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Do I need to buy all the released updates to begin playing WoW?

A new expansion seems a good place to step in, but to play Mists of Pandaria, will I have to buy every game in the WoW universe?

These include:

  1. The main game
  2. Burning Crusade
  3. Wrath of the Lich King
  4. Cataclysm

What would likely happen if I bought Mists of Pandaria and then tried to log in (with a subscription on my account)?

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marked as duplicate by Mark Trapp, Blem, Adanion, dpatchery, juan Aug 1 '12 at 21:52

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

possible duplicate of Do I need to buy all the released updates to begin playing WoW?; this gets asked in some form every expansion (example 1, example 2) and we've been duping them to that question. – user3389 Aug 1 '12 at 18:38
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Short answer: Yes.

Long Answer: Yes, you have to purchase all of the expansions prior to the most recent expansion in order to play the most recent expansion. The simplest reasoning for this is that each expansion also includes a level range. You cannot level to 90 without first leveling to 60, then to 70, then to 80, and then to 85.

It's worth mentioning that The Burning Crusade and Classic (vanilla) are packaged together, so they cannot be purchased separately. At regular price, The Battle Chest (the combination of TBC and Classic, including a free month of play) is $19.99 USD, Wrath of the Lich King is $19.99 USD, and Cataclysm is $39.99 USD. You can also play for free up to level 20 with the Starter Edition.

Also, there is a discount if you purchase all of these at once. However, I believe that you have to create a account (don't worry, it's free) and then buy the game from, attaching it directly to your account.

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It's also worth mentioning that, before Cataclysm was released, there was a period in which you could get all of the previous expansions for a much lower price. It was short, though (2 weeks IIRC). It was also around this time that TBC and vanilla were merged. – Koviko Aug 1 '12 at 17:20
True that. I bought all of the expansions with the main game for 20 dollars. – Samjus Aug 1 '12 at 17:27
Your answer indicates that you can skip expansions for a second account by transferring a max level char over to the 2nd account. This is not true, you don't need previous expansions because they offer a certain level range, you need it because the expansions build on top of previous release. – Blem Aug 1 '12 at 17:30
@Blem I was just giving the simplest explanation. World of Warcraft isn't built to allow an expansion to be skipped. – Koviko Aug 1 '12 at 17:45
There was a week-long sale a month ago where the Battle Chest, WotLK and Cataclysm expansions were $10 each so you could catch up for $30. There was a similar sale around Christmas time, I would expect the same this year. – ghoppe Aug 1 '12 at 21:48

You need all the games in order to play this new expansion. It sucks but in order to progress to level 90 you will need all of the expansions.

You will need The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm and the Main game in order to do this.

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From my understanding, the Burning Crusade was rolled into the standard game, and Wrath of the Lich King will be rolled in when Mists of Pandaria comes out. – Aeo Aug 1 '12 at 17:23
I didn't know that. I always notice the games as seperate when I went to buy. Although I haven't bought the games for awhile now haha. – Samjus Aug 1 '12 at 17:26

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