Shortly after the announcement for World of Warcraft‘s next expansions—a trilogy referred to as the Worldsoul Saga—the studio had seen quite a bit of criticism for offering 3 days of early access for players to players that would pre-order the Epic Edition of World of Warcraft: The War Within.
Game director Ion Hazzikostas has responded to the criticism. Talking to PCGamer, Hazzikostas has justified the 3 days of early access by stating that it doesn’t really offer any long term benefits to players that make use of it. Hazzikostas also mentions that a small early group of players getting early access to an upcoming game has been something that other titles in the industry have also been doing.
“It is a trend across the industry that we’re paying attention to. A number of games have done it,” he said. “…We’re looking to make sure that we’re maximizing the value of our expansion offerings, of these expansion bundles.”
Hazzikostas also goes on to state that the base edition for World of Warcraft: The War Within also comes with some extras, making it much better value than base editions of World of Warcraft have traditionally been. Since the level 70 boost, which classically has been included as part of more expensive editions, is part of the base edition for the upcoming expansion, Blizzard wanted to make the more expensive editions also offer better value.
“It’s worth noting the base edition this time around, I think is a better value than ever before,” he says. “It’s the same price point as it was in [the current expansion] Dragonflight, includes the boost for everyone once again, includes Dragonflight for those who don’t already own it. I think we’re trying to make sure that our offerings at every level are compelling.”
According to Hazzikostas, the early access is also being finely tuned by Blizzard so as to not offer too much of a big advantage to players that would get access to the expansion earlier than many other players.
“The immediate concern that we knew we needed to tackle, and I think frankly I wish we’d done a better job of explicitly spelling out when we announced it on the web page as part of the pre-sale process, are the restrictions that are associated with the early access,” said Hazzikostas.
It is also worth noting that, while players might have an advantage when it comes to getting a leg up on leveling up to the new level 80 cap, the early access period for the expansion won’t really provide any access to most of the endgame activities that World of Warcraft is traditionally famous for.
“The early access period is really pulling in that start by a few days,” Hazzikostas said, “for these people to get a head start on leveling, aimed more at a lot of players who may not have as much free time and not have the ability to take time off work, and therefore miss out on that first week of running Mythic Zero [dungeons], or running max level dungeons with their friends and their guild mates who are able to jump in.”
“We’re looking at end game power advantages,” said Hazzikostas. “Our goal here is, and we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure it’s the case, that there’s no long-term advantage. You shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between someone by the time Season One [with its raid and Mythic Plus dungeons] starts, who had the early access to someone who didn’t.”
Announced during BlizzCon 2023, World of Warcraft: The War Within will be the first of a planned trilogy of expansions that aim to tell a complete story. The studio has also stated that this trilogy will not be the end for World of Warcraft.