One of the dangers we hear about “free-to-play” games is the idea that you can succeed at the game merely by paying money. We’ve all heard the horror stories out of Asia, wherein any loot of even vague desirability is a cash shop item. Or even worse, for your cash you get a random lottery box which might contain something desirable – or maybe not.
However, I’m not aware of anything (offhand) quite as direct as the Specialized Training Pack, a new cash purchase available to Warhammer Online players. You pay $9.95, and every character on your account gets a writ that kicks them up one level when used. This is not the legal equivalent of paying a powerleveling service, since paying a powerleveler is against the Terms of Service, but I can’t see how it’s much different from a cheese standpoint.
The other cash shop items include $9.95 for a mount at level 2 and $4.99 for two trophies of your choice. Remember when trophies were being oversold to us as earned achievements that would be visibly displayed on your character?
If anyone still cared about Warhammer Oniline, this would be a scandal. As it stands, it’s just overpriced. But I predict many tears from the dessicated remnant still playing the game, although I doubt many people will actually leave over it. If you’d put up with all the other problems WAR has, why should a little officially-sanctioned powerleveling bother you?
Chris over at Game by Night sees this as a precursor to a move to F2P. He may be right, but I see a lot of reason to be concerned over microtransactions in a game primarily about PvP. Leveling’s not such a huge issue because of bracketing and the bolster buff, but I’m not sure that people would actually buy vanity items in WAR, and items which give concrete advantages outside the level system could easily throw off the balance of an already precariously-balanced game. I’m not advocating panic over the idea or saying that it absolutely couldn’t work, but I see cause for concern. And moving to a F2P model might salvage WAR, if done properly.