World of Warcraft director says players who pay for early access to the next expansion won’t have a ‘long-term advantage’

World of Warcraft: The War Within is the first WoW expansion where purchasing a more-expensive edition gets you into the new content more quickly. The announcement caused an immediate controversy, but the game’s director claims it will not ultimately affect players’ progression relative to each other.

A standard version of the pack, coming out next year, will set you back $50. It includes the new expansion, previous expansions, some cosmetics shop currency, and a level-70 character boost (the current maximum). The Heroic edition is $70 and includes all that plus a mount, a pet and more currency.

But the Epic edition at $90 is where things take a turn. In addition to 30 days of game time, a pet and two toys, it includes guaranteed beta access—formerly handed out in a sort of lottery—and three days of early access to the game.

That’s the first time ever that Warcraft has offered early access for sale, game director Ion Hazzikostas confirmed. “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.

“It’s worth noting the base edition this time around, I think is a better value than ever before. 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.”

Some players were not happy, or outright furious, about the announcement.

“This is comical, mustache-twirling levels of greed to put premium early access on a subscription game,” wrote one Reddit commentator in a thread that quickly reached more than 1,200 replies.

“The best thing about WoW is that new expansion hype in the first week who the f*** wants to start later,” another said.

“I don’t mind the deterministic way to get into the beta,” wrote another Redditor. “That seems mostly fine. Had some really salty friends going into [Dragonflight] because they never got picked for beta. But like…. Part of the joy of new xpac time is getting out and starting the new content and exploring it with the whole world.”

Hazzikostas said that the early access will be carefully calibrated to not give a competitive advantage for players who start early.

“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,” he said.

Specifically, the early-access period won’t have most end-game advancement opportunities, he said. At the launch of Dragonflight, which occurred for North America on a Monday, players couldn’t do many things until the weekly reset on Tuesday. Early access will be the same, but will give players a bit more time to hit maximum level before that reset, he said.

“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.”

Some of the things that won’t be available until reset include the best items from rare spawn creatures, Mythic Zero dungeons, Mythic Plus, weekly profession cooldowns and profession specialization points, Hazzikostas said.

“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.”

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