As many already know, last week WoW and LotRO announced plans to just auto-level players to the point where they can pay for the next expansion. Some players are disappointed, crying foul at Blizzard for such a cheap move, but this is poised to become a new standard.
Justin wrote an epic opposition to auto-leveling today. I hoped for an awesome argument against it, but that kitchen sink won’t hold the greasy-dirty sea of selling everything that matters if people are willing to pay.
Honestly, levels matter to me in the vanilla game and past the first or second expansion. After the third or fourth expansion, everyone who matters to you is at or near max level.
I hate the idea on principle, but it really does matter less then, especially if it means 50% more revenue and players to group with. There are other ways to feel special: titles, achievements, unique non-sold-out mounts and cosmetics, etc.
The irony is that Blizzard already has a good compromise idea going with its temporary Refer-A-Friend perk, and that’s level gifting.
Gifting should be the standard instead of selling levels because it solves a lot of the reasons why people want auto-leveling in the first place, and at the same time it makes real leveling more valued, not less. Here is how it works:
For every level you gain on a character, you gain the ability to donate a half level to another character. The main restriction is that you can’t donate to anyone who is equal or higher level than your character. For examples:
Scenario 1: You want an alt. So you level one character to cap, level your alt halfway to cap and donate her the rest of the way.
Scenario 2: You have a friend coming to the game. Save your mentor levels. Give them to help your friend catch up.
Scenario 3: You’re a duo with a friend or family member, and one of you can’t play as much. By donating, the other person can keep up.
Scenario 4: You’re in a guild. You’ve got a new recruit who is a tank. You need this person for the raid/dungeon runs. Everyone in the guild pitches in to get them up to speed.
There is a lot of profit incentive here for the devs, but maybe it isn’t enough. WoW is an in almost unique position as a AAA subscription-only game. An F2P game on the other hand can sell this as a perk for patron/subscription status.