I’ll admit that it’s hard for me to invest time in a MMO unless I see a future in the game. I’ve started and quit more MMOs than I can remember not because I ran out of content, but because I couldn’t see myself enjoying it down the road, a few months or a year from then.
I suspect that WoW has peaked in terms of subscription numbers at its three year mark (but of course I could be wrong). At 9.3 million players, we’re probably looking at another 10-15 years of game lifespan before it becomes a complete barren wasteland — after all, people STILL play Diablo 2 online! So we’re guaranteed another half dozen expansions, most likely, and maybe a nice graphical overhaul down the road. So I see a future in WoW, and it keeps me playing.
In 2008, at some point, we’ll see Wrath of the Lich King launch. It’s a ways off, and I’m sure that you could start a new character today and get him or her epic’d out at 70 before WotLK ever hits your hard drive, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t start prepping for it!
What do we know we’re going to get so far? And what does that mean for our preparation?
- Level Cap Raised to 80 – 10 more levels not only temporarily satisfies the leveling urge in all of us, but it comes with the promise of new skills and greater power. Will Warlocks get a new pet? Will Shammys finally get crowd control? Will Mages be able to summon twinkies for their sugar rush? The new level cap in the future helps you to keep interest in your character now — you haven’t reached the end of the road, and there are still new abilities yet to be unlocked.
- Talent Tree Additions – I’d love to see Blizz a fourth tree for each class, usable only at higher levels, but I doubt they’ll get that creative. New talent builds = new playstyles!
- Death Knights and Inscription – As with Burning Crusade’s cross-faction shammy/pally mix and Jewelcrafting, WotLK is banking on a new class and a new profession to fill the need for some serious new content. Of course everyone under the sun will be making a Death Knight (Gnome DK’s for the win!), but you can start planning on what use this character will have in your arsenal — will you finally make a tank, or will it be pure sweet DPS?
- Gear – At high levels, it all seems to come down to gear, gear, gear. You make progressively smaller leaps forward in your gear’s stats as you spend larger amounts of time gaining it (which is incredibly twisted), but a new expansion in the future assures us that no matter what gear we now attain, it will be outdated within a year’s time. So the only good reason to be pushing hard for epics is to experience raid content (Kara, ZA, etc.) and have fun with buddies without dying a lot.
- Professions – You have enough time to level any profession you want up to 375 in time for the expansion, so it’s not a bad idea to take a long hard look at what professions you really need right now and in the future. Herbalism/Alchemy might’ve seemed cool at first, but maybe you could be benefiting a lot more from blacksmithing on your warrior.