You've probably seen the buzz on Blizzard's new Recruit-A-Friend system. If you recruit a friend, you get:
- An exclusive in-game zhevra mount.
- A free month of play-time.
While the zhevra is interesting, these incentives are pretty standard for referring someone. The really thought-provoking part is that both accounts (veteran and new player) are linked, and there are some in-game benefits:
- Characters on both accounts can summon each other once per hour.
- While adventuring with your linked friend/family member, you will each gain triple experience.
- For every two levels the new player earns, the new player can grant one free level-up to a lower-level character played by the veteran player
Some posters I've seen have spun this as Blizzard catering to multi-boxers, or rushing new people through old content so they can hit the level cap. While this may be true on some level, I think Blizzard is aiming for something different. I think this is their effort to solve the Paradox of Levels, as immortalized in this comic from Penny Arcade.
This is especially problematic in this situation as the veteran player is very likely to have a main high-level character. Basically, Blizzard is trying to encourage the new player and veteran to team up as much as possible and level up together. The veteran is unlikely to jump ahead, as she will probably revert to playing her main character when the new player is not online. And if the new player jumps ahead, she can boost the veteran's low level character up with the free levels.
Playing together with a friend is probably the strongest incentive that will cause a new player to stick with the game. This system encourages the veteran and new player to play together until close to the endgame, at which point the new player has caught up to the veteran's main character, and levels have ceased to matter.
I wonder if this is a potential forerunner of more formal "levelling pacts", or mechanisms which encourage groups of friends to stick together near the same level, and keep people from being left behind.