The level squish is coming. Shadowlands may have been delayed, but Blizzard is still giving us the 9.0.1 pre-patch in a matter of days… hell, we’re close enough to start measuring the time comfortably in hours… and so I started thinking about that.
At some point Blizzard recognized that too many levels had become an issue; levels were no longer special and leveling needed help. So they set out to fix the problem. The level squish is the solution, announced at BlizzCon last year. With the pre-patch everybody at level cap, currently level 120, will suddenly be level 50.
There is a new starting experience that will cover levels 1-10, after which all of the past expansions, as well as post-Cataclysm vanilla WoW, will run in parallel as level 20-50 experiences, allowing the player to choose which path they want to take to level 50, or swap between them, or whatever.
And then Shadowlands will pick up and be the level 50-60 experience. We got all of that last year at BlizzCon.
Blizzard, for whatever reason, will favor Battle for Azeroth for you first run through, but if you already have a character at level cap you will find it easy to choose your route though the game. Or so we’re told. I haven’t played with it yet, but we’ll take that as read because that isn’t really the topic today.
Instead, the topic is what happens after Shadowlands?
There will, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, be an expansion after Shadowlands, and probably a few more after that. World of Warcraft isn’t as lucrative as it was a decade ago, but it is still by far the most lucrative and reliable money maker the company has. This cow will be milked on schedule so long as it remains profitable.
But if you add another expansion after Shadowlands, another ten level experience, because Blizzard has decided that ten levels is the optimum cap raise for an expansion, we will, with the passage of time, be at level 70 then 80 then 90 and so on and back into the problem that brought about the level squish in the first place.
Blizzard is silly and sometimes seems incapable of spotting the oncoming train of a problem, but they just solved this spiraling level cap issue so I have to think it will remain fresh in their minds long enough to consider the expansion after Shadowlands.
I am pretty sure that at BlizzCon 2021, after they finish celebrating the success of Burning Crusade Classic, and whatever server move solution they have come up with to link it to WoW Classic, during the usual summing up segment that kicks off the keynote, the big reveal for the franchise will be the next expansion for retail WoW.
And I am curious, during the big panel to go over the main details, if they will tell us that, with the launch of this expansion, the level cap will again be 60, that being the optimum level cap since it was where the game started (stop looking over at the level 70 cap on Burning Crusade Classic) and that everybody will be squished back down to level 50 again, that Shadowlands will be made another parallel track on the 20-50 experience, and that the new expansion will occupy the level 50-60 slot.
Are we embarking on an era where levels 50-60 will always be the new expansion and any past expansion will be made yet another option on the way there? It seems both over-wrought and deceptively simple as a solution.
I suppose the real question is whether or not it will work? Will players be happy to reset to level 50 every expansion only to earn their way back up to 60 yet again? If levels lacked meaning before, what meaning would they have in that scenario?
And, finally, can Blizzard stop changing up character classes and specs and whatnot so much with every new expansion? That all trickles down on the parallel 20-50 expansions ever time they do. That is the reason they need to introduce Burning Crusade Classic. The content is all still there in game, mostly unaltered since 2008 or so. But every time they change up classes and specs and talent points and gear and all the other things that work together and dictate how your character plays, they change up how the expansions play.