February 6, 2007 10:00 AM PST

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According to an estimate from a company called Power-levels.com, it would take someone starting from scratch 768 hours to reach the highest level you can hit in World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade.

Or, for someone who had already topped out at level 60 in the original WoW, it would take 384 hours to get to the top level, 70, of Burning Crusade.

That's a lot of hours, and if you're one of the many people with limited time who still wants to play online games like WoW at the highest levels, Power-levels.com and a growing number of competitors may have just the solution. That is, if you're OK with breaking the rules, as well as what some say is the spirit of the games.

"Using a service to level a character is pretty universally regarded as a 'lamer' move."
--Eric Haller, long-time WoW player

These game consultants sell what are known as power-leveling services. Essentially, that means that for a fee, they will take over your account in any one of a large number of online games and put in the work required to get you where you want to be.

That level 70 Burning Crusade power-up costs $556. The jump from level 60 to 70: $239.

For some time, high-level wannabes have been able to go to places like eBay to purchase entire accounts from retiring players. In doing so, they acquire special weapons, armor, tools or spells with the aim of getting to a place in a game beyond what they could do without help.

But in the wake of eBay's decision to delist all auctions for the assets of online games, some may be wondering where else they can turn. The power-leveling companies think they have the answer.

"They give us their character name, their password and they tell us which level they want us to reach for them," said Flora Chen, manager of Guy4Game, a power-leveling company based in Canada that also has operations in China, Korea, Japan and Mexico. "Some just want to reach levels as fast as possible, so they say to (play for them) 24 hours a day."

Outfits like Guy4Game, Power-levels.com, Power-level.net and GmLvl.com say they're pulling in serious business. For example, GmLvl.com says on its Web site that it employs more than 2,000 people solely for the purpose of helping clients get where they want to be. By comparison, Guy4Game's has a staff of 150 full-time workers.

Chen said Guy4Game has a client list of more than 100,000 customers, though there is no way to verify that number.

There's no telling how many power-leveling companies exist: online searches using various terms easily produce dozens. But that such an industry exists--for dozens of online games--is noteworthy, particularly because publishers of online games like World of Warcraft, EverQuest and City of Heroes don't allow their players to engage in such behavior.

Against terms of service
"Sony Online is aware that it happens, and we do not condone it," said Courtney Simmons, head of public relations for EverQuest II publisher Sony Online Entertainment. "It is against our terms of service...You (cannot) give anyone else access to (your) account."

Blizzard Entertainment, publisher of WoW, takes the same position as Sony Online.

"Making use of a power-leveling service," Blizzard said in an e-mail statement Monday, "is a violation of our account-sharing policy. This policy is discussed in World of Warcraft's terms of use, which players agree to prior to playing."

Blizzard added that because customers paying power-leveling services give over full access to their accounts, there is no way to prove that the services perpetrated any fraud (if a customer has such a complaint) while those accounts were in use.

Fraud or no fraud, if a customer wants to jump to level 70 of Burning Crusade and have a flying mount and a high riding score, but doesn't have the time to achieve such a goal, he can have someone else do it for him.

Chen said Guy4Game's clients ask for all kinds of things. Some want to rise to their desired level as fast as possible. Others want steady progress, but still want to be able to play when they want. So they ask to have access to their own accounts for certain hours of the day. The rest of the time, Guy4Game is in charge.

Similarly, some players demand to deal with power-leveling service representatives who speak English, or Japanese, or Korean. That's why Guy4Game has employees in those countries, Chen said.

In the eyes of regular players, however, those who utilize power-leveling services aren't sticking to the spirit of the games.

"Using a service to level a character is pretty universally regarded as a 'lamer' move," said Eric Haller, a San Francisco investor and long-time WoW player. "You will definitely not earn anyone's respect if they know you have paid for your levels."

In fact, Haller said he thinks the general perception of people who use power-leveling services, as well as those who buy well-stocked characters or advanced weaponry off of eBay or other secondary markets is that they are unfairly cutting corners.

"I think it is perceived as a form of cheating," Haller said. "Not necessarily in the sense of breaking the rules, but more in the sense of being a somewhat weak player who is unable to use (their) skills to acquire things. (It's) sort of like it is confusing to me why someone would pay $50 for a game and then $20 for a guide to walk them through it. Isn't the fun in the play?"

To Simmons, the problem behind power leveling has to do more with logistics than with fun. That, she said, is because Sony Online Entertainment gets customer service complaints all the time from players who have had their accounts stolen or compromised after using power-leveling services. Sony won't ban players who get caught using contractors, but they're on their own with customer service problems.

But Sony has little sympathy for such customers.

"Players are responsible for the security of their own accounts," Simmons said. "And players that use those types of services are at risk of having their accounts stolen or compromised."

See more CNET content tagged:
World of Warcraft, Blizzard Entertainment, online game, EverQuest, fraud

60 comments

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Trying to see it all
As someone who occassionally uses games guides, I think the motivation comes from the desire to see everything. There are great parts to some games that are so well-hidden you'd never find them without a guide. I bought the game, I want to see it all.

If parts of a game are inaccessible only due to skill level though, I think that's harder to justify spending money to get around. Even if you only play an hour a week, you'll get there eventually, won't you?
Posted by jhracing (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
384 hours?
Where did C|Net pluck that magic figure from? It depends on the player and what in game help they get how long it would take. The first person to hit 70 after the Burning Crusade cam out did it in 28 hours of solid play with much help from members of his guild. It will probably take me more than 384 because I like to experience the game and levelling is the by product not the goal for me.
Posted by MadKiwi (153 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Out of the air?
384 is a very large number. I did it in 150 hours and some guilds members even less.And that is 150 solo hours with grouping only occasionally. Two guildies that did it faster teamed all the way through.
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Posted by myspecial123 (4 comments )
Link Flag
Pathetic
This makes Second Life losers look like well-adjusted and socially stable individuals.
Posted by ejevo (134 comments )
Reply Link Flag
numbers are way off
It should take around 150 hours for casual player to get from 60 to 70, and thats including doing all of the quests and some reputation grinding.
Posted by ironbyghte (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
0 -> 70 takes about 360 hours
I recently lvl capped on a "new" server it took exactly 15 /played days or 360 hours. I play a very "slow" leveling class and also capped 2 trade skills. So I have no idea where this guy gets 700+ hours from.
Posted by vhanchon (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Rather killing the point
I'm too old-school to think this is a good idea...it's like hiring someone to play AD&D for you to get your character up to 10th level before you come in and take over. You've accomplished squat and robbed yourself of a lot of fun and experience.
Posted by misterdevi0us (2 comments )
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interesting
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Posted by darix2005 (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
GUY4GAME is the WORST possible service to use
Ok, so I gave into temptation and used GUY4GAME two weeks ago to powerlevel my level 50 to level 59. I have been playing WOW for about 9 months, and really wanted to be able to play the new expansion, which, for all intents and purposes, requires level 58 and above.

GUY4GAME says, on their very slick website, that they can provide this service for $69, and that they can do it in 4 days. Great. 6 days later, my character is level 55, and they tell me they need 4 more days. Terrific.

The morning of the 7th day, I wake up to an email from Blizzard, telling me that my account had been banned for 3 days for letting someone else access my account. I pleaded with them to disclose what information they had substantiate this, suspecting that they were logging IP's and flagging any that appeared from wildly varying locations. Yep, that's what it was. "Logging in from significantly different areas of the world, as in China." GUY4GAME were rude about the whole thing when confronted, and told me that they would refund the difference to me, which they explained was Level 57 to Level 59, and that that at the time of the ban, my char was Level 57. When I finally got the ban lifted 3 days later, my char was at Level 56, no where close to 57.

These idiots are using labor in CHINA to get your leveling done, kiddies. And Blizzard is watching. So unless you live in China, I suggest that you don't use this service, for any one of many reasons listed above.

Yes, I know...serves me right. Point taken, and it will never happen again. At least until I need the gold for my Epic Flying Mount!
Posted by meatlocker (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Your Account Will be Banned!
I had a "friend" try to use a power-level service. Their account was permanently banned after just 24 hours into the leveling. This is despite having this account for 2 years.

Also, they will ask other players for gold giving your character a reputation as a beggar.
Posted by kennethbieber (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
60 to 70 in 28 hours
Where do they get that it takes 384 hours to go from 60 to 70? This guy made it in only 28 hours.

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Posted by Folger (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That number is blown out of proportion.
It has been shown by a few characters, that it only takes a small amount of time to get from 60 - 70. Some less than 30 hours. This number is way off.
Posted by Technoping (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
NERDS!!!!!
What Warcraft players really need to outsource is their social skills...
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
60 to 70 in 30+ hours
That company is full of it. I went kinda slow and it only took me about 30 hours to level my 60 to 70.

You should NEVER use a company like this. It's against TOS and you will get banned.
Posted by bandophahita (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They suck...
Guess what!?

They're the ones spamming their URLs in a bunch of games!
They're the ones who are behind all the botting and hacking!
They're the ones ruining the games for everyone!
They're the ones who are turning MMORBGs into Massive Multibot Online Role Botting Games...
Posted by Egria (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Leveling on feasible in Games that use that system
It is interesting to note that none of these services offer EVE accounts. Perhaps the systems used by CCP should be adopted by others for this area of the game
Posted by adfrex (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Blizz will Kill your account
Blizzard (the company behind WoW) is merciless and will kill accounts that they even suspect of cheating. They kill accounts for the tinniest of infractions and they have become very good at detecting power-leveling behaviors.

Read your terms of service. They can do whatever they want to an account at any time for any reason. Their GMs are taught to be tough and they seem to enjoy kicking players off the system for bad language and such.

I'm glad that eBay has stopped listing accounts for sale since that's forbidden as well by Blizzards Terms of Service. They can and do kill accounts which they believe have been transferred. Contrary to all the sellers who say it's ok, it can get your nice new $600 account permanently deleted if you can't prove you are the original user.

Beware!
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Using this service on valentines day?
Do these people pay others to date there girlfriends as well?
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How about change another service
Yeah, there are hundreds of service website now.
How about plsale.com. Personally, I think they can be trusted,for My boyfried and I play WOW, too, we have ever bought money ingame there.And they can transfer me really fast. lol,what they promised on web.
PS they do powerleveling service,too.
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