World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade hits stores Jan. 16

Game maker Blizzard Entertainment announced Thursday that its hotly anticipated expansion pack for the online role playing game World of Warcraft, The Burning Crusade, will hit store shelves on Jan. 16, 2007. It will cost $39.99 for the standard version or $69.99 for a special Collector’s Edition. The expansion pack will ship on hybrid media that supports Mac OS X and Windows alike.

The Burning Crusade adds on to the world’s most popular massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG), which has been supported for both Mac OS X and Windows from the start. The game puts you in the role of a hero representing one of several races that populate the war-torn fantasy world of Azeroth, the setting of all previous Warcraft games. You join other players online as you go on quests, obtain treasure and items, gain experience and fight monsters. You can work collaboratively with other players, and you can also fight them if you wish.

The Burning Crusade adds two new playable races to the World of Warcraft mix: The Draenei, a blue-skinned alien race that finds itself crash-landed on Azeroth and aligned with the forces of the Alliance, and the Blood Elves, a relative of the Alliance-oriented Night Elves with allegiance to the Horde instead. The experience cap has been raised from Level 60 to 70; a new Jewelmaking profession is available; senior players will be able to explore a new continent called Outland; flying mounts are available; new monsters, treasure and quests have been introduced, and some items are now “socketable” — you can transform their capabilities by inserting gems. For more on The Burning Crusade, make sure to check out Macworld’s First Look.

The Burning Crusade ships on January 16th in North America and Europe — Blizzard said that it will be available in “a similar time frame” in Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Players in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau can expect to hear when they’ll be getting the expansion pack soon.

The limited-edition Collector’s Edition includes the expansion pack on both CD and DVD media, the “Art of the Burning Crusade” coffee table book, an exclusive in-game pet, a behind-the-scenes DVD, a World of Warcraft Trading Card Game starter deck and exclusive cards, a map of Outland mouse pad, and soundtrack CD.

The expansion pack requires the original World of Warcraft game, which is now available for $19.99. Both World of Warcraft and the Burning Crusade expansion pack have been rated T for Teen by the ESRB.

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