Are MMO level boosts blasphemy or blessings?

With the recent news that Burning Crusade Classic is going to sell a one-per-account-only character level boost, the old argument of “pro vs. con boosting” has cracked open again. It’s actually kind of funny, because nobody is grousing about this on retail, but in the Classic community where the time and effort to level is much more pronounced, it’s a Big Deal. Camps on both sides are being established, blood has been drawn, and Blizzard is in crosshairs.

Of course, the studio is going to make bank with this compromise, so let’s not feel sorry for it.

Back in the day, I used to be fully, whole-heartedly against level boosting. I took a hard lined stance against it, saying that it invalidated the designed progression of the game and allowed people to, if not pay-to-win, then pay-to-progress. It felt wrong, it felt like it cheapened the time and effort that I put into working on my character if, by comparison, Joe Warrior over there shelled out $30 and got his instantly max-level character.

Now here’s the part where you expect me to say that I’ve come fully around on this topic and am completely fine with level boosting. The truth is — I’m not. I still don’t like it. I’ve used a few myself (most recently with LOTRO) and don’t really blast people for using them, but I don’t like that they exist at all. I don’t like that, from the player’s perspective, it’s a shortcut that jogs around the meat of a game’s experience and makes a false equivalence between characters that genuinely earned their status and the ones that had a bigger allowance.

I don’t like that boosts help to reinforce this notion that the endgame in MMORPGs is all that matters — and that the leveling journey is just a time gate of some sort. I don’t like that studios see an opening to make easy money by selling out in this way, nor do I like that the studios are, in a way, preying upon vulnerable players.

So I’m not going to be marching in any pro-boosting parades any time soon, no. I can acknowledge that they are useful to some people and in certain situations, that they’re usually not throwing people right to the level cap with a full set of raid gear, and that leveling is still relevant and enjoyable. I can’t see myself buying a boost for Burning Crusade Classic, but hey, if you do, I won’t give you sideeyes.

Promise.

4 thoughts on “Are MMO level boosts blasphemy or blessings?

  1. bhagpuss March 2, 2021 / 11:42 am

    When I began playing EverQuest in NOvember 1999 there was alrready a thriving market in Level 50 accounts. They were selling for hundreds of dollars. Later it was thousands. There was a whole meme (only no-one called them memes then) about “EBay accounts” where players who were considered to be playing their character inadequately in group or raid would be accused of havibng bought it on EBay… because that was very much a thing people did.

    All the boosts that companies sell in their cash shops do is follow the longstanding example set by players, regulate it and bring it inside the game rather than having it wrecking around on third-party sites. I don’t much like it either but the alternative is demonstrably worse.

    Of course, boosts haven’t eliminated outside sales. Individual characters may not be the money-maker they once were but I’ve seen people hawking whole guilds in chat in several games in the last twelve months.

  2. Naithin March 2, 2021 / 4:25 pm

    I had no interest in playing Classic long enough to hit level cap — but TBC is one of the expansions I remember fondly.

    Before you informed me that a boost would be put on offer for TBC though I had zero intention of playing. Now, at least, it is a possibility.

    So I guess I come down on the pro side for that reason. But I’d certainly understand being given the side-eye for holding this view, too. 😉

  3. kiantremayne March 2, 2021 / 4:48 pm

    I remember the phrase “eBay accounts” – I mostly heard it in Dark Age of Camelot, where the road to level 50 was long (I took from the February UK release until about August to make it) and the accepted endgame focused on RvR – nobody wanted the guy next to them in the shield wall to be a clueless noob who had bought his way to the endgame. These days, I’m mostly playing WoW and fairly relaxed about level boosts. They’re mostly used by experienced players for alts rather than new players skipping their apprenticeship anyway. I wouldn’t spend my own hard-earned cash on one, but I have no qualms about using the free boost I get given when buying an expansion.

    There’s a similar stigma in World of Warships around high tier premium ships. WoWS has 10 tiers of ships, and you normally have to work your way up each nation/class line. However, they also sell premium ships with no previous experience required. So a player who only installed the game yesterday and has half a dozen games in low tier Japanese destroyers could plonk his money down and command the Tirpitz, a tier 8 German battleship. Hilarity usually ensues. Until recently tier 8 was as high as the “wallet warriors” could go, but then the first tier 10 premium ship (an anime tie-in version of the Yamato) was added, and I think it was the very next day I saw the first YouTube video featuring one of them derping around in a battle. Which proves nothing, as there are plenty of incompetent tier 10 battleship captains who got there the hard way, but the community disdain for them is very real.

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