World of Warcraft 'The War Within' has a $90 early access preorder bundle, and it's incredibly out of touch

 World of Warcraft: The War Within Logo.
World of Warcraft: The War Within Logo.

What you need to know

  • Yesterday, Blizzard announced not one, but three upcoming World of Warcraft expansions, as it revealed that future games will revolve around "sagas" planned out over the next several years.

  • Despite a positive reception, presented by legendary Warcraft co-creator Chris Metzen, Blizzard has still caught some backlash today.

  • The War Within has several pre-order bonuses, one of which grants players 3-day early access for $90.

  • The early access period will grant more affluent players an advantage in the race to The War Within's endgame, and create a financial burden on players who may not have the means to join their friends in early access.

Blizzard almost hit a home run with this year's Blizzcon, but managed to fumble at the last minute.

Yesterday at Blizzcon 2023, the firm revealed the future of its major franchises. Big updates for Overwatch 2, Diablo 4, and World of Warcraft should ensure Blizzard has a great 2024, its first full year as part of Microsoft. Microsoft and Xbox now own Blizzard Entertainment, as part of Microsoft's huge $70 billion acquisition of Activision-Blizzard-King. Xbox lead Phil Spencer was up on stage at Blizzcon 2023 to reassure fans that Xbox seeks to empower Blizzard to help it go to the next level.

For World of Warcraft, Blizzard announced not one, but three upcoming expansions. Legendary Warcraft co-creator Chris Metzen has returned from retirement to take the reins once again of one of the industry's most prolific franchises, revealing that the story is now designed years in advance around "sagas," the first of which will be known as the Worldsoul Saga.

As of often the case with good news, sometimes the small print can catch you off guard. Blizzard has pulled one of the most irritating pre-order bonuses out of its bag of tricks, as part of a wider industry trend that revolves around paid early access.

Whether it's Starfield or Forza Motorsport, the industry at large is seeking to capitalize on player FOMO (fear of missing out) by offering early access for a premium edition. In the case of an offline single-player game like Starfield, it at least won't necessarily impact your own personal gameplay if you opt to save a bit of extra cash. In the case of a competitive multiplayer game like World of Warcraft, though, 3 days of early access offers richer players an unequivocal advantage.

World of Warcraft: The War Within preorder bonuses are as follows:

  • Standard Edition ($50): Access to The War Within, level 70 boost, 500 trader's tender (cosmetic currency).

  • Heroic Edition ($70): Access to The War Within, level 70 boost, 750 trader's tender (cosmetic currency), Algarian Stormwider mount and access to special race courses, Stormrider's cosmetic attire.

  • Epic Edition ($90): Access to The War Within, level 70 boost, 1000 trader's tender (cosmetic currency), guaranteed beta access, 30 days of gametime, a storm hatchling battle pet, a Storm Gryphon toy, a hearthstone effect, and 3 days early access to The War Within.

Fans and content creators alike have already reacted negatively to the paid early access period. Although there were some rumblings about Starfield having a paid early access tier (even from us), the fact it's not a competitive game at least means early access won't impact other players who opt out. World of Warcraft: The War Within is different, though.

Guilds that opt-in to early access for $90 will have a gearing advantage against guilds that don't. With three days, it's conceivable that you'll already have a bunch of guilds fully raid and PvP ready for the mythic+ and raiding endgame while other players opt in more slowly. This will put unfair financial pressure on friends and guildmates if their pals opt-in, but they cannot afford to do so responsibly. Paid early access in a game like World of Warcraft will divide guilds, groups of friends, and players by their financial means, and that is wrong in my view.

For solitary single-player experiences, paid early access is irritating but at least avoidable. For World of Warcraft and similar competitive games, it amounts to competitive advantages to at least some degree, but it's the social and financial pressure that is far more egregious. The FOMO factor will be amplified tenfold owing to World of Warcraft's social gameplay — and I suspect this is by design.

This bundle is unequivocally an out-of-touch move by Blizzard, and will hopefully be reverted.

World of Warcraft: The War Within launches in 2024 for Windows PC.