The big bomb last night was somebody on Reddit discovering a web asset that indicated that the next World of Warcraft expansion, Legion, would be available “on or before September 21, 2016.” I saw this first over at Blizzard Watch, so I’ll give them the link credit as I steal the image from them.
My gut reaction to that last night was something akin to, “OMFG are they insane?!?!”
Right? I mean in the world of this week, with subscriptions down 45% from the 10 million peak when Warlords of Draenor launched, to the point that Blizzard is no longer going to talk about subscription numbers, along with some vague past promises about getting content out faster, how could anybody in Anaheim think this is a good idea?
In a world where the EverQuest team used to produce two expansions a YEAR in support of one tenth the number of subscribers that WoW has today, and can still crank out one a year even after being pared down and combined with the EverQuest II team… which itself is cranking out an expansion a year… how can Blizzard honestly imagine that 22 months is a winning strategy?
And yes, all of that doesn’t add up to a fair comparison. Still, even in the cold light of morning I was thinking that September… and I wouldn’t read any more that a couple weeks of leeway into the phrase “on or before” here… was still way out in the future. That would make the long summer drought in Pandaria seem like an oasis.
The problem is, looking at past expansions, September is about right. Here are the gaps between launches so far:
- WoW Launch to The Burning Crusade – 784 days
- The Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King – 667 days
- Wrath of the Lich King to Cataclysm – 754 days
- Cataclysm to Mists of Pandaria – 658 days
- Mists of Pandaria to Warlords of Draenor – 778 days
And if we just buy into the September 21st date for the moment, the next gap is:
- Warlords of Draenor to Legion – 691 days
That puts it mid-pack for timelines. The average time gap up to this point was 728 days, and if we add in this last estimate it goes down to 722.
So technically, Blizzard is getting this expansion out a bit faster than normal even at the September 21 date. And if they pull it in a few weeks it could be close to the fastest expansion turn-around ever for Blizzard.
All of which will be cold comfort in Anaheim if they don’t have some additional incentives or a bit of extra Draenor content to tide us over until Legion hits. Whether they want to talk about them or not, subscriptions are a cash IV straight into the veins of organization. Losing them will show in the numbers over time.
Anyway, BlizzCon will hit shortly. We shall see if they have something else to show us.