When is WoW Legion?

I might as well finish out the week on WoW Legion.  I have an EVE Online post mostly done, but it can wait.  Things keep changing on the topic I want to cover in any case.  Back to WoW.

So probably the most important aspect of WoW Legion right now is the ship date.

Single word expansion title? Really stretching so far!

Does a shorter name mean a shorter development cycle?

Whether or not you are enthused about the features announced (and people are all over the map, from “meh” to “best thing evar!”), they will all likely be up to the Blizzard standards of polish, sufficient to sell many many boxes and boost the subscriber base again.  Legion has about the same long-term prospects as any WoW expansion in its ability to revitalize the faithful and bring back some of the flock that has strayed.

(As an aside, I think some of the “meh” from yesterday might have stemmed from a lack of Chris Metzen on stage.  He is the go-to creator of enthusiasm for the Warcraft franchise, but he also doesn’t appear on the list of key people involved with the expansion.  No orcs, no Metzen I guess.)

But how many people leave Azeroth between now and when the 7.0 pre-launch patch hits, when subscriptions will start ramping up again in force, depends largely on the date when Legion will launch.  Barring any special offers or pre-order bonuses for the expansion, I would be very surprised if the Q3 2015 subscriber numbers stayed firm at 5.6 million.  Warlords of Draenor is done, 6.2 was the last patch, we’re destined to lump it until 7.0 hits.

So the big question for me is much less “WHAT is Legion?” than it is “WHEN is Legion?

People have gone through the numbers before, but in general there has been about a year gap between announcing an expansion and then launching it.  But right now, a year would put certainly put us much further back into 2005 subscriber numbers.

(2005 was quite a year, with Blizzard announcing 750,000 subscribers in January, which officially put it past EverQuest at its 550,000 subscriber peak, and 5.6 million by December, by which point it had begun its decade long reign as the unassailable champion.)

So it cannot be a year… or more… away.  Blizzard has to know it can’t get away with that again, not without tossing out some serious incentives.  Remember them shoring up the post-Cataclysm numbers by giving away Diablo III if you committed to a year-long subscription?  That locked in over a million players.  But does Blizzard have something like that they could do again?  Because I don’t think early pre-orders and letting people use their free insta-100 boost is going to play out as well as the insta-90 boost did.

No, they have to ship sooner.  But how soon is sooner?

It cannot, in my estimation, ship before BlizzCon in November, and would almost certainly ship after that date if it even hit in November.  We’re not even in beta yet.

And while somebody last time around compiled numbers that indicated that the gap between start of beta and launch was never less than six months, I will cut Blizzard some slack and allow that they might be able to pull that in some.

So the launch time frame for Legion is somewhere between 4 months and a year.

My own pick, for no real good reason, is March of 2016.  That would be soon enough, but still in a possible time frame.

I have seen people mention the Warcraft movie and that the launch of Legion will be set to coincide with that.  But the movie isn’t slated to hit theaters until June 10, 2016, ten months from now.  That feels a long way off and, since the movie itself will focus on a much earlier era in the story of Azeroth, launching the two together might not be a requirement.

Anyway, this leads into another poll.  When do you think Legion will launch?

And then, as a bonus question, what enticements will Blizzard roll out to keep people subscribed?

 

12 thoughts on “When is WoW Legion?

  1. Atheren

    As we know I’m not analytical (that would destroy my brain). Here is my “timetable” resulting in a March launch:
    They shut down work on Draenor to toss everyone on Legion because the ship is not sailing upright on the seas…
    Friends and Family Alpha begins August with The Usual Suspects so they can offer Beta at or right after BlizzCon in November.
    Even with a Head Start working on Legion (and I’m sure they’ve been working on it for some time already) they process beta feedback in Mysterious Ways and will be able to release in March at the earliest.
    Ta Da! Sooo analytical!

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  2. dachengsgravatar

    My feeling is that the only reason they’re rushing to get Legion out the door (with such gusto that they’re leaving Draenor half finished) is because they want to tie in with the movie. If that wasn’t driving them, then surely they’d have given Chris Metzen his head and allowed him to finish off World of Orccraft properly, instead of putting him in such a strop that he wouldn’t even come to the party.

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  3. Fenjay

    They have to weather at least 1-2 earnings calls before launch, basing on dates of past calls. I don’t see how they could get ahead of the one in November even if beta was already ongoing. So I would expect some kind of special deal to try and shore things up before then.

    The call in February seems like it will be dismal without a new expansion. And there is the elephant in the room: Christmas. Blizzard has never rushed to make the holiday buying season, but if there is any year to start, this would be one. On the other hand, I doubt they will sacrifice such a core value as “it’s done when it’s done”. Maybe they’ll at least do pre-orders in a really cool box.

    Based on all that, I chose February. That seems to me to be just barely possible while still maintaining quality, and making Christmas pre-orders seem compelling.

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  4. Rowan

    TBC launched in January IIRC, so there’s precedent for a post-Christmas release. But that seems a little too soon, so I’m going with February, as well.

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  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Fenjay – The earnings call thing is one of the things that argues against waiting to launch with the movie. Between now and June 2016 you have:

    -November – Q3 2015 earnings report
    -February – 2015 annual earnings report
    -May – Q1 2016 earnings repor

    And at each one they will need to trot out the subscriber numbers, because not to do so would be worse at this point. If a June release with a movie launch tie-in is the plan, Blizz will need a sweet incentive to keep people hanging around. Before Draenor I didn’t think people would buy the pre-order and still unsubscribe, but some did.

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  6. Kiryn

    I think that June is too far away, so I’m going to guess that they’re aiming for beta in November around Blizzcon and then a release sometime in late February or March, planning to tie the movie into the first major content patch rather than the expansion launch itself.

    That way, they’ll get the initial rush of resubscribers who are former WoW fans who always come back for a new expansion (like me) and then a second rush of people wanting to try out the game for the first time after they watch the movie. Maybe a trickle between of people who hear the movie’s coming out soon and want to know more about it beforehand (as I often do with movies based on books).

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  7. tweell

    I think Blizzard will get flying going in WoD to help tide them over, lowering the requirements if it doesn’t stem the tide. They don’t want to release Legion at the same time as the movie, that could cost movie revenues.
    I’m claiming April 2016 as Legion ship date. I simply don’t think Blizzard can move that quickly on an expansion, and this way the movie and expansion would complement each other rather than compete with each other.

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  8. Matt

    They’re definitely rushing it. They didn’t even have the cinematic ready. No earlier than march though…it’s still Blizzard we’re talking here.

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  9. Syl

    If it will indeed be earlier than July 16, that will be most unprecedented in terms of expansion lifespans for WoW. But then, I guess the divide about WoD is also rather more terrible than usual (and apparently it’s having freakishly few content patches…one?), so we’ll see! I stick to September 2016 =D

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  10. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Hrmm, vendors listing things on dubious info has a long tradition in the industry. REAL pre-orders will come when Blizz offers them directly. With your link you are essentially buying a placeholder for whenever the product actually goes on sale.

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  11. Ventem

    Beta around November for Blizzcon is pretty much a given. For sure. There’s no way they’d miss that opportunity. But I think February is way too early for release (I bring this up because February is a popular opinion here in the comments). Beta in November and release in February? No way guys. That’s not gonna happen. That leaves so little time for developers to fix anything players may find. This is an MMO; the game is huge, and Legion brings a lot of new stuff to the table. That’s no where near enough time for Blizz to fix any issues people (will) find.

    Personally, I think the expansion will release in April at the earliest. The chances of it releasing earlier than that are next to none, based on Blizz’s track record. But, who knows, they could surprise us!

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