Image: World of Warcraft "Burning Crusade"
Blizzard Entertainment
The 7 million players of Blizzard's "World of Warcraft" online game will have to wait until after the holiday gift-giving season to buy the long-awaited expansion "The Burning Crusade."
By
updated 10/24/2006 4:16:50 PM ET 2006-10-24T20:16:50

An eagerly awaited expansion pack to the online video game "World of Warcraft" will not be ready in time for the key Christmas holiday season, the game's maker said Tuesday.

Gamers will instead have to wait until January to plumb the depths of Outland in "The Burning Crusade," the "World of Warcraft" expansion pack that adds quests, locations and character levels to the persistent online role-playing game.

"WoW," as it is often called, has become a global phenomenon since its November 2004 launch and now has an estimated 7 million subscribers, each paying about $15 per month to kill dragons like Onyxia or engage in player vs. player combat.

Earlier this month, "WoW" maker Blizzard Entertainment, a unit of French media company Vivendi SA, began testing the expansion pack with select players to help work out bugs.

On Tuesday, the Irvine, Calif.-based company said the January release affords a few extra weeks to polish the game.

"We feel confident that the extra time spent polishing the game will result in the high-quality experience that our players expect and deserve," Blizzard president and co-founder Mike Morhaime said in a release.

Delaying a video game to fix problems is a much better alternative to releasing it early and riddled with bugs, said Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets.

He doubted the announcement would impact Blizzard as much as it would a new standalone game for consoles like Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 or the Nintendo Wii. "WoW" requires an Internet connection and only works on Windows and Macintosh computers.

"The bulk of revenues are coming from ongoing subscription fees," he said. "A huge installed fan base is buying the expansion pack regardless of when it's released."

Though pricing and an exact release date haven't been confirmed by Blizzard, online video game store GameStop.com indicated a Jan. 23 ship date and a $39.99 price for the expansion.

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