The Incredible Shrinking World

Tobold has noticed that the effective size of the world has gone down. Because many high-level characters have little or no reason to go back to Azeroth, the old continents seem quite deserted. This is not a new phenomenon per se.

I started my current character on a brand-new server, so most of the time I spent the time with the majority of the population in the same zones. When a server matures, the majority of the population flocks to the high-level zones and capitals, which leaves the mid-level zones relatively empty. When the server matures further, the outside world quiets down when the majority spends their evenings in instances. The same thing is now happening with Outland.

However, there is one significant difference between the level distribution of Azeroth zones and Outland zones. On Azeroth, the high-level zones are spread all around the world. Silithus and Winterspring. Eastern Plaguelands and Burning Steppes. In addition, the low-level zones were always close to the capital cities, where high-level players spent their idle time. This meant that high-level players had to travel across several mid-level and low-level zones to reach the high-level zones. On Outland, all of the zones qualify as high-level zones, and they are right next to each other. Shattrath, the new de facto capital is there as well. A high-level player has little reason to go back to low-level zones, even to just pass through. While the theoretical land mass of the game has increased, less of it is put into use. For a high-level player, the World of Warcraft is practically composed of only Outland.

This is an another example of "lost content". Blizzard is in essence depreciating their own game, piece by piece. I gladly admit that the new zones and capitals are indeed much better than the old ones and there's lots of things you can do in them. However, there is a danger that Blizzard is setting itself up for a vicious circle. If the amount of content that interests the majority of players keeps getting smaller and smaller every expansion, there will be more and more pressure on Blizzard to keep making new content at a faster pace. They can't keep building new stuff faster than the old keeps crumbling from under them. Content is always consumed faster than it's created.

To prevent the vicious circle Blizzard needs to ensure that old content stays relevant even when the game world is expanded with new continents (Northrend, South Seas) or entire worlds (the Eredar homeworld Argus). One way to do this is to update old content while you keep making new. Opening Caverns of Time and Karazhan is a start, but there's still a lot of unfinished business back on Azeroth. Enabling heroic mode for old dungeons could help a bit. Filling out unused zones in Azeroth would be better. I hope I'll someday be able to see what lies east of Badlands, sail to Zandalar Isle or discover whether an Old God really sleeps in Tirisfal..

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