Currently the only way to change your gender in World of Warcraft is to buy an Appearance Change from the Blizzard Store, which costs £13.
Meanwhile, many other aspects of physical appearance can be changed for free using an in-game barber shop. You can change your hairstyle, colour and facial features, even your entire face.
This means pretty much the only thing you cannot do for free is change gender. But that’s, Blizzard has revealed to me, going to change.
Executive producer John Hight told me in an interview yesterday you will no longer have to pay to change your character’s gender in the upcoming expansion Shadowlands. Instead you will be able to do it at a barber shop for free.
“A long time ago, we had the ability for players to go in – it was actually a paid service – and change their character. Much of that is now in the barber shop in the game,” he said. “And as we were adding things up in Shadowlands, we realised, ‘Gosh the only way you can change your gender in World of Warcraft is to go through this paid service.’ And we felt like that’s not the right message.
“Unfortunately we can’t fix that right now but it is our intent with Shadowlands to take that out of being a paid service thing and [put it] in the barber shop. But that’s not something we can easily hotfix – unfortunately we can’t do that right now. It is something that we’re going to have in Shadowlands itself.”
His answer came after talking about a Shadowlands NPC called Pelagos, who people believe might be the first trans character in the game. Pelagos belongs to the Kyrian covenant you can join in Shadowlands and is a key part of the story there. He is an aspirant trying to earn his coveted Kyrian wings.
According to a Blizzard post in the WoW forum last week: “Aspirants are able to choose a physical form that represents their true self. Pelagos, who presented as a woman in his mortal life, chose to be a man in the Shadowlands.”
It’s the first time I can remember Blizzard publicly talking about a trans character, but according to John Hight, this doesn’t necessarily mean Pelagos is the first in the game.
“WoW is a game that doesn’t try to emphasise sexual relationships so in that regard, we don’t necessarily tell that part of the story other than to hint around it,” he said. “But we certainly have characters [that have] – or we’ve always thought of characters as having – different gender identities in the game.
“We don’t try to put a big focus on it and make it a big deal, we just try to make the game feel comfortable, friendly and approachable for everybody in the game, regardless of where they come from.”
Does this mean there were already trans characters in the game? “Knowing some of our designers and having conversations with them, I’m sure that was the intent,” Hight said. “But we like to keep things subtle.”
Unfortunately he wasn’t able to tell me any of the characters’ names.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is due for release this fall, with a beta due to open next week.