When is the WoW Classic: Wrath of the Lich King expansion release date?
A WoW Classic version of Wrath of the Lich King was just officially announced on April 19, 2022, with a fairly speedy 2022 release date. Wrath was the most popular expansion of the pre-Cataclysm game, if not the single most popular expansion ever, and it’s certain to be one of the most anticipated. Back when he was still in charge, J. Allen Brack even teased a Wrath Classic expansion when talking about the game’s future.
We don’t know when exactly Wrath Classic will happen, but we can make some guesses. We do know that it is slated for 2022. With the pandemic slowing down development time and with many high-profile employee departures following Blizzard’s sexual harassment lawsuit, it’s fair to say that development across the board is likely not operating on normal parameters. Still, knowing the year helps us narrow it down significantly.
There were clues before the announcement
First up, let’s talk about Burning Crusade Classic. The Sunwell raid, the Isle of Quel’danas questing hub, the last PVP season and the Magister’s Terrace 5-player dungeon are in the testing pipeline. That by itself was a pretty big hint that we’re potentially looking at a release date for Wrath Classic that’s as early as 2022.
But there’s more reason to think that, because the same PTR, patch 220.127.116.11581, has more than just Zul’Aman and new Badge gear to look at. It’s added several interface options that point to the Wrath of the Lich King loading screen — specifically the blue login screen buttons that accompany Sindragosa’s screaming presence on said screen. It’s a small thing, to be sure, but it meant that it wasn’t just conjecture on our part — Blizzard was working on Wrath Classic and the code is already being included in PTR builds.
How long do Classic expansions take?
World of Warcraft Classic (nowadays also known as Classic Era) was released on August 26/27, 2019, depending on where you were in the world. The game made its initial debut at BlizzCon 2018, with a simultaneous live test for players at home to download and play around for fifteen levels. The quality of its initial showing made it clear that the game had been in development for a while, perhaps for around a year before its release. Meanwhile, Burning Crusade Classic released on June 1, 2021, nearly two years after the release of its parent game. If all things were equal, there hadn’t been major shakeups at Blizzard, and a global pandemic hadn’t shifted everything to work from home for a while, it could be feasible that we’d see Wrath Classic in 2023.
But even in that case, there’s reason to believe Wrath Classic would take longer to release than Burning Crusade Classic did. Northrend is a large and extensive expansion with a lot of content just going from level 70 to 80, and that’s not even talking about all the dungeons and raids. Wrath had 16 dungeons by the last major content patch, and eight raids. Or nine raids if you count Vault of Archavon, a single-boss raid which was only accessible through Wintergrasp, a big open world PVP zone that was itself unlike anything seen before it, merging elements of battlegrounds with a mechanic that saw one faction or another “win” the conflict and gain ownership of the raid until the next battle started.
Will Wrath Classic adapt all of Wrath of the Lich King?
Wrath also saw the introduction of the LFD tool, for the first time allowing players to queue up for dungeon groups and be placed in random groups assembled by the system. It was no longer necessary to stand around in trade chat spamming “LF2DPS Utgarde Keep” or what have you, which was a pretty major gameplay change. And Wrath raids were infamous for their difficulty modes, with certain fights being harder and granting better loot using a variety of methods from don’t kill the drakes before you pull Sarth to just toggle it to 10/25 H and get started. That adds a lot of complexity to the expansion.
And specific decisions will have to be made before rolling out an expansion this substantial. What will the phases be for Wrath Classic, and what’s in them? Should the game launch with LFD enabled, or should it be added in a later phase? The Dungeon Finder wasn’t introduced until patch 3.3.0, the Fall of the Lich King patch — before that, Wrath used the same system of chat channels and a simple Looking For Group interface as its predecessors. And Dungeon Finder is a cross-server grouping tool — it doesn’t limit you to players on your home realm, which means it’s more complex and it changes up the way players relate to their servers.
One of the things WoW Classic players — be they Classic Era or Burning Crusade Classic — enjoy about the Classic experience is that it recenters server community to a prominent role in playing the game. Introducing Dungeon Finder may erode that, and so I’m curious to see when or even if Blizzard chooses to introduce in in Wrath Classic. While I think it’s clear most players would like a Wrath Classic, they may not like everything that was in Wrath. Could this be the first WoW Classic expansion to deliberately omit a feature from the original game? Blizzard has a lot of decisions to make here.
While there are reasons Wrath Classic could take longer to come out than Burning Crusade Classic, there’s also a good reason why it might not take as long — namely, Blizzard already knows Classic is a success. There’s no need for a wait and see if WoW Classic is successful delay, while it considers whether or not to build out more content — the team knows it was successful and players are hungry for more. The Season of Mastery proves there’s demand for more WoW Classic out there, and so Blizzard may already be well into development Wrath Classic. Even with the pandemic and the company’s current legal troubles, it could already close to a PTR for the game.
So when will Wrath Classic be released? We still don’t have an exact date, but we know it will be this year, and I’d be willing to bet that it will come out sooner than Q4 — so I’d argue August at the latest.
Originally published 1/17/2022, updated 4/19/2022
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