Shadowlands Beta and the Coming Release

My time in Azeroth remains focused on WoW Classic.  My interest in Battle for Azeroth is pretty low since I unlocked flying (I am squandering that 100% xp boost, I know) and I have been trying not to pay too much attention to what is going on with the upcoming Shadowlands expansion in my usual attempt to keep some of it a surprise.

But I cannot help but see the headlines in my feed and the Blue Tracker over at MMO Champion, which I use to pick up specific news and updates, has been very much focused on Shadowlands.

And the big news this past week is that Shadowlands has now officially entered beta and people can try/test all of the leveling content, classes, and some instances.  Blizz has posted a preview round up to cover some of what is coming.

This feels a bit late in the year, relative to past releases, for an expansion to hit beta.  I know that things take as long as they take, and that Blizzard has pegged this for the three month period of “Fall” as the release window… so it won’t be another August launch… but I seem to recall there being traditionally something like a 3-4 month gap between beta and launch (somebody did a study of this, but I cannot find it at the moment), which would put Shadowlands in the October to November time frame.  The past launch to launch timeline have been:

  • WoW Launch to The Burning Crusade – 784 days
  • The Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King – 667 days
  • Wrath of the Lich King to Cataclysm – 754 days
  • Cataclysm to Mists of Pandaria – 658 days
  • Mists of Pandaria to Warlords of Draenor – 778 days
  • Warlords of Draenor to Legion – 670 days
  • Legion to Battle for Azeroth – 728 days

If Shadowlands launches on October 27th, just to pick an early-ish Fall date, that would make the gap between launches 805 days, if I did my math correctly, making it the longest time between expansions.

Technically Blizzard has until December 21st, the Winter Solstice, the longest day of the year and the point at which somebody decided winter officially starts in the northern hemisphere, to ship Shadowlands and still meet their Fall promise, which would be 860 days.  And the fine print for the expansion per-purchase says that you will get it by December 31st, so it could well into winter and an 870 day gap.

And I guess that is okay.  We’ll all be indoors, and probably all the more so when COVID-19 returns hard and the seasonal flu joins in to tag team us and shelter in place makes staying home the only option.  Lots of time to play video games and a great need to escape the news will make Azeroth feel inviting.  No plagues there… currently.

Somewhere along the way Blizz also has to introduce the level squish, turing the current level 1-120 game into a level 1-50 game, on to which Shadowlands will add another ten levels.

What the new level ranges will be

I am sure that will introduce some unexpected complications.  I also look forward to the more obsessive figuring out which of the eight paths between 10 and 50 is the most efficient way to level an alt.

Blizz also announced that there will now be four versions of the Shadowlands expansion, catching up with some of the competitors I noted previously.  There will be three digital editions.  These are no surprise, having been on sale since freaking BlizzCon 2019.

Digital versions of Shadowlands

The Base Edition gets you the expansion and that’s it.  Simple.

The Heroic Edition adds in a level 120 character boost, a mount, and a transmog set.

And the Epic Edition adds a pet, a weapon effect, a special hearthstone effect, and 30 days of game time on top of the Heroic Edition.

But Blizzard also has a physical Collector’s Edition for those of you who demand the big physical box.  This gets you all of the Epic Edition stuff plus an art book, mouse pad, pin set, and the sound track.

Shadowlands Collectors Edition

That will set you back $119.99 here in the US.

You can, of course, purchase any of these now for delivery by December 31st, 2020.  Blizzard likes money, and will happily take yours if you want to give it to them early.  And if you have purchased a digital version already there is a path and a plan to allow you to buy the physical version with all the stuff.

I imagine purchasing one of these will get you into beta, though I haven’t checked on that.  I certainly haven’t gotten any of the usual “click here for Shadowlands beta access” phishing emails so far.  But the beta is still young yet.

I am not certain which edition I will end up purchasing.  I traditionally end up paying the mount tax and buying the big digital version, but collecting mounts isn’t that big of a deal for me these days.  It turns out that when you get beyond a couple hundred choices, adding in one more isn’t a huge motivator.  And Blizz just gave me a new mount again for a six month subscription, the Steamscale Incinerator.  That remains a thing.

We shall see.

My enthusiasm for retail WoW remains low.  I log in to do Darkmoon Faire monthly on my main, if only to try to nudge his trade skills along.  I am sure I will be back for the pre-expansion events.  If nothing else, I will be interested to see how the level squish looks.  But that might not come for a while.

9 thoughts on “Shadowlands Beta and the Coming Release

  1. Mama Druid

    Icy Veins reported today that Soulbind Conduits will have 14 ranks. There are 4 covenants, each with 3 “tree” options, and conduits—at 14 ranks each—enhance those options… I just can’t. It’s almost as if Wowhead’s guides has become part of their game development process to the point you can’t play without those guides.

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Mama Druid – I can’t even think about that now, my brain just won’t go there.

    But there has been a trend over time to just not worry about how complex something is because some end user will just write a guide to it somewhere and enough people will find it and read it that it isn’t worth the effort to make things comprehensible.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Redbeard

    @Mama Druid– Given that members of the old Elitist Jerks website are now part of the WoW development team, I’d not be shocked at all if WoWhead is working in concert with the devs on this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pallais

    The 14 ranks for the conduits are a beta issue. I suspect it won’t go live like that. I could see doing ranks 1 – 5 for the first tier, 6 – 10 for the second tier, etc. It’s one thing to have the expandability built-in, but you don’t necessarily want to make it all available at launch. And as someone with 90+ ranks on the Heart of Azeroth on several toons, 14 ranks would be a nice break. ;) You’ll still be doing one covenant and one soulbind per character so it isn’t like we’re forced to do all the covenants and soulbind and conduits on each and every toon.

    As far as the editions go, I went for the Epic digital one. If you factor in the cost of a single month’s subscription price then the Epic is basically $10 US over the Heroic version. (I’m using the six month subscription price average, the difference gets less if you pay month to month.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mama Druid

    I had no idea. It just feels like they are getting more and more out of touch with each expansion… or, it’s me that’s getting out of touch as I get older.

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  6. Mama Druid

    Yeah, it will be interesting to see how it shapes up for launch. 58 is my highest level Heart of Azeroth. I’ll likely be playing Shadowlands to see the new zones.

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  7. bhagpuss

    I just posted a lengthy comment on the increasing reliance of MMORPGs on intimate and detailed technical knowledge of game systems just to meet basic requirements. I won’t repeat myself except to say that this is the end result of a boiling-down process that’s been going on for years. Developers are locked in some kind of competetive death spiral with what used to be an extremely motivated, even obsessive, minority of players. At the same time, mobile has provided the exact opposite for casual gamers who aren’t interested in that kind of commitment.

    MMORPGs used to be the soft, fuzzy end of gaming, where technical skill and gaming knowledge weren’t in high demand for anything but the endgame, which many players never reached or even expected to reach. Now they’re just like every other video game, which means they appeal to gamers more and everyone else less. Developers are trying to cater to the audience they have left and finding it difficult to manage.

    GW2, which was intentionally designed to be one of the most inclusive, least skill/knowledge-reliant games in the entire genre, is just beginning to pull out of a multi-year nosedive that began when ANet changed tack to try and appease and appeal to their “hardcore” gamer critics. Blizzard seems to be some way from that recovery still, although the level squish and accelerated leveling path suggests they’d like to. They just can’t figure out how.

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  8. Telwyn

    I’ll be buying the base digital edition, husband remains committed to the retail game and raiding scene, so it’s likely we’ll be playing when Shadowlands goes live, though a holiday away from Azeroth for a bit of the Autumn is likely. I actually do want to see the story of the expansion, as usual, so beta testing is a big No for me. I’ll wait till I can see the content in live.

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