The small fraction of the EverQuest II community that reads the forums or follow news about the game is rather predictably up in arms about EverQuest II Senior Producer Dave “Smokejumper” Georgeson’s trial balloon about making available max level characters.
On the surface, selling max level characters sounds like a dumb idea. Sell people a way to skip most of the game? Not a recipe to keep people in the game long term.
But there are three things which players do that cause MMO companies like SOE a lot of grief. These things are:
- Buying Gold
- Selling Accounts
- Using Power Leveling Services
Buying gold we know all about. Game companies hate it, but in the case of SOE they have thrown in the towel and simply look the other way when you buy currency in their games.
Selling you account is against the terms of services of most games. In EVE you can transfer characters to other people for ISK, but they are a rare exception. Most companies, SOE included, view the person who originally opened the account as the sole and final owner of that account. You cannot transfer the account to another person.
And yet, people buy and sell MMO accounts. There are a number of sites devoted to this. I see ads on Facebook for them often enough. This leads to grief for the MMO company. The person who sold the account can simply call up SOE and ask for the password and secret question to be reset and reclaim the account. This has happened.
The process of selling the account also leave it open to exploit down the road. The sites that sell the accounts require the password and secret question from the person selling the account. They then transfer this information to the buyer. However, the buyer has no standing to reset the secret question, so the site can wait a bit then drain or reclaim the account. The buyer can do nothing, but I am sure some call up SOE to complain.
And then there are power leveling services. Again, hand over your account to some strangers and hope they don’t take advantage of you while they level up your character by using it as a mule for gold selling advertising and services.
As I said, all of these hurt companies like SOE.
SOE has simply washed its hands of the first.
The second two are still an issue, but if you could just buy a max level character, they would fade away.
Buying a max level character wouldn’t be something to tempt me, but I am the type who feels the game is pretty much done when you hit max level. I’m not much for end game. But some people are all about the end game. Some people want to skip the 90 levels between creating a character and hitting the cap. And if they want to buy a max level character, that does not bother me.
Unfortunately, what Smokejumper was suggesting was not the selling of max level characters to anyone who was willing to pony up the money. He was suggesting giving away a level 90 character to anybody not currently subscribed who buys a copy of the latest EverQuest II expansion.
This is what they call a “win back” program, and Smokejumper says that SOE has been very successful with such programs in the past. And part of the reason for that success has been how generous they have been to non-subscribers during these programs.
Recall the Living Legacy program from mid-2008. Any past subscriber was able to play EverQuest or EverQuest II all summer long for free. Further, players who came back and played for free were offered some very generous incentives to purchase the upcoming expansions for these games, incentives that were not extended to current subscribers. A very generous program indeed.
The current subscribers, those who paid to play all summer, who missed out on these offers, felt a bit cheated. Loyalty was not rewarded. (Is playing the game reward enough?)
And now we see SOE suggesting something like it again. They are willing to give out level 90 characters, but not to current subscribers.
Scewsville for the loyal subscriber base yet again.
I think if SOE wants to go down that path, they should just open up max level characters to anybody who wants to buy one. Create a package, say a level 90 character with 150 AA points to spend and a set of level 82 master crafted equipment, price it right (say $50?), and let those who want a character at level cap buy their way in if they want.
The arguments against selling max level characters I have seen are that getting to level 90 isn’t that difficult (in which case, who cares if somebody buys in?), that getting to level 90 is a difficult accomplishment that shouldn’t be trivialized (you know what you’ve accomplished and so do your friends, somebody buying in at level 90 won’t change that), that you’ll end up with a bunch of level 90 noobs who won’t be able to play their class (which doesn’t hurt anybody really, since raiding guilds don’t just take anybody off the street do they?), and that it is simply not playing the game right (we should all grind through the old content before we get to see the shiny new stuff).
So I am fine with SOE making max level characters available, so long as they do it right. It would even solve a couple of their account issues along the way.
But what was being proposed does not seem right to me.