Blizzard has officially announced the release date for the next major expansion to the World of Warcraft (WoW) franchise, aiming to have Mists of Pandaria in stores on 25 September.
Australian game retailers are already taking pre-orders for the PC- and Mac-only title, with an RRP of AU$59.95. Blizzard will also sell a Collector's Edition of the game, in both physical and digital formats, but, as a first, the company will let players who choose the standard edition to upgrade to the Collector's Edition later. For US$20, players will be able to buy the bonus digital collectibles after activating a standard edition of the expansion.
Mists of Pandaria, which was first revealed by Blizzard at its annual BlizzCon event in Anaheim, California, last year, adds a new playable race to the existing stable of characters in the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). The Pandaren are panda-like creatures with Asian-inspired design aesthetics across the home continent of the race. The expansion will also extend the level cap of existing players to 90.
A pet-battle system is also introduced in the expansion, which pundits have compared to a Pokémon-style gaming mechanic. Players will be able to collect a variety of pets, train them to higher levels and battle with them against the pets of other players.
Blizzard is hoping that this expansion inspires many retired players to return to the online world, having lost nearly one million subscribers within the last year. The MMORPG market has seen several new entrants this year, with BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic stealing most of the headlines.