Hello Blizzplanet readers, unfortunately some technical difficulties have gotten in the way of my write-up about Shadowmoon Valley as shown at BlizzCon 2013, so in the meantime let’s look at another important topic. Just when are we going to get to Draenor, anyway?

Theorizing on an expansion’s release date has never been easy, and this time it will be especially hard due to Blizzard’s slightly faster production cycle on patches we saw in MoP. If that trend is kept up for expansion production, it would render all previous patterns for expansion development irrelevant. So let’s look at some various factors which could be used to estimate WoD’s release.

First off, we have this interesting tweet from Ghostcrawler about Warlords of Draenor’s state of development:

Mists of Pandaria seemed far more complete than other expansions when it was unveiled at BlizzCon 2011, but it was not released for another 11 months. However when we look back at MoP’s state of presentation at BlizzCon compared to WoD’s, some differences are apparent. When Mists of Pandaria was unveiled, the Wandering Isle zone was, aside from pre-rendered cutscenes, complete though Pandaria itself was left unseen outside of rough concept maps and a few videos. This was the only map of Pandaria shown at BlizzCon 2011:

The differences between release are plain to see and striking. Krasarang Wilds, the Veiled Stair and Dread Wastes did not exist, there was a “Zandalari Isle” which probably became either the Isle of Thunder or Isle of Giants, and the overall shape of the western side of Pandaria is drastically different. It was not until several months later, at the start of MoP’s beta, that we saw a more official, in-game style map of Pandaria. Yet for Warlords of Draenor, such a map was among the first images we were shown:

To have an official, drawn map instead of a rough concept like Pandaria means Draenor’s zone layout and design is far more finalized, which does bode well for a faster release. They also do not have to work on low level content, nor balance a new class. Blizzard has already voiced uncertainty that all the new player models, which are taking all of the resources which would be devoted to new races otherwise, will be released at launch and thus we don’t need to wait for all of them to be finished either.

However, Mists of Pandaria did have very detailed news on their dungeons, with in-game videos of three (Temple of the Jade Serpent, Stormstout Brewery and Shado-pan Monastery) whereas Warlords of Draenor showed only one instance, Bloodmaul Slag Mines, and a non-descriptive list of the others. In terms of raid content, the same amount of attention was shown for both expansions (early concept maps and artwork for a single raid). Even then, MoP’s raid detailed, Mogu’Shan Palace, ended up becoming a five man with a similar raid, Mogu’Shan Vaults, replacing it.

So for the most part it does seem that Warlords of Draenor is farther along at this point that Mists of Pandaria was. Thus I can say with some degree of certainly that WoD is less than 11 months away. That’s still a lot of time to be left with Siege of Orgrimmar, something Blizzard developers have expressed a desire to prevent. Outside of a design standpoint, there are some other factors and pieces of information that can be used to narrow WoD’s release date down further.

First was the fansite interview held at BlizzCon. When asked about the length of Siege of Orgrimmar, the answer was a (somewhat joking) “it could be like every other expansion!”, followed by an affirmation that there would be no patch 5.5 as everyone currently on the WoW team is working on Warlords of Draenor. They “have that concern, big time, and it’s a really hard problem to solve”. This isn’t exactly encouraging news, so while we may see Warlords of Draenor faster than Mists of Pandaria, it might not be that much earlier.

The next big piece of information is the upcoming novel World of Warcraft: War Crimes by Christie Golden. Functioning as a sort of bridge novel between MoP and WoD, like The Shattering and Tides of War before it, we can draw a very precise release date. Both of the two previous novels came out within two months before their respective expansion came out.

World of Warcraft: The Shattering was released October 19th, 2010 and Cataclysm was released December 7th, 2010.

World of Warcraft: Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War was released August 24th, 2012 and Mists of Pandaria was released September 25th, 2012.

World of Warcraft: War Crimes is currently scheduled to be released June 3rd, 2014.

If we follow that trend, War Crimes would peg Warlords of Draenor for a release date between July and August, one that is still shorter than the length between Mists of Pandaria’s announcement and launch, yet still rather long as was suggested during the fansite Q&A. I’d say in all likelihood, this is our release window for Warlords of Draenor. Of course there is evidence for conflicting opinions. Some have suggested that War Crime’s release date is simply a placeholder put by websites like Amazon.com, which is a common practice and shouldn’t be discounted. Also there’s the case of Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, an intended tie-in novel for WotLK which ended up delayed and not coming out until expansion was half over. Should either of these situations prove true, it would throw a wrench in my predictions, but for now, I stand with July/August being the most likely release window.

Note this is only a prediction based on current information. Whenever Warlords of Draenor enters it’s closed beta, that will tell far more about when we can expect the expansion. Either way, I’m sure I speak for at least some people beyond myself when I say Warlords of Draenor cannot come soon enough!

UPDATE: Simon and Schuster are now listing War Crimes as having a release date of May 6th, which if correct could push it ahead to early June!