Remember how busy the Old World was when the Shattering happened?
Toons swarmed over the Vanilla zones like ants on a picnic, investigating the new quest lines and the leveling experience. Many new alts were created, and a plethora of blog posts were written about the new zones. This fed into the excitement surrounding Cataclysm’s release and for the first few months after, keeping Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms busy. Blizzard’s gambit to revamp the Vanilla zones paid off in spades.
Or did it?
I’ve spent the spare time I’ve had in between battlegrounds catching up on my Eastern Kingdoms’ questlines, and what I’ve noticed more than anything else is how empty the zones are. There are a few farmers around and maybe one other leveling toon out there. Some zones, such as Arathi Highlands or the Hinterlands, are completely empty. In fact, it seems like the only busy zones in the entire Eastern Kingdoms are the starter zones. I’ve cruised up and down the Ghostlands right before Christmas, and there was nary a Horde toon around. You’d think the sight of a Draenei riding on a blasted Elekk around the Dead Scar would bring some L85s out of the woodwork, but that didn’t happen.
Is it possible that all that work to revamp the Old World was wasted?
Think about it: we’re back to where we were in terms of leveling zone population from mid-2010 in a bit over a year since 4.0.3b dropped. It’s the equivalent of a kid ripping open Christmas presents, playing with them, and declaring “I’m bored!” an hour later.
Are there no players leveling toons?
Well, there might be toons being leveled, but there are LFD and BGs as alternate routes to max level. Additionally, we can’t simply state that there aren’t any new players, either, because new players are typically shunted into the new, empty servers. However, on servers that have been around for a while, there are definitely very few players leveling toons through questing.
Which again begs the question: was the revamp worth it if very few of the existing player base take advantage of the options presented?
Now Mist of Pandaria is on the horizon, and without a further update –aka more money spent on these zones that have seen little long term interest— the Vanilla zones will be once again out of date. A new player to WoW will end up scratching their heads if they try to level via questing. (“I thought Mists of Pandaria was about Pandas! All I see are all these Deathwing references! And who’s Illidan and that Lich King guy?”)
I believe that the revamp was a bold move, but incomplete in execution. Furthermore, by performing the revamp Blizzard set itself on a course where the story of Azeroth is told in a jumble, not in a series of sequential chapters. A revamp is pretty much an all-or-nothing scenario, especially when you mix the expansion’s new zones in with the original Vanilla zones. No amount of hand waving can make a new player forget about Outland and Northrend --especially when you have to pay for them!