Why World Of Warcraft Is Making Such A Big Change To Starting Zones With Shadowlands

With the new Shadowlands expansion, World of Warcraft is making a major change to its starting zones. Blizzard is sending new players to a place called Exile’s Reach, which is level 1-10 zone where players will learn the basics before setting out on their journey to higher levels and new areas.

Game director Ion Hazzikostas tells GameSpot that Blizzard is introducing Exile’s Reach to help newcomers experience WoW’s new content faster and catch up with friends who might be deeper into the game. The new area is also meant to give fresh players a look at the best of WoW in 2020, as opposed to making players slog through content that is years old.

“Something we’ve heard from our communities and something we’ve heard from people in our team who tried to get friends or family members into the game for the first time, there’s something that’s really daunting about 15 years of content and the feeling that you’re just going to be hopelessly behind. And that it’s overwhelming,” Hazzikostas said.

WoW is known for its depth, but this is also a weakness when it comes to new players. Under the current setup, newcomers are stuck in content that is, in some cases, more than a decade old. With Exile’s Reach, new players will get to see what WoW is like in 2020 right off the bat.

“The same stuff that can be a strength to players who are already part of the World of Warcraft ecosystem is a weakness if we’re trying to bring new people in,” Hazzikostas said. “So we wanted to really streamline that process and make sure we’re really putting our best foot forward. That when you’re playing World of Warcraft for the first time you’re experiencing something that reflects what the game is and has to offer in 2020 as opposed to playing content that is 10-12 years old so you can advance to content that is 8 years old then 6 years old then 4 years old.”

Hazzikostas admitted that Blizzard went too far to “rush” players through the starting zones so they could reach the later stages of WoW and meet up with their friends. This does a disservice to the overall experience, and it’s something Blizzard is responding to with Exile’s Reach. Hazzikostas estimated that new players will now be able to catch up with their max-level friends over the course of a few-dozen hours instead of a few hundred hours like in the past.

“So what we’re doing is we’re taking a giant step back and creating a customized new player experience that can do a much better job at teaching you how to play World of Warcraft, what it means to be in World of Warcraft; what it means to be a member of the Horde, to be a member of the Alliance. How to play your Class,” he said. “And then guiding you through a much better-paced story that makes sense in terms of timeline and otherwise and reflects modern World of Warcraft at its best to get you into where the rest of the playerbase is in a few dozen hours rather than a few hundred hours.”

Shadowlands is WoW’s eighth expansion, and it’s due for release later this year. The expansion also introduces controller support, but Hazzikostas stresses that a WoW console port is not happening.

In addition to Exile’s Reach, Shadowlands introduces five new zones, a new dungeon arena, a new raid, and new feature called Covenants that unlocks a new campaign featuring multiple missions and new abilities to unlock. For more on Shadowlands, check out the video above. Players can begin trying out Shadowlands for themselves next week when the beta goes live.

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