Over the years, I’ve been, shall we say, less than adoring of the way Blizzard has handled a variety of things. Blizzard has made a lot of mistakes, in my opinion.
Giving out the free level 90 boost at the time of pre-order is not a mistake. It’s pure genius.
I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it? There are no new races and no new classes coming out with Warlords of Draenor, so there’s no death knights or monks, draenei, blood elves, worgen, goblins or pandaren to “save” your boost for, so why not try to stave off end-of-expansion malaise by offering a free boost to level 90?
While I don’t have any hard numbers to prove it, I think everyone has anecdotal data that shows that the last six-to-twelve months of any expansion leads to boredom in World of Warcraft. While I’ve never quit playing during slow periods (I’ve managed to keep raiding and such), I’ve seen countless raiders in my guild just stop playing because they feel as though there’s nothing else to do. Of course, that’s kind of ridiculous when you think about how much content World of Warcraft has to offer. (Hint: there’s a lot.)
One of the things you can do is, obviously, roll a new toon and level it. A lot of people enjoy the levelling experience. While I’m mostly “over” levelling, I do enjoy the initial grind to the level cap on my hunter. But that’s usually just 5-10 levels. The idea of rerolling, from the start, going through Teldrassil, Dun Morogh, Goldshire… it all kind of makes me want to cry. If I were bored by the game, the last thing I would personally want to do is go through the starting zones yet again. (Even though they were changed somewhat in Cataclsym, the idea of going through Goldshire again makes me ill.)
So why not remove levelling from the equation entirely in the time prior to Warlords of Draenor?
With the Timeless Isle (or the Island of Phat Lewtz, whichever you prefer), it’s ridiculously easy to gear up. My hunter is sitting at a 503 equipped item level after spending less than a week going through various LFRs and spending a few hours out on the Timeless Isle.
The idea of getting a free express pass to max level in the dying months of Mists of Pandaria is a stroke of genius, just to continue to engage the playerbase. Even if it only ekes out another month or two of enjoyment (and thus, subscription), it’s totally worth it for Blizzard to allow people to boost to max-level, even if it’s just for a short period of time. (And perhaps, one might imagine, this experiment will allow Blizzard to gauge how they and their customers feel about paying to get to max level, skipping the levelling process entirely!)
I haven’t even touched on the fact that Blizzard has confirmed that they’re thinking about ways to get you other boosts to 90 for other characters, without buying multiple copies of the expansion, which, I would imagine, is going to be another bit of revenue for them.
So if boosts are going to engage a bored player for another month or two (at minimum, I would imagine), thus staving off end-of-expansion malaise, how about all the revenue they’re going to get for the expansion several months before it even comes out? You only get the boost on pre-order, after all. That means a bunch of people, God only knows how many, are going to happily plunk down their $39.99 or whatever, perhaps even before we have a release date for the expansion (my money is still on June 10th, give or take two weeks)! You can probably include me in those numbers as well, even though I’m still not resubbed and I still don’t know what character I would boost to 90…
Some may be wondering how I feel this will affect the playing community… and I’m going to say that this is probably going to have less of a noticeable effect than if it happened all at the launch of Warlords of Draenor. Why? Well, first of all, even though I suspect there will be a large wave of freshly boosted 90s as soon as pre-ordering is possible, they’re going to be dinged to max level amongst groups of players who already know and outgear most of the fresh-at-90 content. This is in opposition to a large population of players who probably don’t know what they’re doing being unleashed upon the regular population who might know what they’re doing, but are struggling to level up to the next level cap. Anyone remember how crappy heroic Stonecore or heroic Shadowfang Keep or heroic Deadmines were before people understood the dungeons, the abilities, the pulls? Gear helps, so boosted characters will be able to gear up relatively quickly, if my hunter’s experiences over the holidays were any indication, and chances are they’ll LFG into a group where at least one person knows what they’re doing… Honestly, I think dungeons and early LFRs will be okay (not 100% pleasant, but when are dungeons and LFRs guaranteed to be pleasant endeavours?) even with people dinging max level instantly. Certainly, the flood will be less noticeable than having a bunch of new 90s unleashed on the population and learning their abilities as they are also grouped with random people who are trying to get through the levelling dungeons.
So, really, this is a huge win for Blizzard. They get:
– more monthly revenue from otherwise bored players who might have quit for a bit before the expansion comes out
– more money upfront for the expansion than they would have garnered otherwise, perhaps
– perhaps more revenue by virtue of offering a boost-to-90 option
– valuable data on how people react to being able to skip the entire levelling process
Plus the players don’t have to slog through 90 levels of quests, dungeons and exploring before they can actually play “the real game”.
(Note that I do find some use for the levelling process, I really do, but I’ve done it a lot and I have no desire to revisit the lowbie experience.)
Well-played, Blizzard. Well-played.
What do you think? Is this good? Bad? Brilliant? Stupid? Tell me which character of yours will get your level 90 boost!