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WoW Insider's predictions for 2009

Mike Schramm

Another year has come and gone, and we're on the verge of WoW's fifth year of existence. So it's time once again to look into the crystal ball, and pull out some predictions. Some of these are surefire (we're definitely going to hear more about the content patches for Wrath this year), some are tossups depending on who you ask (will we see another expansion in the works?), and some are just random guesses. But we're guaranteed one thing: 2009 is going to be a wild year, so if you want our very first insight on what might happen, here you go.

These are compiled from the WoW Insider staff -- we differed in a few places, and where we did, I've pointed out who thought what. Keep in mind that no one can predict the future, of course, so these are predictions, and that's all. By now we should all know that Blizzard will do all they can to keep us guessing. And feel free to put your own predictions (or just respond to ours in the comments below. Happy New Year -- here's to a great 2009!

Update: Also be sure to check out Big Download's PC predictions for 2009 -- they've got something to say about Blizzard's next expansion, too.

Wrath content patch revealed
This is almost a certainty -- while we know about Ulduar and Icecrown Citadel as future content patches for Wrath, there's still a patch out there we don't know anything about, and it's likely that we'll finally hear about it this year. Best guess is that it'll be a Sunwell-like patch, with extra daily quest content and probably a 5man raid or two. I've said on our podcast that I wouldn't be surprised to see the Goblin city of Undermine make an appearance, but what the patch actually is is still up in the air at this point. All we're predicting is that we'll finally hear about it.

One major exception on the team: Matthew Rossi says more development time will be spent on expansions rather than content patches, so no more big patches like the Sunwell.

BlizzCon and the next expansion
The WoW Insider staff differs on this one, or at least I do: I am not convinced that we'll see a BlizzCon at all this year, though most everyone else agrees that there will be a BlizzCon 2009, and that it'll be where we first hear about the third expansion. Adam Holisky is going for the Maelstrom, while Alex Ziebart says it'll be the Return of the Burning Legion, and Elizabeth Harper says dragons and Druids in the Emerald Dream. We all agree that if there is a new expansion announced, it'll have a second Hero Class in it, likely a healer (Daniel Whitcomb says Vykrul will be playable, and the new class will be a Runemaster, Adam's going with Arch Druid, and Alex says a healer hybrid that's not an Arch Druid. Rossi differs on this one, as usual: he says more healing will be reactive per player than adding a whole new class). At any rate, we'll go half on this one: if there is a BlizzCon, it's where we'll hear about expansion number three.

Ads in the launcher
We've seen this coming for a while now: Blizzard has already said that they want to spruce up, that they want to make a common link between all of their games, and that they've made deals with ad companies to bring ads into non-game areas. So our prediction is that we'll see a revamped launcher this year (a Blizzard launcher, rather than just a World of Warcraft launcher), and that we'll be seeing non-Blizzard ads on it. Adam adds that Blizzard will share achievements across games, so if we see Starcraft II release in any form this year, we'll get a good idea of what the new will be.

The endgame will get harder
Matthew Rossi takes the lead on this one: "Ulduar is going to be HARD." And the rest of us generally agree: while Blizzard has made the early endgame easier, there has been plenty of calls from players to make the next set of raids and achievements much tougher, and we believe Blizzard will do that. Amanda Miller believes that a few weeks later, Blizzard will cave again and re-nerf it.

Someone will leave the company
Blizzard has been very fortunate in that they haven't had a lot of team turnover: Tom Chilton, Jeff Kaplan, J. Allen Brack, Alex Afrasiabi, and many other team members have been working on the game almost since the beginning. And since Blizzard is such a great place to work, they don't have a lot of reason to leave. But times change, Blizzard as a company has changed (hi Activision!), and a lot of the things that they planned out early on have come to fruition. We believe at least one of the higherups on the game will leave Blizzard this year, either to go work for another MMO company or start their own. A surprising number of people on our staff (Matthew Rossi, Matt Low) thinks Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street will be the one, but Adam and I both think the opposite: that when someone leaves higher up, he'll be promoted. But we all do seem to expect at least one familiar name leaving Blizzard to join another company.

Class changes
In general, our staff thinks that Blizzard will try to seperate the classes back out again -- they've gone a little more uniform lately, and Adam in particular believes that Blizzard will aim to have them each be a little more unique. Rossi believes that at the very top of gear, one tanking class will move ahead of the others. Both Daniel Whitcomb and Chase Christian believe that we'll see a bombshell in a 3.x patch, either with a complete healing revamp, or a class mixup along the lines of "these classes do x, these classes do y, and these classes do z," so that Blizzard starts dealing with roles rather than class separations. Personally, I'm just calling a Death Knight nerf. You know it's coming.

And the rest of the year...
Daniel Whitcomb thinks professions will get "uberbuffed" in a Wrath patch. Adam says we won't hear about any subscriptions growth until Q3 and even then it'll be a half a million at most. Ziebart is wiling to call the Starcraft II release sometime this year, and Holisky even says expansion #3 in January 2010. And while I think that puts a lot (a lot) of faith in Blizzard keeping to a development schedule, not a single one of us is willing to predict that we'll finally hear more about that next-gen MMO this year. 2009 is, after all, only so big.

Have predictions of your own? Leave a guess in the comments, and make sure to stick around during all of 2009 -- you never know what might happen.

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