70? Already?

January 18, 2007

As already pointed out by Damion at Zen of Design, a french player has already reached level 70, only 28 hours after the launch of Blizzard’s long awaited expansion, The Burning Crusade. The original article surfaced at PRO-G.

I find myself only slightly surprised. I knew it wouldn’t take long for hardcore guilds to powerlevel each other’s characters. In this case the reward is the fame and renown of being first, both for the guild and the player, however fleeting. In addition, powerleveling to get a headstart on the five mans is a step preapring hardcore guilds for their return to towards the high level raid content.

The article cites this as a source of concern for Blizzard, because they have stated hope of The Burning Crusade lasting for a year. This is misguided. First of all, patches will also help to retain customers until the next expansion is released, tentatively set for the same time next year, if they manage to make the deadline. Secondly, most of those rushing through to level 70 are planning on sticking around for the raid content the same as they have been doing for the past two years and two months. Others will become bored with the new raid content and either find entertainment in the new PvP, professions, races and starting areas, or cancel their subscriptions.

Sidenote: The recent surge in subscribers is interesting in June of 2006 WoW had 6.6 million subscribers. recently they touted breaking 8 million subscribers (official press release). I think Blizzard will be wringing its hands hoping that subscriptions don’t undergo a serious drop back to the levels they were at six months ago, after returning players burn through the new content. Unfortunately there won’t be any good way for us to tell how The Burning Crusade will affect Blizzard’s subscription numbers until we get another press release. If they do drop, will Blizzard continue to tell us their subscription numbers or pretend that no change has occured, a la SOE?

The question is how does TBC affect the casual players? Those 10 levels will take a casual much longer than one guy assisted by nearly 40 other players. Even hardcore raiders are unlikely to employ the same tactics in powerlevelling ( 35 players foregoing xp to level one person up to 70). The level cap will last much longer than 28 hours for casuals and most players, especially those new players, or returning players who have not reached the level cap.Of the points brought up when discussing the effects of an expansion on the economy, Raph mentions two effects on these players that come with TBC, or any other expansion because mudflation seems omnipresent in MMO economies.

1. Formerly high-end items will decrease in worth, particularly within “bands” of content where hand-me-downs are practical. Me: this increases the power of players of the same level playing post expansion as compared to pre expansion characters. This is partially mitigated by the large percentage of powerful items that are soulbound. Powerful tradeable items, however, will become cheaper.

2. The world feels more hollow, the “hollow world” syndrome, where formerly populated zones become less so, as the bulk of the users shift locales to fit the new mean level.
Me: This is temporarily mitigated in TBC by the amount of players starting new draeni or blood elf characters.

My remaining thoughts on his post are that many if not all of the effects of an expansion, mudflation, etc., can be eliminated with a different system. What kind of system that would be is a post for another time.

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