Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
The Shattering vs. Cataclysm

For people who do not currently play World of Warcraft, and/or aren't keeping up to date with all the details, the upcoming "Cataclysm" can be somewhat confusing. What does the Cataclsym mean for you if you don't have a current WoW account, but would like to either try the game for the first time, or come back after a long absence? What exactly do you need to pay?

The confusion stems mainly from people associating the name of the new expansion "Cataclysm", with the changes to the world of Azeroth. And that isn't correct. The changes to the world of Azeroth, regarding the zones from level 1 to 60, are called "The Shattering", and are technically NOT part of the Cataclysm expansion. The Shattering happens in a patch 4.0.3a today on the US servers, and tomorrow on the European servers. The Shattering changes the look of all the level 1 to 60 zones, their quests, and also changes some other things, like the possible race/class combinations, and the healer talent trees. All of this is completely free, and requires only the basic World of Warcraft game and a subscription.

"Cataclysm" is an expansion. I costs about $40, and requires both of the previous expansions Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. It has some additional low-level content, namely the two new races goblin and worgen, with their starting zones. But most of it is content level 81 to 85 (which is why you can't run Cataclysm without having the expansions that allow you to level from 60 to 80), with new zones, dungeons, and raids.

If you have never played World of Warcraft and want now to play a goblin or worgen, or if you want to play WoW up to level 85 and raid with people at some point, you will need to buy not only the expansion, but also the basic game and the two previous expansions. The good news is that those are on sale until November 29th: World of Warcraft for $5, The Burning Crusade for $5, and Wrath of the Lich King for $10. Add Cataclysm for $40 and the whole bundle will cost you $60. Plus of course a subscription for about $15 per month (but I assume the $5 WoW basic pack comes with one free month).

If you played World of Warcraft previously, and just want to see how Azeroth changed, without leveling past 60 or playing a goblin or worgen, you only need to renew your subscription, as "The Shattering" is free for everybody without the need of any expansion.

Finally a personal comment: World of Warcraft is a huge game, with thousands of hours of content. Thus the cost of the monthly subscription will quickly be much more than the cost of the game itself. If you don't have The Burning Crusade and/or Wrath of the Lich King yet, the current sale for these two costs just the equivalent of one month subscription. That is well worth it, whether you then decide to buy Cataclysm as well or not. You pay the same subscription with or without expansions, so playing the game without expansions is the less good deal.

FTC Disclaimer: I do not receive any money or other considerations from Blizzard. Never have, except for a press pass to a Blizzard convention once in 2008. It is actually possible to recommend World of Warcraft without being paid for it.
Nice write up and explanation. I didnt really think of the shattering as seperate to cataclysm but yeah your right. With this is mind is this the biggest 'patch' in MMO history ? It certainly seems the most ambitious by some margin.

Oh and i enjoyed the syncaine esk disclaimer.
I have seen differences in opinion of when The Shattering is occurring - Blizzard were their usual vague selves, but I have seen comments about it being next week instead - one week before the expansion hits. Have you seen a definite date for this?
Is this promotion only for EU accunts? I have been trying to find the same thing for US, but cannot find it. :S
So wait, Blizzard is now charging $8 per level of content once every 2 years? Damn, they have once again set the bar for price/pace/content delivery. Good thing they have you here to shill the product for them!

(On a serious note, this is a bit odd isn't it? I mean if WoW players were not so content starved that they are willingly paying $40 for two reskins and 5 levels, Blizzard would be giving away the main selling point of their expansion, which would allow everyone to ignore Cata until a price drop (if, say, WoW had content that was substantial before the lvl cap anyway))
I often wonder why mmo companies don't allow noobs to jump right in at the level cap after an expansion. It is always a great time to be in game with lots of players discovering new content together for the fist time. I know that levelling curves have shortened dramatically and I know that the levelling process is useful for learning the game but these days there is a large contingent of floating mmorpg players who know the basics and who don't need 80 levels to get up to speed.
@syncaine: While of course one can spin it in a positive or in a negative way, I think we agree on the neutral fact that a large part of the development work on the expansion is given away for free in patch 4.0.3a, and you're paying $40 for something which could be considered just "half an expansion".

But if they wouldn't give "The Shattering", with its remake of many zones and thousands of quests, away for free, then how exactly would they handle accounts that don't buy the expansion? I think giving away the patch for free is a better solution than having two different versions of each of the old zones, depending on whether you bought the expansion or not.

I realize that the first part of your post was intentional trolling, but even you know that most players buying Cataclysm will be doing so for the end game content, not the five levels. . . nor does dividing price by level make any sense anyway.
"how exactly would they handle accounts that don't buy the expansion?"

Yeah, both of them!

Has anyone found an equivalent deal for US players? I can't seem to find one.
I believe there's a black friday deal at a chain where the WoW Battlechest is selling for $10. That's WoW, Burning Crusade, and strat guides for each. And you get the 30 days of play time too. It's a great deal for anyone who hasn't played before and is looking to jump in.

And now is the time as there will be a lot of low-level characters leveling again.

Just checked. K-Mart on Thanksgiving day is the sale on the WoW Battlechest.
Nice informative post as I know there are confused people out there.

One observation I had while watching the Cataclysm cinematic after patching my (US) client was how awesome would it have been for Blizzard to keep the date of the Shattering and the cinematic under wraps, and then have players' first experience of the new world the Cataclysm cinematic when they load the game up? Even still, I bought into the fiction that, yes, Deathwing just emerged and this (the cinematic) was a small window on that.
Old/New zone split would be more work, which is why ultimately I believe they just gave it out for free. It's still interesting though, because right now I could reactivate my old WoW account and experience the highlight of Cata without paying a cent. For most games/businesses, that would be seen as a major issue.
@Syncaine: It depends what you view as the highlight. Personally, another Human/Orc/Elf in a new land with a previously locked class isn't all that exciting for me.

If I was going to buy Cata it would be for the raiding and the Worgblins, not for new levelling/zone shit. And besides, everyone's going to buy Cataclysm anyway, so marketing analysis isn't really a problem for Blizz.
Alot of people are looking at the Shattering from a past gamers view. Look at it from a new gamers view.

WoW has a horrible turn over rate with new people trying the game. I think they stated somewhere under 10% of new people stay past the first month.

The Shattering is designed around increasing that number. They are making the early game more fluid and updated compared to the rest of the game. That is the reason it is free. It isn't because they want to give away free content, it's because they want new people to play past the first month. It makes perfect business sense.
I think they stated somewhere under 10% of new people stay past the first month.

Horrible misquote, that. They said that only 30% of players in the free trial stay past level 10. That might seem low, but is actually way higher than industry average for free trial. Nevertheless Cataclysm is in part an effort to improve on that number.
For US readers, the same promotion is available at
Do you think the sale will be permanent? I'm not sure why Blizzard would raise the prices back to it's normal rate unless they are following Valve's theory of increased sales even after the original price has been restored.
"...and just want to see how Azeroth changed, without leveling past 60 or playing a goblin or worgen, you only need to renew your subscription.. "

Without BC add Dranei and BElf to the list of unplayables.
I don't think the sale will be permanent in exactly this form. I do however think that some time next year Blizzard will release a box containing WoW, BC, and WotLK in one bundle, and that bundle could well cost $20.
I have to say, I am loving the new content. The new quests are well designed, with obvious lessons learned from the past and the old quests that have been left in are the ones that weren't annoying.

They definitely have fully embraced their "theme park" aspect. All of leveling now feels very much connected. Quests lead into each other, and there are breadcrumb quests leading to every quest hub and every quest hub ends with a bread crumb to where you can go next for some more quests if you want. I know some darkfall trolls are probably going to whine about that, but it really has made the game more fun.

There is no more random quests in undercity with no lead ins asking you to go to felwood, get an uncertain amount of items and come all the way back with an off-chance that you didn't get enough and are going to need to make ANOTHER trip.
Loving the new zones and graphics. Very cool.

However, I have a couple of guildees who are very upset with the shattering occurring before the actual Cataclysm expansion. They were in the midst of acquiring their Loremaster achievements (believing they had until Dec 7). Hundreds of quests dropped and/or changed. Literally hundreds of hours lost.
Thats not true. If you are actually grinding loremaster it takes like 10 hours tops. I finished mine in a week.
I'm always amazed by the hypocrisy of Syncaine - how he can praise a small patch to Darkfall for being free, yet laugh at WoW for probably the biggest free update in mmo history, how he tries to point out that you can buy a pony for 25$ in WoW in every other post, yet at the same time feels happy to spend that amount on reskins for LoL that actually don't change gameplay at all (oh I just realized - he's calling goblins and worgens reskins in an attempt to insult WoW, yet feels LoL reskins are great and buys them).
Syncaine isn't a serious poster though, he is a troll. You shouldn't treat him like he has serious opinions.
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