Instant 90s, cont.

In a rather topical turn of events, Blizzard has confirmed both that the level-90 boost will be $60 for real, and that it’s priced that way for your own good.

“In terms of the pricing, honestly a big part of that is not wanting to devalue the accomplishment of leveling,” Hazzikostas said.

“If our goal here was to sell as many boosts as possible, we could halve the price or more than that – make it $10 or something. And then hardly anyone would ever level a character again.

“But leveling is something that takes dozens if not over 100 hours in many cases and people have put serious time and effort into that, and we don’t want to diminish that.”

He added: “I am not an economist, I’m not the one setting the dollar value myself, but it’s not the profit maximizing price. That was not our aim here.”

You know, because anything less than $60 devalues your leveling accomplishments from years ago. Aside from everyone getting a free 90 with the expansion. And aside from those free level 80s via the Scroll of Resurrection (RIP). And aside from getting triple XP for putting a character on /follow for $12.50. And aside from the people cajoling their friends for power-leveling AoE dungeon runs while wearing full heirlooms. And, of course, aside from the inevitable XP reduction that comes with each expansion.

What’s extra interesting to me now though (and with Wilhelm too), is what Blizzard is going to do when the price of the expansion inevitably drops. I ended up buying Mists of Pandaria for $20 over Christmas a few years ago. Will the $60 character boost go down in tandem with the box price? Or will their stomach for the “unwieldy” buy-extra-expansion-copies suddenly steel up?

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My post yesterday came across to Tobold as an admonition of in-game purchases or whatever. While I do not expect people to maintain a full inventory of my opinions, I do hope that I am occasionally afforded the benefit of a doubt. Just so we’re clear though, here are my thoughts.

Way back in July 2011, I posted The Problem with F2P and Microtransactions. Over the years (!), I have come to concede the point that microtransactions are not going away. However, I have and will always continue to fight to slow the steady erosion of consumer surplus whenever I can. To me, there is no inconsistency with being okay with DLC in general, but not being okay with on-disc or Day 1 DLC. Similarly, there is good F2P and bad F2P, the latter of which can be summarized in Green Armadillo’s “To Vote Against Monetizing Nuisance” post. I’ve spent real dollars on PlanetSide 2 and Hearthstone, but would never spend anything on Dungeon Keeper or Candy Crush Saga, even though I have nothing against playing those latter games.

In fact, I talked about games like Dungeon Keeper just about two weeks ago. Their business models suck and they are emblematic of the wrong way to take game design, but if you treat their nuisance as an extra layer of challenge, you can re-extract the consumer surplus you inevitably lost somewhere else. Plus, paying in time management games is an extremely bad trade of value. Getting extra imps or builders or whatever usually results in maybe an extra minute or two of gameplay if you’re lucky – you will be able to take a few extra actions but will otherwise still be required to put the game down for an arbitrary period of time. Compare that with Don’t Starve or Terraria or whatever full-fledged indie game you could have bought with those same dollars.

In any case, circling back to Blizzard, I hope it’s clear that I’m not against all in-game purchases. I’ve used both the Scroll of Resurrection and dual-boxed a RAF account in the past (that’s the origin of my Priest named Freexp). My opposition to the $60 instant-90 is precisely the dollar amount, on top of the bullshit PR logic used to justify it. I have always had a problem with the $25 character transfer service too, which really came to a head when they dropped the price for a week. These services are priced so absurdly compared to what other pieces of entertainment you could be buying because, quote, it’s to discourage their use. Yeah, okay. Tell that to the thousands of people left duped and abandoned on no-pop “Recommended” servers that Blizzard left to rot for 6+ years. To those people, it was “pay $25 on top of the subscription to continue playing the game.”

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Posted on February 26, 2014, in WoW and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. It takes 2-3.5 months to level up to 90 the old way, so we’re charging you 4 months of subscription to bypass that. This way we still get your money ad you’ll hopefully stick around for the gear grind at 90 a month or two longer which is another 30 bucks for us.

    There, the honest reason why Blizzard’s doing this.

  2. You’re again mixing two things. A server transfer is a pure service. An instant level 90 char is not only a service but it also skips someone elses content.

    What about selling a full set of heroic raiding gear for $20 in the shop? It wouldn’t really matter if some casual hunter buys that to better do his daily things on the timeless isle, would it?

    But it would be a problem for raiders who would buy this gear to be more efficient in their raid and then have nothing left to do because they already have the best gear.

    The fact that you can jump through a hoop and already do something similar doesn’t count. It might be obvious to you but doesn’t feel the same to a casual player. A casual player will not run two WoW clients concurrent on a single PC to RAF himself. But he will click on a buy link in a shop which is always present in the game.

    • I compared a transfer to an instant 90 because they are the same in the abstract. Blizzard allows something crazy like 40 characters per account, which means you could level a new character on the server you wanted to go to, avoiding the fee.

  3. “what Blizzard is going to do when the price of the expansion inevitably drops. I ended up buying Mists of Pandaria for $20 over Christmas a few years ago.”

    You are assuming that you can apply multiple expansion to the same account. I don’t believe that will be possible so this won’t be an issue. I haven’t tried this but if you account has MoP activated, you can’t activate another MoP code to it.

    • I believe you, but that’s what was quoted in the interview:

      “It’s tremendously awkward to tell someone that you should buy two copies of the expansion just to get a second 90. That’s odd. So we knew at that point we were going to have to offer it as a separate service.”

      It would take an impressive series of deals to pull off, given there is a baseline cost of $25 for transfering characters between accounts, but it’ll eventually be cheaper than the $60.

  4. At some point the free 90 will be removed from WoD and put to the newest expansion (when it will become free 100 or whatever). It’s unlikely that battlechest + wod + transfer will dip lower than $60 prior to that time, and even if it got slightly lower the convenience would outweigh the slight gain on price.

    Skipping leveling is a different thing though than contriving to make leveling faster. Scroll of Resurrection was intended only to bring back players without causing them to immediately quit again upon being 30 levels behind. RAF was just to bring new people in as well, the fact that you can exploit it aside. And even then you do have to level, albeit at an accelerated rate. You can’t just skip it.

    Blizzard really has no way out here. If the price is low then everyone skips leveling. If it is high then they look like robber barons. At the same time, expecting new players to trudge through 90 levels of irrelevance had clearly gone past the point of reasonable.

  5. I hate the “discourage their use” argument. The same effect could easily be achieved programmatically by putting a “cool down” timer on an account. Both the $60 90 and the $25 transfers smack of money grab to me. Sure, they’re not required, but Blizzard knows damn well they’re tempting and people want them so why not make a few buck for expending some processor cycles.