World of Warcraft director Ion Hazzikostas has confirmed there's "no long-term advantage" for players willing to pay for early access to the next expansion.
Back at BlizzCon last week, The War Within expansion was revealed along with two further expansions to begin the multi-part Worldsoul Saga. However, the Epic edition (costing $89.99) includes guaranteed beta access and three days of early access, the first time Warcraft has offered this.
Fans have responded angrily, as per this reddit thread, but Hazzikostas said the studio is following a trend.
"It is a trend across the industry that we're paying attention to. A number of games have done it," he told PC Gamer. "...We're looking to make sure that we're maximising 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."
Continuing, Hazzikostas stated those who pay for early access won't have an advantage due to restrictions including end-game advancement opportunities not being part of early access. He admitted: "I think frankly I wish we'd done a better job of explicitly spelling out [those restrictions]".
"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 levelling, 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," he continued. "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."
The War Within is set to release in 2024 and will follow last year's expansion Dragonflight.
Further, Blizzard admitted in an interview it considers bringing the MMORPG to consoles "all the time".