Level 90 Boost on Pre-Order

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!

5 comments

  1. Shawn Holmes says:

    They’re a smart company, have been for many years, and much of their decision making is just plain shrewd, competitive marketing strategy. Of course this is a great decision because it will absolutely loop players back into the mix as they prepare to ramp up the WoD machine.

    Expect that, shortly after the free 90 boosts are activated, a flood of WoD-related updates will start coming in waves, securing the freshly hooked catch.

    I’d do it that way too!

  2. R says:

    It’s funny, I’ve been pro-boost since the first hints came out (originally slightly, now moreso) but the idea of boosts NOW, before WoD release, actually does have me a bit concerned. My response to the “we don’t need noob max-level toons running around without a clue” was the logical “well, they’ll learn what they need in the 10 levels from 90-100 and by then won’t be much worse off than the rest of us”… but offering 90s when 90 IS the top level negates that response. I’m not suggesting for a second that LFR is going to suddenly go from utopia to hell (as you point out, it’s hardly playable NOW) but unless the majority of boosted 90s are from a calibre of player that’s better than average now, it will result in a negative trend. Maybe it WILL be a majority of above-average players, though. Hard to imagine the quality going down much.

    I don’t have much if any need for a new 90 on any of my existing servers so my boost will likely be a toon on a new server to spread myself out a bit further. I created a second account in large part to invite my primary account toons to various different servers for various purposes (busy servers for world bosses, quiet servers for general questing / rare hunting / etc) so the boost will help me with that a bit, at least until they finish with the server consolidations, none of my primary servers have been merged with anyone yet. That plan might change later if all servers play more or less the same, though.

  3. Kurn says:

    Shawn – They’re a smart company, sure, but so many of their mistakes (or, I guess, what I tend to view as mistakes) still stick in my craw. They’re what stands out. The RealID fiasco (fiascos…), the constant content nerfs…

    Connected Realms? Brilliant. It’s a merge without a merge.

    Instant 90s on pre-order? Brilliant, for the company and the players who will take advantage of it. Less brilliant for the people who have to suffer through groups with the boosted toons.

    I think the major problem I see with Blizzard’s various strategies is that they’re pouring an awful lot of effort into new (or lapsed) subscribers, rather than working to better the quality of life of the existing players. Do they think they’ve already done that? Do they think most of their subscribers are content? ARE most of their subscribers entirely content with the game? I mean, no, of course not, nor should they cater to every single angry person out there, but I’ve always wondered why those of us who played for years didn’t get some of the effort Blizzard put into gaining new subs.

    For example, a new expansion launches and everyone is treated as exactly the same because the new gear dwarfs the old gear, so a new level 90 who, for instance, only joined up two months ago is treated exactly the same as someone who was there during Vanilla beta. Why don’t the older subscribers get rewarded for having been around for so long? I’m not asking for a lot. I loved some of the old Feats of Strength, like The Fifth Element (Aqual Quintessence), Level 60 Ony, Unarmed Skill to 400/Master of Arms… but really, what efforts does Blizzard make for player *retention*? I mean, aside from content patches.

    I rambled. You probably realized that was a risk when you commented. ;)

    R – See, and I think it’s a little less terrifying because, while I think there will be an initial wave, I don’t think it’s going to be nearly as bad as the initial wave would have been, come the launch of Warlords. People will (or won’t) pre-order as they can/want to, versus millions of people buying it in the span of a week. That’s more of a trickle than the veritable flood of new 90s being thrown, unprepared, into brand-new content where people need to learn the class AND learn the content.

    So I’m less terrified, but scared for the community nonetheless.

    Very interesting, re: spreading yourself out further. I technically have a second account, which is a free account, tied to my main Battle.net account. There is a level 10 warlock on my primary server which exists merely to allow me to form raid groups without bothering anyone else. The idea of inviting myself to another server is really interesting, though. I do wonder how the Connected Realms will alter that…

    Having said that, Eldre’Thalas isn’t linked to anyone else yet, either. I often wonder if that means that Eldre’Thalas is too well-off (or not well-off enough) to be connected quickly, letting the server stew in its own mediocrity… hehe. :)

  4. Noritam says:

    First, I was glad as this is one of the very few positive posts I’ve read about the Level 90 Boost.

    After the comments, I’m mildly irked again, but you seem like a decent bunch so I’ll ask my question that has been bubbling for a few weeks now.

    Do you really think that the new players that take the boost are not aware that they’re unprepared? Do you really think that the new boosted players are gonna … what? I don’t even know … “wreck” your game? How?

    Seriously, I’m really curious.

    I know that I am a clueless player. If/when I take the boost, the farthest thing from my mind is to go rushing in with all the Big Kids on the block! I’ll be sticking to my leveling, tapping a toe into a dungeon or two with my RAF sponsor. Going into my raid with a knowing, tolerant group from my sponsoring guild. I promise, I will do everything in my power to stay out of your way!

    What is it about the new player pool that has you all so spooked?

  5. Shatershield says:

    Well I have read all these comments on this and I personally agree that all the new people won’t really effect the game. Because if they are willing to pre order it then they have most likely been either playing wow for a good bit or are a good gamer that’s interested in getting the boost to try out wow for the first time to see latest game content without having to grind. Blizzard loses a lot of players just from them trying to get to max lvl. Me personally started in BC and quit at lvl 46 cause I got bored with the grinding I came back during the end of Lich King but I would have gotten a lot more enjoyment in testing the waters with a max lvl character then having to grind.

    When I came back to WoW though I did do the grind for a month straight to get the experience. And what I mean by that is actually going through all the areas and questing, instead of dungeon grinding with BoA’s. I see the lvl 90 boost as an awesome BoA that lets players see what its like to be at the current content and not being a lvl 10 wishing they were 90 or 100 to be able to current content….. those are my thoughts on the subject

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