At what point does a microtransaction cease to be a microtransaction? It’s a question that’s plagued my more contemplative brain tubules for years now, twisting the follicles of my whiskey soaked beard until they snap. But finally, I think I have an answer: when it’s the price of a full goddamn game. We already knew that World of Warcraft‘s Warlords of Draenor expansion would bring with it the option to boost one of your characters straight to level 90, but what if you don’t want the expansion or need another boost (come on, man – just one more that’s it I promise)? Well, do you have $60 you’re prepared to fling into Blizzard’s abyssal bank account? Are… are you sure?
Per MMOSite, the newly launched WoW patch 5.4.7 includes the option in question. On one hand, I sort of understand the rationale: leveling to 90 takes some pretty serious time, and time – as the oh so graceful and eloquent goblins put it – is money. Plus, Blizzard doesn’t want everyone boosting to 90 all willy nilly. That’d clear out entire zones, not to mention leave a large swathe of folks with nothing to do. It’s the curse of content-driven MMOs: they live by content, and they also die by it. WoW’s endgame is robust, but it won’t keep many – especially those who mainly play to level, roll an alt, and level again – entertained forever.
That said, the level 90 boost as it stands is prohibitively expensive. It costs more than an entire expansion that comes with a free boost, for crying out loud. I’m sorry, but that’s just out and out silly. There’s got to be an at least slightly better way, especially since this gives third-party leveling services all kinds of ammo. “Cheaper than a level boost!” etc.
This whole move feels haphazard, like a big test to see how players will react. Maybe Blizzard will lop a digit or two off the price tag in time, but right now it just feels excessive. And WoW? Well, it’s pretty clearly showing its age. I’m not sure there is a truly great way to bolt a feature like this onto a game of its creaky structure. The level boost is a band-aid over a band-aid, but that doesn’t make the wound go away.*
*Which is not to say that WoW is a bad game now or something. It’s just getting up there in years, and that’s starting to cause weird/unexpected problems.