To clarify right off the bat, I don’t meant elo boosting as in MOBAs; I mean using character boosts, either paid or otherwise, in MMOs to bump your character up in level. They’re not really uncommon anymore; gobs of MMOs have these options. Just off the top of my head, Guild Wars 2 offers level boosts every year in birthday gifts, though it also sells (and includes with expansions) much more. World of Warcraft has also famously dished them out with expansions in the past to help returning players catch up to the current level.
I’ve personally never thought of boosters as pay-to-win, but that might be because I played MMOs where they were common nearly 20 years ago, long before the term pay-to-win ever cropped up. I’m speaking specifically of Ultima Online here, which has offered skill templates for sale for so long I’ve lost count. They were always a quick way to get past some of the early grind for certain skills like provocation, and I don’t really feel bad about using them. The characters that benefited from them are my favorites, even.
Then again, I’ve used the freebies in Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft and never cared enough about the toons to play them all that seriously, though I suspect it’s more because I already had characters I cared about and didn’t need the booster to begin with, rather than a problem with boosters themselves.
How do you feel about character boosting in MMOs?