Like Pandarens for example, you can play them without MoP, but new race was one of the biggest selling points for this expansion. Something you can put in the commercial - "hey guys we have new race in WoW, you should check it out"
and even if you don't buy expansion, you will pay for subscription, and don't even say anything about trial accounts, returning players doesn't care about them.
Now imagine how big excitment new player models will cause, this will make a lot of people to go back to WoW, just for pure curiosity how their Dwarf gonna look like now.
I'm pretty confident in saying that they won't require players to purchase an expansion to get access to the new player character models. Given past model upgrades, I'd say they probably won't even have the option to revert to the old models based on personal preference.
I do think that they'll be treated as an expansion selling point, and will probably be released in the expansion's "systems patch," 5.5 or 5.7 or whatever it may be.
I totally buy the possibility of fourth specs and new character model updates coming together in the next expansion, along with (hopefully) improved character customization options. I also don't think it precludes the introduction of a new player race or hero class, though the amount of work it takes to recreate 24 character models is likely to limit other modeling tasks. I could see Ethereals, for example, getting introduced as a neutral race; their very nature would likely make modeling and texturing them easier than a flesh-and-blood race.
There's no way they'll require an expansion to have the new models, I'm 99% sure that when they switch over, they'll switch all models over. Don't think it's really feasible for them to have old models for some, new models for others.
And it's entirely possible to have the new models before an expansion. LFR and transmog could have easily been expansion sellers: in fact, they said LFR was going to be released in MoP but they couldn't wait till then to release it so they released it earlier in 5.3. Same thing could happen with the new models. But, the release date of the new models is probably going to only depend on when they're done, and not depend on when they think it would help marketing most or whatever.
Still, as long as Blizzard creates a good variety of faces and skins, most players will find one that fits their character. Because I'm taking for granted that every character will get a free appearance change.
English is not my first language, feel free to correct any mistake I may make.
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The model update will be free I would say, feature of the next expansion or not it will just be something everyone has access to, like the water update. And some people here seem not to be aware of Ghostcrawler's tweet concerning the option to keep your original model if you'd like. He said it's likely something they are considering to reduce the criticism level, but he did use the word might. I don't see why not though, it's basically common sense. *knocks on wood*
If they add more customization, I would expect maybe a handful of new skin colors and hairstyles and possibly the much requested ethnic features, but nothing too complex. But Blizzard has had 10 years of people moaning about the limited character creation, so now is as good of a time as any to do something about it. I wouldn't hold my breath, but I'll use any excuse to talk about this subject I can as it's basically all I think about when I play WOW for many many years, as much as I love WOW's current visuals and older models for their charm, I just can't wait to see what Blizzard can do with the classic races infused with the nuance and life of the Pandaren or Goblins.We gave very simple choices, and there wasn't any of this 'Is my guy five pounds overweight? Are his eyes sea blue or sky blue?' Don't get me wrong, that sort of thing is cool, but we made a very simple UI and character creator, and that's one of the main things that helped people gravitate to the game.