The announcement that the World of Warcraft MMO is getting a new expansion is usually greeted with excitement by the player base but when Blizzard made the Pandaren the official focus of future content a number of long term fans were annoyed by what they perceived as a joke expansion.

Speaking at BlizzCon Chris Metzen, who is the vice president of creative development at Blizzard, has told an audience that, “This is no joke. This is not a throw-away silly-silly ha ha funny expansion set; it is absolutely the next vital chapter and as things ratchet up, they’re gonna get really gnarly.”

Most of the World of Warcraft player base remembers the Pandaren because of an April Fool's joke from Blizzard but the developers say that the race has a much longer history.

He went on to provide some examples, saying, “What you guys may not know is, our senior art director, Sam Didier, started drawing these guys years ago. Was it in Warcraft III, we included Chen Stormstout in Frozen Throne, maybe, in the Orc campaign? Was it after that? I can’t remember anymore. But these guys are not a joke. This is an idea that we’ve been thinking about for years. It’s one of our favorite flavors of Warcraft.”

Metzen believes that players will learn to love the Pandaren when they see the difference that their actions will make in the game world.

The Blizzard developer promised drama, excitement and danger in the upcoming expansion.

The Mists of Pandaria expansion will add a new zone to the game, a number of raids, a new class and the new race and the level cap will be increased to 90, with skills added for all players.

Blizzard has not said when the new content will be launched, but players should probably expect to see a late 2012 release.