Are We Going to Get a Level Squish with Every WoW Expansion Now?

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.

What the new level ranges will be

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.

13 thoughts on “Are We Going to Get a Level Squish with Every WoW Expansion Now?

  1. Ula

    Have other games done this level squish thing, and if so, how has it worked out over time? (I’m sure you’ve mentioned it but I forget.)

    As for me, my highest level guy (OG Scscla) is only 104. I still don’t know what level she’ll be squished to. (??) I think I’d like to try out Shadowlands at some point, but I’ll probably need to go back and watch a bunch of YouTubes first and try to re-memorize rotations.

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Ula – I have never seen anybody try this before. Other games have done level scaling for zones and Blizz was almost late to the game for level boosts with expansions. But re-scaling the levels in an MMO from 120 to 50… not been done that I know of.

    WoWHead has a chart. As a level 104 character, your new level will be 42.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. C. T. Murphy

    I’d get rid of 50 to 60 and replace it with story-based leveling that is tied to the expansion itself. Complete the main quest for the expansion? Congrats, you are “max level”!

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  4. bhagpuss

    They’re almost edging towards something I’ve been suggesting for over a decade (not saying it’s my idea) which is for long-running MMORPGs to effectively make each expansion a standalone game, to which you can, optionally, transfer your existing characters or start afresh. The whole “new gimmick every expansion” thing which seems to be so unpopular right now makes a lot more sense if you keep the expansions walled off from each other. They just rowed back from what would have been another step in that direction after the negative reaction to not allowing Covenants to work outside of Shadowlands but I think it would be a sound move if they’d only sell the idea better.

    A recurring ten levels and a reshuffle of each outgoing expansion into the pack seems like a better option than an endless levelling ladder. If they really got themselves organized, they could roll up the Classic servers and the Live servers into one seamless set of expansion-specific servers with the Current Live game sitting on top as the last in the sequence. Probably too late to persuade people to accept it now but if they were starting from here, that would be the way to go.

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  5. SynCaine

    Do the expansions have enough content to be worth going 20-50 in, or is that going to feel very stretched during certain paths or level points?

    Otherwise I think it does make sense to squish every expansion back to 50, and repeat, if for no other reason than consistency.

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  6. Nogamara

    I’d actually prefer to have 60,70,80,90 again and then back to 50.
    Just searching for “wow rogue gear level 60” will bring me nightmares in the future ;)

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  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @bhagpuss – They need to make at least one big step to get something like WoW Classic in parallel, and that is class specs. As things have worked over the years, and will work with Shadowlands, every past expansion has to use the class spec from the current expansion. If they could split that out, so if you were in Classic you had the vanilla class spec, in Wrath with the original Wrath class spec, and so on, you could have true parallel and varied experiences. You would probably have to lock characters into an expansion for that, and I don’t know what you do about gear at the AH, so it is probably more complex than Blizz is ready for right now. But maybe some day.

    @SynCaine – I think the expansions have enough content in them to be spread over 40 levels rather than just 10. Burning Crusade and Wrath have a lot of content, and even the five level expansions like Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria had at least one zone per level. Now you get 8 levels per zone in Cata, if that is the expansion you want to go back and do. I suppose it depends somewhat on how well their scaling works though. I bet that will need to be tuned some.

    @Nogamara – Or, at least level 50 gear. Level 60 will always be reserved for the current expansion if my theory of eternal 60 level cap becomes reality, because the old expansion will just become a level 10-50 experience.

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  8. anypo8

    “And, finally, can Blizzard stop changing up character classes and specs and whatnot so much with every new expansion?” Biggest reason I left WoW. All that time and effort building my character, and then new expansion and boom half of it wasted. “You wanted to play an Arcane Mage? Sorry, Fire is the new meta — you’ll need to try again. You wanted to be an Inscriptionist? Sorry, we’re not really doing that so much anymore. All that gear you spent gold on? Worthless now.” I’d take my Mage and play somewhere else, but of course the lock-in is real.

    Of all the original design decisions in EVE Online, one of my very favorites is just not doing levels at all. Levels are dumb and lazy. It’s one of the few decisions CCP hasn’t undone, too — I suspect mostly just because the inertia is so high.

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  9. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @anoypo8 – And the changes ruin some of the expansions. Legion, which I consider a decent expansion, one that I enjoyed a lot, was centered on legendary weapons with special abilities that went with your particular class spec. And then BFA came along and they redid everything, the weapons just became pretty models for transmog that were good, but not great, and playing through the Legion expansion became kind of a hollow experience. Part of the early stages of the expansion involve obtaining these weapons and then leveling them up to unlock their power, but now your heirloom gear is probably better and gives you an xp buff so why bother?

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Bodhi Rana

    If they figured out the level squish properly this time, aka they’re able to get it properly balanced and still maintain that a level cap character in [expack after SL] is 3 expansions stronger than Legion, 5 expansions stronger than MoP… and farming old content at level cap is still rofl-stompy … then I am 1,000,000% behind level squishing every xpack. Even the new player experience (new starter area that’s loosely based off an idea from the recent past that launches you into the last xpack so you’re caught up [more or less] with current affairs) is a wonderful idea. The idea that any 1 expansion can be used to level an alt to current content is equally glorious. The idea that non-current expansion crafted gear can be used by anyone in the leveling process will keep old mats/recipies relevant and even rejuvenate the auction house for those items and related mogs.

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  11. Pingback: The Role of Levels in World of Warcraft – Do They Have A Place? – Kaylriene

  12. calthaer

    I have long thought that MMOGs need to encourage their players to retire their characters rather than keep them going on, year after year, endlessly extending their lives with more new content (and upping the level cap). Some kind of in-game benefit to retiring (maybe a boost that is account-, guild-, faction-, or server-wide), along with some “capstone” career moments, could encourage folks to close the book on a character, consider it done, and then allow them to start fresh with a new set of content. Would alleviate the whole mess of the level cap going up and up and up forever.

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  13. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @calthaer – I am pretty sure somewhere in a past post I proposed the idea that each expansion stand alone as a start to level cap experience. You can roll up a fresh character, or bring over an old one from a previous expansion that would bestow some minor benefits, titles, or whatever.

    But it is asking a lot for people to give up a character they’ve worked hard on, or to even ask them to reset to the start point again. People get attached, they accumulate stuff, and while you can solve a bit of that by sharing things account-wide, I’m not sure I’d recycle my 2005 paladin, who has been my lead through all the expansions, for any but a dramatic benefit.

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