50 Shades of Casual, Part 2: Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Boost?
And so, here we are again, friends. New controversy over something that benefits those dirty casuals and new players again. The recently introduced paid Level 90 Character Boost (herein after known as “the Boost”) in the World of Warcraft. For the low, low (not really so low) price of $60, you can mint a brand new 90! Without lifting a finger to level! Just lift your wallet, and it’s yours! “What is this game coming to? It’s pay to win now! There are going to be tons of people with new 90s who are under-geared and don’t know how to play. They’re going to ruin this game! You think LFR was bad before, just imagine what it will be like now! That’s it, I’m canceling my subscription! This game is no longer fun for me because these people didn’t ‘earn’ their 90’s like I did! With blood, sweat, and tears. I walked in a blizzard (no pun intended) to level this toon, and I had no shoes, and it was uphill… BOTH WAYS!!!”
Yeah, ok. Calm down and sit back down in your rocker, Grandpa. This is some of the reaction I’ve read about the Boost, both on the official WoW forums and on social media sites like Twitter. The paid Level 90 Character Boost Service is now live through the Blizzard store. One free Boost is given with the pre-order of the WoD expansion. This means that, as we speak, the unwashed masses of newborn level 90’s are swarming across realms like locusts. But what does it really mean in terms of game play? More importantly, what, or who, does it hurt?
What you get for your $60 is one character taken from level 1 to level 90, given $150 gold, 4 embersilk bags, a set of 483 ilvl gear, a stack of food, a faction specific mount, artisan flying, and regional flying skills trained. If you Boost a character level already at level 60 or higher, you also get existing professions and first aid maxed out. Well, gosh, doesn’t seem too OP to me. It’s not like you’ll just be able to trump all the heroic-geared players, auction house gold makers, and the poor embersilk bag sellers! OK, what else ya got? Nothing? Well, how the hell is that pay to win? The 483 ilvl gear will get you into the lower LFRs and the Timeless Isle. Not exactly raid ready for a heroic 10 man, if you know what I mean.
“Ah,” the critics say, “but the people who Boost their toons won’t know how to play them.” That is indeed likely in a lot of instances. Does this mean they can’t learn? No. We all had to learn. It might mean experienced players may have to help educate them if they’re grouped and hope to make it through a dungeon. But does that really hurt anything, other than the misplaced sense of elitism that they’re above helping new players? And who’s to say a Boosted character belongs to a new player, anyway? You know what I intend to do with my free Boost? I’m going to roll a boomkin on the Horde side to play with my friends over there. My Alliance main has been a boomkin since 2006, and I refuse to transfer her to Horde. I guarantee you that my newly Boosted Horde boomkin plays the exact same way as the Alliance one. Even if I wasn’t familiar with a class, I’ve been around the game long enough to pick it up quickly, and let’s face it: end-game specs and rotations are seldom the same as those used for leveling. You always have a learning curve when you hit end game with an organically raised toon.
The truth of the matter is that “Character Boosts,” in some form or fashion, have been around since the inception of the game. How about paying someone to power level your toon? Remember when you saw toons for sale on eBay, complete with epics? And please, let us not forget Recruit a Friend. The latest iteration of RaF gave one “grantable” level to one of the recruiter’s characters for every two levels the recruit’s character earned. So, for instance, I created a second account to be a recruit for my boyfriend. We leveled two pairs of toons to level 80, a total of 160 levels for me, the recruit, across both toons. That allowed 80 grantable levels I could give to a toon of his. We took his level 1 druid to 80 in one shot, granting levels. So, how is that any different from a paid Boost? The money for sub time comes out to be almost the same. I guess we had to work at it a little, but he wound up with 3 level 80s while only physically leveling 2, and that’s with the triple XP that comes with being grouped together under RaF. Again, here’s an (almost) max-level toon that hasn’t been played, and has no gear. Looks like practically the same end result to me as the paid Boost.
And what is this obsession with a WoW “work ethic,” anyway? There’s an assumption that if you don’t want to level a toon, you must be lazy. WRONG!! How about… no time? No time to squeeze in a LFR or Flex raid here and there, PLUS level a toon. I just heard someone say in a podcast that if you couldn’t get a toon to level 90 by the time WoD came out, maybe you should get into another game. Really? Find me the hours to do so. Or find the hours for any one of a number of people with outside responsibilities, jobs, families, and a desire for a taste of real life. Does that really make them lazy? Or do they just not have the same luxury of free time that someone else might?
Does the Boost help dirty casuals like myself? Yes, because there are classes that I’d like to play at end-game that I absolutely know I won’t be able to get leveled while still maintaining activity on my current stable. Will it help new players, some of which may be under similar time constraints? Absolutely! Are either a bad thing? NO! Ability and/or desire to purchase a Boost has no serious impact on anyone else’s game play. They won’t be showing up in regular, flex, or heroic raids anyway, because raid leaders will be able to sort them out. They’ll be in LFR, where normal-mode raiders really don’t need to be. Struggling with the rest of us casuals. Adding players and subscriptions to the game. Boosting server populations and stimulating AH economies. Yeah, that’ll really ruin the game. Tell me another one, Grandpa…