What to expect from a WoW expansion announcement
With the next World of Warcraft expansion being announced soon, it felt like a good time to take a look back at previous expansion announcements so we can know what to expect. However, this will be the first expansion that hasn’t been announced at BlizzCon, so things might go a little differently than they have in the past. But with that in mind, let’s take a look at how Blizzard does expansions.
October 2005: The Burning Crusade announced at BlizzCon
Expansion trailers have come a long way, haven’t they? At the very first BlizzCon, Blizzard announced the Burning Crusade expansion with a lot of concept art and very little game footage. Features to be in the expansion included:
- Continent of Outland
- The Karazhan raid dungeon
- The Caverns of Time dungeons, including Durnholde Keep Black Morass, and Mount Hyjal
- Blood elves as a new playable Horde race
- A second new race was mentioned but not shown — we found out it would be the draenei in May 2006
- Flying mounts in Outland
- Level cap increase to 70
- Jewelcrafting and socketed items
On the show floor you could play a demo of the expansion and all attendees received beta access. For the rest of the expansion’s timeline, in September 2006, we were given a release date; in October 2006, beta testing began; in December 2006, the (much more impressive) cinematic trailer was released; and in January 2007, the game itself was released. That’s a 12 month period between the announcement and the beta, and a 15 month period between the announcement and the release.
August 2007: Wrath of the Lich King announced at BlizzCon
Only seven months after the previous expansion’s release, Blizzard announced Wrath of the Lich King, with these features:
- Continent of Northrend
- Death Knight hero class
- Level cap increase to 80
- The inscription profession
- Changeable hairstyles
- A few features that never quite made it into the game, including destructible buildings, siege weapons, and new dances
On the show floor, you could play a demo of the expansion and all attendees received beta access. There was a second BlizzCon between the announcement and the release, with BlizzCon 2008 taking place in May, featuring news for Diablo 3 and StarCraft 2 as well as demo stations for Wrath. Beta began in July 2008, the cinematic trailer was released in August 2008, the release date was announced in September 2008, and the game itself released in November 2008. That’s an 11 month period between the announcement and the beta and a 15 month period between the announcement and the release — pretty consistent with Burning Crusade’s timeline.
August 2009: Cataclysm announced at BlizzCon
Nine months after Wrath’s release came the official Cataclysm announcement, featuring:
- The rework the classic game world with redesigned zones and quests
- Goblins as a playable Horde race
- Worgen as a playable Alliance race
- The archaeology profession
- Flying mounts in Azeroth
- New race and class combinations
- Level cap increase to 85
- Heroic versions of classic dungeons Shadowfang Keep and the Deadmines
- New battlegrounds
- The guild leveling system
- A new character progression system, Paths of the Titans, which did not make it into the final game
As usual, there were game demos on the show floor and attendees received beta access. Beta began in June 2010, the release date was announced and the cinematic trailer released in October 2010, both shortly before BlizzCon 2010. The game itself was released in December 2010. That leaves us with 10 months between the announcement and the beta and 16 months between the announcement and the release — again, fairly consistent with previous expansion cycles.
October 2011: Mists of Pandaria announced at BlizzCon
Ten months after Cataclysm, Blizzard announced Mists in one of the shortest expansion teasers to date. It featured:
- Continent of Pandaria
- Monk class
- Pandaren as a playable race for Alliance and Horde
- Level cap increase to 90
- Challenge mode dungeons
- Battle pets
- Redesigned talent system
As usual, there were game demos and beta keys for BlizzCon attendees. The beta began in March 2012, the release date was announced in July 2012, and the expansion was released in September of 2012. That’s just five months between the announcement and the beta and 11 months between the announcement and the release, making Mists of Pandaria one of the quickest expansion cycles we’ve seen so far.
November 2013: Warlords of Draenor announced at BlizzCon
It was 14 months after Mists that we heard official news of the next expansion, and it would be longer still before it was released. Here were the features teased at the announcement:
- Continent of Draenor
- Updated character models
- Level cap increase to 100
- Boost to level 90
The beta began in June 2014 and the game was released in November 2014, almost immediately after BlizzCon, which also took place that November. That’s seven months from the game announcement to the beta and 12 months from the game announcement to the release.
So what can we expect from the next expansion?
If the model of what we’ve seen at previous announcements holds true, we’ll probably see a fairly short teaser trailer — not the big cinematic trailer — for the expansion, which will highlight the major features. While Blizzard has gotten better about this in recent releases, some of those features may not make it into the final game, so we wouldn’t recommend counting on the announcement as a guarantee we’ll get a game feature. (Looking at you, dance studio.) At BlizzCon, the initial announcement was typically followed up by at least one more in-depth panel discussion of the game and its features — a level of depth we might not get at Gamescom.
There could, however, be playable game demos available. However, even if they are, they’re likely to only highlight a specific section of the game — as demos at BlizzCon have typically focused on fairly small areas, with gamers were only allowed to play for a limited amount of time. This means it’s possible we’ll have hands-on impressions of the game to come before the end of the week, though even if we do it will probably only be for a very specific section of the game.
As to the timeline, Blizzard has repeatedly said that they want to release expansions more quickly, but they’ve yet to manage it. The quickest turnaround we’ve seen so far from announcement to release is 11 months, which, if followed, would put the next expansion out in July 2016, likely with a beta a couple of months in advance — and more expansion news in detail at BlizzCon this November.
Will Blizzard follow any of its past patterns? All we can do, really, is wait and see.
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