straight-up compensate them with gold or whatever.

      Regarding server transfer fees, you are indirectly agreeing with two points of mine: A) that $25 is enough of a barrier to inhibit behavior and thus there’s no express need for it to cost $60 to boost to 90, and B) how absurdly warped and cynical the entire exercise has become. Yes, server transfer prices are set to be controls to inhibit behavior that Blizzard’s own negligence has created, vis-a-vis refusing to merge no-pop servers for 6+ years all to save stockholder value from the negative headlines it would generate. That all of it is an extremely high profit-margin up-sell that gets mentioned in Investor reports is apparently immaterial; it’s just Good Guy Blizzard, looking out for our own well-being.

      If you don’t like the option it’s because you aren’t in the target market, simple as that.

      That’s an impressively dismissive argument. “If you disagree with my post, you aren’t in the target market.”

      • “I don’t remember the exact figures, but I’m pretty sure I gained 20 levels from a few AoE runs of ZF in an hour.”

        So…your argument is that you should spend 4+ hours doing that and have someone else spend 4+ hours helping you? That’s 8+ hours of time to save $60. That’s already to the point where you’d make more at minimum wage. And considering I suspect you rather slow down on leveling once you get to higher levels you’re likely looking at 12-20 hours minimum, right? Even with RAF?

        “That’s an impressively dismissive argument. ‘If you disagree with my post, you aren’t in the target market.'”

        You evidently value $60 far more than the target audience to the point where you’re wanting to do a whole dance with RAF and spend 12+ hours rather than pay $60.

        Nor is it an actual argument, it’s his conclusion — he presented his argument in the preceding paragraphs.

      • That’s already to the point where you’d make more at minimum wage.

        Well, assuming that I derived no enjoyment from the experience at all and actively hated spending time with my friends in-game, sure. And no, actually, things only slow down once you hit Cataclysm, which is roughly where the old RAF ended anyway.

        Nor is it an actual argument, it’s his conclusion — he presented his argument in the preceding paragraphs.

        His/her argument is precisely that conclusion the whole way through. The “$55 faction/server transfer would have to be cheaper” branch doesn’t follow (your new toon won’t have any of your old gear/gold/xmog/etc), nor how he/she rectifies the $25 transfer price as being compelling enough to stop transfers but not compelling enough to stop instant 90s.

    • “The combination of a server transfer + race change is apparently $55 […] and while their existing services aren’t cheap, I’ve heard almost no complaints about those prices”

      I have heard many, many complaints about those prices. $55 is outrageous for those services and literally keeps me from playing with some of my friends who were left behind on another faction years ago and can’t afford to transfer/faction switch and don’t want to relevel another character. (Those friends, by the way, generally decide to just not play WoW at all, so Blizzard is chasing away subscribers with those prices.)

      I seriously do not understand the argument that Blizzard picked $60 to stop people from using the service, or some impulse prevention measure. That is not how a functioning business works. They picked that number because players have shown that they will pay upwards of $55 for a service. It’s not to stop us from using it, it’s to extract the maximum number of dollars from players WITHOUT discouraging people from using it.

      • Two things:

        First, it sounds like the free boost to 90 that comes with the WoD expansion is basically tailor-made for your friends!

        Secondly, Ion Hazzikostas made an interview today in which he evidently stated the following: “I am not an economist, I’m not the one setting the dollar value myself, but it’s not the profit maximising price. That was not our aim here.” (Source: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-02-25-blizzard-explains-USD60-cost-of-world-of-warcraft-level-90-character-boost)

        Of course, you don’t have to believe him, but personally I do, since it seems evident to me that if they priced it at say $15 instead they’d sell significantly more than the four times the boosts, so if they priced it at something else the intent must clearly be not maximizing profits.

  3. I agree with you. My problem with this whole issue is that it lines Blizzard’s pocket with more money without even attempting to fix the issue of leveling.

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