I haven’t played retail WoW in over a year, but that doesn’t mean I don’t keep an eye on the news. This past week Blizzard gave us a date for when they would announce the next World of Warcraft expansion.
I had other posts planned and, honestly, an announcement that they’ll tell us something more than a month down the road didn’t seem to me to be a dramatic story that needed to be discussed right that minute. Even the post by Blizzard features a gray map of Azeroth as its header image, not something that exactly sets fire to your soul.
And the statement itself… at least the part about the next expansion… was very brief.
On April 19, the World of Warcraft development team will reveal the next expansion. We’re excited to show you what we’ve been working on and where your adventures in Azeroth will go next.
The rest of the press release was about Hearthstone and Shadowlands and other items unrelated to the next expansion.
Normally an expansion announcement like this would come at BlizzCon. What, if anything, is BlizzCon useful for other than a big announcement with follow on panels to go into the details?
But there was no BlizzCon 2021, when we might have expected to get news of the next WoW expansion. The pandemic and its own internal and legal troubles kept that from being a thing.
Likewise, there was no BlizzConline. The pandemic didn’t stop that, but internal turmoil no doubt made it untenable. That and the fact that Microsoft was negotiating to buy Activision Blizzard, as announced back in January put a damper on things.
But business must go on, and the cycle of business for Blizzard is a new WoW expansion every other year or so. That is a revenue stream the company would be loathe to skip.
Back at the start of the year I predicted that Blizzard wouldn’t ship an expansion for WoW this year and I still feel somewhat confident in that prediction. Again, turmoil at the company, the acquisition, and the need to come up with something good to undo the damage that the Shadowlands expansion all mean that Blizz cannot be too hasty.
They cannot delay too long either though. A December expansion launch might be in the cards. Maybe even late November. But the time between announcement and launch of past expansions has rarely ever been short enough for me to believe they could squeeze this into Q3 2022.
But, as I said, the clock is ticking. The time between Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands was already the longest stretch between expansion launches. The expansion gap list:
- 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 – 779 days
- Warlords of Draenor to Legion – 656 days
- Legion to Battle for Azeroth – 714 days
- Battle for Azeroth to Shadowlands – 832 days
If Blizzard could manage a December 1, 2022 launch, that would put us at 737 since the Shadowlands launch, which would give us a mid-pack gap. However, I would find that a rather aggressive schedule, again given the company turmoil, and if they give us a Q4 estimate in April I suspect that it will be late Q4… some time in December… and that the initial launch will be shy of a lot of planned content.
Of course, not throwing everything at us at launch might not be the worst plan. If Blizz has a problem with their two year expansion cycle, it is that they have not shown themselves to be consistent at metering out content over time. But I wouldn’t want them to make that problem even more pronounced by showing up at launch day with a very light content delivery that people play through then leave before Blizz is ready for the next installment.
And, finally, they cannot put of another expansion forever. WoW expansions and WoW Classic launches are the tent pole events in their financial forecast. Blizzard has revenue numbers to meet and neither Overwatch 2 nor Diablo IV are going to show up to save the day in 2022. That leaves Diablo Immortal as the backup plan and maybe some sort of WoW mobile title, unless they have Classic Wrath of the Lich King ready to go this summer. The new lords and masters at Microsoft will want some payoff for the 69 billion dollars they are spending on Activision Blizzard.
As for what the expansion will be focused on… well, it had better be good. But not another re-roll of The Burning Crusade again. We’ve been after the Legion and the array of bad guy orcs enough I think.
Will it be new locations, old locations revived, or some mix? There was that whole Empire of Dragons thing floating around a couple of months back, but the consensus seemed to be it was a fake because the logo lettering was well below Blizzard’s standards for such things.
We will see in a little over a month.