So with this morning's patch, for a brief time, in the in-game store there was a services tab, and on that tab was the option to purchase a level 90 boost for $60.00. Plenty of people are firing off with opinions on both sides of this, so I figured what the hell, might as well chime in on one side or the other. So here we go.
For pretty much as long as World of Warcraft has been running, it's consisted of two distinct, and pretty darn disparate phases of gameplay. There was one part of the game - which was the leveling of your character - and then there was the endgame. As for me personally, back in the vanilla days, I really didn't care much for what WoW had to offer after you reached the maximum level. I certainly dabbled in it - I participated in some 40 man raiding, killed Onyxia, progressed through Molten Core, and on into Blackwing Lair. But the constant battle for DPS meters (something of which I never was anywhere near in contention for), the crazy ad-hoc rule systems you had to create to handle the allocation of loot over a 40 man raid, all those things just weren't fun for me - they weren't what I loved about WoW in the first place. And at the time, battlegrounds PvP was pretty much the same. Interesting, but for me not very compelling.
But I loved questing. I loved leveling and exploring the world. As such, it took me a long time before I got even a single character to maximum level, and once I did, I pretty much promptly abandoned it and would start another. To this day, I'm at the maximum number of characters a player can have on one account. That's right - fifty alts, spread across a dozen different servers. The point being - that part of WoW was the part that was perfect for me.
But, as much as I enjoyed that portion of the game, many of my friends absolutely did not. In fact, I remember hearing to my disbelief how for some of my friends, WoW didn't begin until you got to level 60. For a ton of people, even during WoW's earliest times, leveling a character was something that just got in the way of getting to the game that they really wanted to play - WoW's endgame.
So even at that time, I thought Blizzard should allow people some way to go directly to the endgame content that they wanted to play. In truth, this wasn't a new idea - even in 2005. The original Guild Wars, when it shipped, during character creation, allowed you to select what kind of character you wanted to create - a PvP character, or a PvE character. And a PvP character was automatically set to the game's max level - level 20, given some adequate gear and a suitable (but not by any means comprehensive) set of skills, and turned loose. Because the developers at ArenaNet were smart enough to realize, even at that time, that their MMO would have two distinct classes of players - The levelers and explorers, such as myself, and the competitors - whom would really not care one bit for all the leveling bruhaha.
But over the years, even though the disparity between how you play the leveling part of WoW, and the game you played at max level, and WoW's member demographics shifted heavily towards the max level, Blizzard was still remarkably resistant to such a notion. Instead, the tackled the problem a different way, by introducing all sorts of various boosts and perks that would essentially allow you to shortcut the leveling process, without skipping it altogether. Things like Heirloom gear, Recruit-A-Friend programs, and even adjusting the amount of experience you gained from quests and dungeons - as well as introducing experience gain from battlegrounds, all were ways of allowing players to reduce the amount of time it took you to reach WoW's maximum level.
Nowadays, the vast bulk of WoW's playerbase has at least one character at the current max level. And this is where Blizzard is spending the bulk of their development time - making this content - the endgame content - appealing for players of all playstyles. And it shows! There is more stuff to do at max level in WoW than there has ever been at any time before in the game's history. Scenarios, dungeons, flexible styles of raiding, open world content, quests, and yes, even dailies - there truly is something for just about everyone - from casual solo'ers like myself, to the hardest of progression minded players. And Blizzard wants you to be able to enjoy that content. And with an expansion on the way that raises the level cap even further - to a mind boggling level 100 - this is not, as some would have you believe - some ruthless attempt at grabbing your money. This is the absolute smartest thing they could do for their existing playerbase. And, in my opinion, something long overdue.
Now, the only thing that remains, for me, is the discussion about the price point. I have to admit, $60.00 is pretty substantially above where I expected this service to come in at. I honestly expected it to be priced at the high-end range of their other account services - somewhere in the $30.00 to $40.00 price range. And who knows, as they haven't yet officially announced anything yet (at least as of this writing they hadn't) it may be that that price was just a filler object. At the cost of a full blown game, for me, I'd probably actually just spend a few weeks and level another character if I wanted one - I still love leveling, so it wouldn't be a chore. But if they drop it to between $30.00 and $40.00 - that's definitely the right price point for me, and I'd so pick up a class spec that I thought I might be interested in trying out.
Anyway, I know some people thing this is the worst thing ever, but personally, I find that it makes quite a bit of sense.