We're almost six months into Wrath's lifespan. Patch 3.1 is just around the corner, and before too long we'll be talking about 3.2. I anticipate 3.2 will come out quicker than most content patches and that 3.3 will be on its way soon after. After that, I'm willing to put good money on an expansion following it. We've had a lot of hints and solid information ready to back up a Q4 2009 expansion release, and even hints about what the content in it would be.
Here's what we know.
- There's a Blizzcon this year.
There hasn't been a Blizzard-run event in the past four years without a product announcement. Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 are both already announced. The next-gen MMO is way too far off to warrant any kind of announcement. Yes, there may be a mystery fifth project, but an expansion announcement is far more likely at this point.
Those who're ready to argue with me and say "well they could be using Blizzcon to announce a beta for SC2 or D3 or announcing their release dates", remember that they didn't do this for Wrath or BC.
- There's probably no raid coming in 3.2.
All reports indicate a new Battleground coming in 3.2, along with an instance related to the Argent Tournament. If there's a raid coming in 3.2, they've been incredibly mum about it, especially given how open they were regarding raid progression in BC. I'm inclined to believe that this means that Icecrown is the next and likely only big raid coming in Wrath after Ulduar. Yes, I know that Jeff Kaplan said there was going to be a mystery raid in 3.2 at Blizzcon. I have my reasons for doubting it, but there's still time for me to be proven wrong.
What this means is that the raiding lifespan of WOTLK is likely shorter than BC's or vanilla's. This indicates a quicker expansion successor.
- Dev and Community are being very open with us regarding content additions, changes, and features.
Ghostcrawler is leading the vanguard of better communication regarding changes coming down the pipe, class theorycrafting dialogue, and new content. But what does this have to do with the expansion? Read below.
- CMs and devs are teasing the hell out of us.
So far CMs and devs have dropped believable hints about the following:
• Use of phasing in the old world
• Opening Greymane Wall
• Bringing zones that exist but don't exist to the forefront (Gilneas, Kul Tiras, etc)
Gilneas and Kul Tiras are both nations with strong ties to the sea, and both are currently inaccessible to players. Near them is the troll nation of Zul'Dare and the isle of Crestfall. Near the Maelstrom in the ocean's center are a large number of islands, like Kezan, Tel'Abim, Hiji, Zandalar and the Broken Isles. This is a ton of possible content should they go the South Seas route with the expansion. And what better neutral city than the bustling home of the goblin trade princes, Undermine?
On a different side of things, there's the ever-present Emerald Dream theory.
Chris Metzen says that Malfurion Stormrage is not only getting his own novel but will soon become an important character in the game again. This points heavily to use of the Emerald Dream, since that's, you know, where he
The Dream isn't just a "new continent," though.
- The Emerald Dream, in lore, contains prototypes of Azeroth.
This is actually a really great piece of information. It opens up a lot of cool ideas for where we'll go and what we'll do when the expansion lands.
Remember that the Dream isn't affected by what happened to real Azeroth, so, for example, the Sundering never happened, leaving Azeroth one giant mass instead of three sundered shards. It wouldn't necessary play by the same rules as current zones, meaning some (Blasted Lands, for example) would be absent and some (where Zin-Azshari would be) would still be there now.
The possibilities are exciting and pretty much endless.
In summary, here's what my Magic 8-ball is telling me.
• We're getting a new expansion sometime this year.
• It'll be announced at Blizzcon.
• It'll involve old-world content or zones in some way.
• It'll involve the Maelstrom, the Emerald Dream, or both.
• There's going to be a new hero class or race.
No matter what, I'm excited. Blizzard has learned a lot since launch and I'm sure they'll give us an even bigger and better experience with whatever comes next -- even better than the fantastic expansion we're playing currently.