The World of Warcraft community was up in arms last week, when WoW Insider spotted a level 90 boost item available briefly in the in-game store for $US60. Speaking to Eurogamer, lead encounter designer Ion Hazzikostas says the high price tag was established to ensure Blizzard didn't "devalue the accomplishment of levelling".
The power-levelling service killing item is being introduced to the long-running MMORPG in response to the one-time level 90 character boost included in the upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion pack, said Hazzikostas.
"It's tremendously awkward to tell someone that you should buy two copies of the expansion just to get a second 90. That's odd. So we knew at that point we were going to have to offer it as a separate service."
So Blizzard decided to introduce the ability to purchase an automatic level 90 character boost, setting the price for the upgrade to $US60. This made people angry for multiple reasons. Some say the price is far too high, though still much cheaper than the average third party power levelling service — a quick Google search shows prices set in the $US200-$300 range.
Others say the ability to instantly purchase a level 90 character will keep players from levelling altogether, creating a game full of max-level characters and emptying the areas where players in the process of reaching the cap would play.
Hazzikostas says that's exactly what Blizzard is trying to avoid.
"In terms of the pricing, honestly a big part of that is not wanting to devalue the accomplishment of levelling," Hazzikostas said.
"If our goal here was to sell as many boosts as possible, we could halve the price or more than that - make it $US10 or something. And then hardly anyone would ever level a character again.
"But levelling is something that takes dozens if not over 100 hours in many cases and people have put serious time and effort into that, and we don't want to diminish that.
It's a classic dilemma Blizzard has faced with World of Warcraft — trying to please several different groups of players at once. Some want a lower price. Some fear the boost entirely. Others are looking forward to the chance to skip the fluff and get straight to the end-game meat.
It's impossible to predict how such a diverse player base will react once the service is fully available. Is Blizzard doing the right thing at the right price? We'll have to wait and see.