Since I couldn't recently find the time or subject matter to write about anything I thought up myself, this post is brought to you courtesy of Ringo Flinthammer via the Blog Azeroth shared topics forum.
Ringo asks, "For the first time, WoW's latest expansion, Cataclysm, only raised the level cap by 5 levels, in addition to the other content it added. Was Blizzard right to make this call? All other things being equal -- the same number of high level zones and dungeons, for instance -- should they have raised the cap by 10 levels? Should the fourth expansion be a 5-level or 10-level jump?"
When Blizzard announced the next expansion would only be 5 levels instead of 10, I was probably about as shocked as everyone else. Did that mean it was only half an expansion? Would the overall content introduced with Cataclysm be less than what we've gotten used to with previous expansions? A lot of people probably thought Blizzard was taking the easy road by having to develop only five levels of content. I think after experiencing the Cataclysm first hand, I can see a lot of reasons why they went with only five levels, and it certainly wasn't to screw us out of content.
There are different types of people who play WoW, and Blizzard tries to provide ways for all of those types of people to enjoy the game. I want to look at just two of those types of people. Those who like leveling, and those who don't. Typically those who like the aspect of leveling aren't as committed to end game content (raiding, heroics, gearing, etc.), though that is certainly not a given. Levelers may like to quest, try out different races and class combinations, play a lot of alts, and other things that are all part of the 1 to 85 leveling process. Those who don't like leveling usually want to level as fast as they can so they can enjoy the end game content more. Again, not always the case. These end-gamers like to spend more time at the top level and therefore may have fewer low level alts, and enjoy running end game heroics and raids to get the best gear. These are some pretty specific stereotypes, but I'll be using these viewpoints to look at two very different ways of seeing the 5 levels in Cataclysm.
At first you might think people who love to level should be disappointed in only 5 new levels in Cataclysm. You move through zones a bit faster than you may have in Wrath or Burning Crusade, and there aren't as many new zones to begin with. While it probably takes a good deal more time to get to 85 from 80 than it did to get to 75 from 70, the process of going from starting level to top level is faster, so those people who really enjoy the leveling process have a shorter time in that process than they had before.
But there is something else to look at. If you do enjoy leveling, there's a good chance you enjoy alts and leveling early levels as well, and Cataclysm practically revamped the 1-60 leveling experience for every class and race. That means that in addition to 80-85, we got 1-60 as well. So if you really like leveling, then you got quite a bit more than just 10 levels. New content, new quests, new levels, and new places to see. If you're not that invested in end game content, there's a whole new world for you to explore. I think we have to take this into account when looking at what was added in Cataclysm. There might only be five more new levels, but they also upgraded a whole 60 levels of quests and zones.
I think Blizzard really likes its end game crowd. For people who only level because they have to in order to run end game content, and thus want to get it over with as quickly as possible, well, now they only have 5 levels to contend with instead of 10. And to top that off, there is about as much end game content in Cataclysm as there was in Wrath and TBC. There are three raids, all accessible at 85 with a relatively similar gear level, and numerous heroic dungeons to run. There were three raids when Wrath started as well, and that was after you had to slog through 10 levels of content.
End-gamers probably got the better end of the deal in this regard compared to those who like to level. While the latter do have a whole new 1-60 experience to enjoy, they don't get as much content in the higher levels.
Personally, I'm a mix of both of these views as I very much enjoy leveling and seeing new content, but I also have spent the majority of time on Elionene, my main character, to get her ready for raiding. I'm looking forward to raiding and downing bosses, but I'm also looking forward to when I can spend less time getting ready for raids, and more time working on alts and seeing early level zones. Lal and I both would love to spend some time on the new Dwarves or Night Elves we created between 4.0.1 and the release of the expansion.
Again, these are two very specific points of view. But I think it illustrates well that 5 levels, for the most part, was enough for this expansion. The reasoning being that Blizzard also spent an inordinate amount of time and resources on both the earlier leveling experience and the end game content, to keep the ultimate amount of content in this expansion on par with their other expansions. So for the next expansion, if they are only introducing new content and not changing any of the old content, then I would hope for at least 10 new levels. But I don't think that's what will happen. It think they'll stick with the 5 level expansion from now on, just so they don't get numbers that seem ridiculously big to work with. So it will take 3 more expansions to get to level 100, rather than 2. Here's hoping for a revamped Outland and maybe even Northrend in a couple expansions.