"Dear customer,The maintenance argument appears rather thin to me. I can't believe storing inactive characters can cost any significant amount of money to Funcom, while actively deleting them certainly does cost something. So when the recipient of this mail tells me he felt blackmailed, I can totally understand that sentiment. In the context of Age of Conan you get that image of the barbarian thug holding a knife to the throat of you low-level character, shouting "give me your money, or the noob gets it!".
Thank you for playing Age of Conan.
As part of our maintenance your account is now flagged to have your characters below level 20 deleted as part of maintenance. Please re-activate your account now to ensure that your characters progress and names stay intact.
As a welcome back offer we would like to give you a time-limited offer for 7 days of additional play time if you choose to re-subscribe now. Please click this link to use this special offer!"
I tend to quickly lose my attachment to characters I don't play any more. I have no idea which of my hundreds of characters I created over the last decade still exist, and which got deleted. In many cases I don't even remember my userID and password for the older games, and having opened those accounts with e-mail accounts that don't exist any more, I wouldn't even be able to recover them if I wanted to. The only threating e-mail like that I ever got was from Star Wars Galaxies, and they only threatened to delete my house, not my character, which given that the house was visible to everybody passing and thus certainly caused some server load I could understand. But I remember once receiving an "come back to Everquest for some free days" offer, and being astonished that all my characters were still there after being abandoned for years. Seeing how data storage cost decreased since EQ, I nowadays assume that most games rather keep all characters stored forever rather than first bothering to delete them, and then having to deal with irrate customers cancelling their resubscription. That Age of Conan doesn't do that appears fishy to me.