Good News Bears: WoW’s Pandaren To Be Playable By All

I'm calling the name 'Jaque Blaque' right now. You can't have it.

Want to have a panda of your very own without any of the typical muss, fuss, or mists traditionally associated with exotic cow-colored bear ownership? Well, you have two options: 1) foist responsibility onto someone else every time it needs anything other than a warm, fluffy hug or 2) play World of Warcraft. I, of course, prefer the first option, but WoW’s offering isn’t half-bad either. In an upcoming patch, Blizzard plans to remove all expansion-based limits from race selection – including the Pandaren, once Mists of Pandaria launches. You’ll find the bear necessities after the bear-ake. (That second one didn’t really work, did it? Well that’s just unbearab– [sounds of hurling self out a window].)

Blizzard explained its plan to expand race selection beyond expansions in a blog post:

“With the release of patch 5.0.4, we’re making all the races of Azeroth playable by anyone, no matter which version or expansion of World of Warcraft they own. This includes the enigmatic pandaren, who will become available for play when Mists of Pandaria is released on Tuesday, September 25. We want the entire World of Warcraft community to be able to embrace their inner goblin, blood elf, worgen, draenei, or pandaren from the moment they step foot into the world of Azeroth.”

Presumably, this means starter areas for each race will also be open to the un-expanded masses – which is something I strongly endorse, given that the incredible silliness of the goblin opener needs to be experienced by all.

It’s also an interesting move, given that I imagine Blizzard – like most videogame companies that live on our commerce-driven plane of reality – probably wants to make money, and giving away one of its expansion’s key draws seems a bit counter-intuitive. Maybe it’s an attempt to keep more casual players – the ones who don’t buy expansions anyway – around and rolling alts (or just rolling) a little longer? I don’t know, though. F2P conspiracy theorists, what say you? Subscription numbers have been plummeting at a rate so alarming that even alarms are alarmed, so surely there’s something there, right? Maybe? Discuss among yourselves.


  1. rapier17 says:

    Hmm Panda’ing to the masses.

  2. cocoleche says:

    Yes, but to play the monk class you still have to buy MoP.

  3. Valvarexart says:

    This is nice. Despite all the hate directed at World of Warcraft, I still think it does hold up as the best MMO in its category. They have managed to not sell out terribly, and except for some (in my opinion) ill-advised streamlining it’s still mostly the same nice game.

    • cocoleche says:

      WoW is nice, but it lacks the “pop cultural phenomenon” feel it previously had. Instead of “top of the pops” you get “Status Quo: Greatest Hits”. At least that’s the impression it left on me after resubbing a short while ago.

    • Laythe_AD says:

      That’s entirely the issue though. It’s still the same game. It feels so stale to it’s older players. I’ve been playing the Guild Wars 2 beta, and I’m switching, at last.

      • Valvarexart says:

        Guild Wars 2 in my opinion was a disappointment in almost every aspect.

        • aliksy says:

          You’re entitled to your opinion even if it’s the complete opposite of mine. What did you find so disappointing in GW2?

          • 4242-564 says:

            I myself was disappointed that it wasn’t HL3 in disguise, but rather GW2. While it plays well on my 2 year old pc, has much deeper mechanics than i’ve given it credit for, has an interesting pvp mode and pve systems, a much, much more active and reactive combat than all the mmos i’ve played so far (swtor, lotro, wow, rift), it doesn’t change the fact that it’s not HL3, and therefore i’m disappointed with it.

        • derbefrier says:

          Depends on what you wanted out of it i guess. I finally decided o pre order it a couple days ago. From what i can tell from youtube videos. It doesn’t look like its that game breaking but it different enough i think I’ll enjoy it for a least a while. It also has no sub which means i wont feel like i have to play it, or feel ripped off once i see all the content in a month and have nothing to do. It doesn’t have change the genre it just has to be fun, and this game looks fun to me.

        • Phantoon says:

          Were you disappointed there was no monthly sub?

          • Valvarexart says:

            Actually, yes. I would prefer monthly subs to the kind of microtranscations that will be in effect.

  4. rustybroomhandle says:

    This is like the Death Knights thing… something that ought to be faction-neutral, but somehow now you will have Horde pandas and Alliance pandas duking it out in PvP battlegrounds. But anyway, prolly daft to even have this argument – WoW never cared much for its own lore.

    • Nevard says:

      I’m not sure that’s really fair to be honest, adding a third “neutral” faction would completely destroy the factional aspect of the game.
      They tried to have shared Alliance/Horde languages in the early beta for Vanilla WoW and turned it off for very good reasons!

      Lore is always good but in a game it has to take a back seat to gameplay.

    • Dreforian says:

      Vanilla was essentially an opportunity to turn a collection of maps and scripts into a living world. It was the “wonder” phase (you can see this in the cinematic). BC and Wrath both dealt with conflicts that had their origins in the last Warcraft strategy titles. They tied up loose ends. Cataclysm is most like a big reset button being held down. The world you knew? Gone. The last loose end (supported most by out-of-game lore) tied up, torch passed etc. From Warcraft 3 up through Cataclysm you saw Horde and Alliance grudgingly uniting (or at least working in parallel) to tackle conflicts bigger than their own. With Cataclysm done wiping the slate clean of such distractions (all that lore) we’re basically on the cusp of WoW 2.

  5. SpakAttack says:

    If you ask me, they’ve backed themselves into an evolutionary dead-end.
    The pandas too.

  6. Kronic says:

    The bear puns reminded me of Teddie from Persona 4, and I am now filled with a sense of loathing. Curse you RPS!

  7. Runs With Foxes says:

    So, you know, videogames and everything, but … How could an adult human being play this game? It’s aimed either at children or at the creepy furry subculture. If you can call that a subculture, which I guess we shouldn’t so it’s not legitimised.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:


    • Fincher says:

      Commenting before someone exclaims the usual “Yeah well you find talking pandas childish but what about the talking cows (Minotaurs) and wolves (Werewolves) huh?”

    • Nevard says:

      Yeah well you find talking pandas childish but what about the talking cows (Minotaurs) and wolves (Werewolves) huh?
      What about gnomes, a race who exists almost entirely for comic relief?
      Are adults not allowed to play mario or pokemon?
      Who are you to judge what other people are and are not allowed to find enjoyable?

      • Fincher says:


      • Runs With Foxes says:

        Those other things all have a long-standing basis in human mythology.

        Anthropomorphising a random animal is just kids’ cartoon level stuff, aimed at people who refuse to grow up.

        • Nevard says:

          Ok then, how about the Sapient Bears that already existed in Warcraft III and WoW?
          Original Pandaren were just a palette swap of those!

        • NyuBomber says:

          Not saying you have to like the pandas, but adding them isn’t random. They’ve been in fan demand since Vanilla due to WC3.

        • Megasheep says:

          A little broad with your strokes there… and what does the length of time in popular culture have anything to do with it?

          Khajiit or Argonians in Skyrim are too childish for you?

    • devlocke says:

      Different strokes for different folks. As a non-furry adult, this is the first thing WoW’s done that kind of makes me want to play it. Senient pandas who booze? That’s awesome. It’s, y’know, fun. Playful. Sign me up! (Only don’t, cuz’ I can’t afford a subscription and don’t have the time for an MMO, but this is the first time WoW’s made me wish playing it was an option)

      If this expansion bothers you, I suspect you took the lore way too seriously in the first place.

      • Vorphalack says:

        ”If this expansion bothers you, I suspect you took the lore way too seriously in the first place.”

        You tend to find it’s the other way around. The people who take WoWs lore really seriously are scraping up any possible past references to pandas in order to justify this crap. I remember a time, back in Warcraft 3, where pandas were fun. They were a quirky little easter egg, something harmless and silly enough to gain a bit of a cult status. Now the joke has become the reality, and its not so funny any more. That’s what bothers me at least.

        • Nevard says:

          Ultimately considering the amount of lore that backed up the race they introduced to replace their original idea of Pandaren in TBC (none at all, there were no non-broken uncorrupted Draenei prior to WoW) I don’t see why anyone even feels the need to justify it at all.
          If they needed evidence to add any race not mentioned in the first game they released then we wouldn’t have Tauren either.

        • Azradesh says:

          Am I really the only person that played The Frozen Throne? FFS there’s one for the entire Orc campaign!

    • LionsPhil says:

      You’re one to talk about furries, mister “Runs With Foxes”.

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        The name’s a reference to Alec Meer’s Skyrim review, so I’m still taking the non-furry high road on this one.

  8. Dances to Podcasts says:

    I think this is a smart move. Players will pick a panda since it’s the hot new thing, see a bit of Pandaria, but have to leave. They’ll want to go back there asap and have to buy the expansion to do so.

  9. Visualante says:

    edit. No matter. Still doing their silliness requiring previous expansions.

  10. revokatt says:

    Blizz are probably banking on Pandaria being their best leveling zone yet, and want as many people as possible to do the latest (and greatest) content, as a teaser for how good (?) MoP is/will be.

  11. PopeJamal says:

    This is a sign that all is not well in the land of Acti-Blizz. Not the end times of course, but the “easy-money train” seems to be headed towards the rail yard to be decomissioned.

    This is a REALLY nice change of direction for WoW and sadly, they only seem to do things like that when they’re afraid of losing bags full of money because of lower subs. Sadly, I’m sure the more sensible they behave, the closer they’ll be to shutting all the servers off for good.

    On a not completely unrelated note: god help any othe F2P MMO when this monster makes the inevitable shuffle to F2P. That loud sucking sound will be 70%+ of the casual MMO market being sucked dry.

  12. Snorez says:

    I’m just waiting for some of my nieces and nephews to start playing then I’ll give away my acc. Not interested in EVER playing another Bliztavision game, but cant just throw away toons I worked on for years.

  13. daf says:

    This just means new players can pick the race they want from the start, it doesn’t really change much after that as you’ll still need to get wrath to go from 70-80 and cataclysm + mops for the 80 to 90 journey, otherwise you’d be stuck at 70 locked away from all the new stuff and still needing to pay the same monthly fee as everyone else (is there really people who do that?)

    So it takes the sting of having to get the full box set upfront to play the race you want when you start out, something that might let them hook more new players in the long run.

    • jrodman says:

      There used to be people who played without later expansions in order to raid old content. (Vanilla, and later TBC) or alternatively arena in old brackets.

      I don’t know if it’s still done. Do people look back at wrath raiding nostalgically?

      • Nevard says:

        People always claim the previous expansion was miles better than the current one even if they hated it at the time. It is the way of the internet.

      • daf says:

        There’s been for a wile a ingame npc that can lock the xp gain of a character (done to support twinks), as such you can have one character locked at 70 to do old raids with proper level wile having another at cap doing current content.

        However due to talent changes the experience will never be the same as they tend you to make you considerably more powerful then originally at that level. Probably trying to find a private 2.x or whatever version you preferred server would be a closer experience to what those people are looking for.

  14. Ginga121 says:

    I think F2P is the only way I’ll get back into WoW… It’s just not the same any more. Way to much emphasis on you levelling as fast as possible to max level and then raiding. Working your way to max level was the best bit.

    It took me several months the first time and I had to go to each level zone respectively. Then they made it easy and I did it in 2 weeks :S

    • Azradesh says:

      I still do every zone and go at my own pace when playing. Don’t give a toss about raiding.

  15. Classicgamer says:

    Ughh… will we ever be safe from Blizzard’s conglomerate MMO ?!!