[October 2011 Update: Now that Mists of Pandaria has been officially announced, we can make an even better guess as to what will come after it.
So far, we've been correct with story progression:
That said, Blizzard threw us a couple of curve balls. The Emerald Dream expansion was released as a book. The other curveball? The Maelstrom Expansion.
We originally figured the Maelstrom expansion would include everything in Azeroth's oceans: Kezan, Zandalar, Kul Tiras, Pandaria, and the Maelstrom itself. Obviously they're divvying this up, milking these zones for all they're worth, and tossing in a Vanilla 2.0 revamp as well.
So, why is this relevant? Originally we thought they were only dividing the "Maelstrom Expansion" in two, but with Pandaria we now know it's three.
Some of you have suggested that we could six expansions instead of five. This would bring our level cap to a nice clean "100". This now seems more likely. However... this is only a possibility. If Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria have taught us anything it's that Blizzard can divide the story in unusual ways.
I see three options:
- Zandalar and Kul Tiras could be included in later Mists of Pandaria Patches.
- Zandalar and Kul Tiras could be the Fifth expansion followed by Argus in the sixth.
- Zandalar, Kul Tiras, and Argus could be in the Fifth expansion together.
Sure, they could do an entire expansion for just Zandalar, and then another for Kul Tiras, but just strikes me as a bit absurd (and dare I say, a bit "Activision").
Which will it be? I'm on the fence between the second and third option. If I was forced to choose though? I'd say it's the third. We'll just have to wait and see.]
It has been two and a half years since my last “Future WoW Expansions” speculation. Thirty months is a long time to watch the pattern, and I think it’s time for a new post.
So… as we asked once before: Will we run out of characters? How many expansions will there be? How long will it go for?
The answers are No, Five, and 2014.
Here’s the time-line.
11/2004 – World of Warcraft released. End boss, Kel’Thuzad.
01/2007 – Burning Crusade released. End boss, Illidan/Shade of Kil’Jaeden.
11/2008 – Wrath of the Lich King released. End boss, Lich King/Halion
12/2010 – Cataclysm released. End boss, Deathwing/??
And now we speculate…
11 or 12/2012 – Lost Isles released. End boss, Azshara.
Why am I guessing this? Two words: Kul Tiras. Let’s face it, Cataclysm is a weird expansion. Why? Primarily because it’s not so much an expansion as much as it’s a Vanilla WoW Redux. The actual geographic “expansion” portions are minimal when compared to other WoW expansions. At face value, Cataclysm seems like a minimal Maelstrom expansion. But it’s not. It comes down to this — No Kul Tiras? Then it’s not the “Maelstrom Expansion” we’re all waiting for. Since the actual Maelstrom itself is in Cataclysm, we’ll refer to this as “Lost Isles”. There’s simply still too much lore to milk out of Azeroth’s oceans. Sargeras’s Tomb? Pandaria? Nazjatar? Heck even the Undermine probably still exists in some sense. And like I’ve said before, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there was an Old God out there too, along with the original portal (now dormant) to Sargeras’s home-world from the War of the Ancients.
(Emerald Dream? It came out right when we thought it would… after WotLK, but there was a catch. It was a book. In case you missed it, the whole thing, everything we expected the Emerald Dream expansion to be, has already happened before the events of Cataclysm.)
So, how did I decide upon the November or December 2012 release date? Simple. I did what I should have done the first time… I ignored Blizzard. In the past, the developers wouldn’t stop talking about how much they wanted to release an expansion every year. My gut told me two years. I compromised and said 18 months. That, above anything else, fragged my original speculation. Just take a look at the pattern. Vanilla, BC, WotLK all have approximately two year life spans. The future release dates are obvious at this point.
So… by the end of this expansion all known Old Gods are dead. That’s not just a fun fact; it’s important. We already know the Titans imprisoned the Old Gods instead of killing them, because to remove the Old Gods would have been detrimental to Azeroth. Couple that with the original War of the Ancients portal being reignited, and we’re lead right into…
11/2014 – Argus released. End boss, Sargeras.
Since this is the last WoW expansion, who else is it going to be? I’m assuming here, of course, that Blizzard doesn’t do something lame like having Sargeras redeemed so we can go fight some other baddy. Will the entire expansion take place on Argus? I highly doubt it. We’ll see Azeroth reeling under the effect of having the Old Gods killed. If we haven’t seen the Emerald Dream in Lost Isles, we’ll certainly see it here.
So, why am I so sure it’ll be November as opposed to October or December? Would you like me to do one better? Try this out: The final WoW expansion will be released on November 23, 2014. Why? Because that’s the 10 year anniversary of WoW. The fifth and final expansion is already likely to be released at the end of 2014. Do you honestly think Blizzard will pass on the opportunity to nail that anniversary with such an important release? Bank on it. They’re going to do all they can to release the final expansion on that day.
And now the bigger question. Why am I so sure this will be the final expansion? You’re going to love this. Because it falls directly in line with my other speculation. I think Blizzard’s next generation MMO, the one they’re working on right now, will be coming out around 2015. This is where you scream and shout, “Another five years?!?”, and I say… Yes! WoW has 12 million subscribers right now and Blizzard is a company that likes to take its time to get everything right. Blizzard isn’t likely to want to cannibalize it’s own player base when it doesn’t have to. By 2014, WoW will be an *old* game. The next gen MMO will come out around then and we’ll move onto it. Could it be released sooner? Sure. But I think we still have several years of waiting ahead of us (along with what are certain to be some of the most sought after beta keys in the history of gaming).
Will WoW be abandoned? Heck no. We’ll undoubtedly see more patches. I simply doubt we’ll have anymore major, boxed-release, expansions.
Will Blizzard come back to WarCraft? Definitely. No doubt. Imagine what a fire storm it would create in the gaming world if in 2024, after a ten year hiatus, Blizzard released “World of Warcraft 2″. Seriously imagine it. The nostalgia. The hype. Players of the original WoW buying it with their kids. I may be older then, but I’ll be there, and I bet many of you will too.
I’ll see you there.
Update: A lot of good comments below!