Rent A Tux
Are the servers up yet?
How about now?
I stupidly patched my EU client to 3.3.0 on Tuesday night, because I'm leveling a character on the US realms with a friend. Now I'm locked out of the EU realms and am getting kicked out of the US realms after logging in (as I'm sure most of you are as I write this, though hopefully not as you read it).
Rather than talk about what's going on right now (because much of it is about to change, or at least get re-focused), I'd like to speculate on an idea that came to me when writing about the Cataclysm announcements from Blizzcon 2009.
Rent-a-Tux: The Guild
Even with all the improvements to levelling due to come in Cataclysm, there's still the issue of gear. You're constantly changing pieces of gear, sometimes sacrificing stats that benefit your class for core stats like stamina. If you've ever leveled a character using Recruit-A-Friend, you'll be familiar with the experience of equipping your first piece of Outland gear and realizing that it replaced a quest reward you picked up in your 20s - you just skip so much quest content.
The heirloom items introduced in WotLK help, but they only cover at most five of your seventeen gear slots. We've heard that Cataclysm will bring heirlooms that cover all gear slots, but this won't benefit people who are in small or leveling guilds.
What if you could pay someone to rent a complete set of heirloom gear, right from level 1, then use it as you level all the way up to 85. The terms of renting the gear are that when you hit 85 (or after some suitable period of time), you have to leave the guild. This kicks the gear back to the guild bank, ready to be rented out to the next person.
How much gold would that be worth? How much gold would you get back by selling the highest-value quest reward on every quest you complete for 85 levels? 3000 gold? 5000? If you knew you'd get that much back, would you pay a 25% premium over that to simply have the gear handed to you the moment you rolled a character?
Simple + Profitable
The beauty of the system is that once you have the requisite number of heirloom sets crafted, you never have to make any more. If you have 20 sets, you can have 20 concurrent clients. You know that in no more than 6 months (for example) you'll get the heirlooms back in the guild bank, and you can rent them out again. Without any management required, it would provide a steady flow of income. Renting twenty sets of gear at 4000g per six-month rental will bring in 160,000 gold per year.
Other than providing the rental service, I don't see the guild providing any other services. It wouldn't be a traditional leveling guild, just a shortcut to make leveling easier and more profitable. It would sort of be like being in high school - you get a uniform when you enter school, wear it for the time you're there, and then get rid of it when you move on. You spend the time among other people doing similar things, some of whom you'll continue to talk to after you leave and some of whom you'll never see again.
Can You Afford It? Can the Market Support It?
Creating a leveling guild solely for the purposes of renting out heirloom sets would by definition have a somewhat limited market. A first-time player isn't going to be able to afford the service, so you're looking at someone with a well-funded main, either someone in a guild that doesn't have all the heirlooms or on another server who is willing to create and transfer an alt over with a quantity of gold.
Obviously if you were a member of a guild that had all the recipes and offered heirlooms to member alts, you'd have no need for the service. But I suspect there are quite a few small guild who will either not grind out all the heirloom recipes or will be so slow in doing so that it will be months before they have enough to outfit a member's alt - assuming there isn't a long queue of everyone who rolls a worgen or goblin.
You'd also have to get the guild supplied with heirloom items - which from the most recent news we've heard will require getting the guild to level 20 first so you can get guild currency to purchase the patterns and reagents. If you don't have alts of your own who can craft the items, you may have to pay others to play their alts in your guild to build up currency to spend. If you expand your clientèle, you may need to pay a crafter to temporarily come back into the guild to learn and make the items.
Even if paying people to get the heirlooms created cost you 30,000 gold, you'd still turn a huge profit without much maintenance required. You'd only lose out if you had suits of gear not rented. As I sit here with dollar signs in my eyes, I envision having a queue of people ready to rent the next suit as soon as it came back to the guild bank. Of course, if too many people decided to do this on a given realm, it wouldn't quite work. Unlike someone muscling their way into the Jewelcrafting market, this is a significantly larger enterprise, and the prep would probably keep the number of competitors low.
What do you think? Crazy idea? Or just so crazy it might work?