“Cataclysmic” or “When it’s Done, Stupid!”
Speculations for a possible release date for World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Cataclysm, are already making the rounds within the blogosphere. It was about as inevitable as Mel Gibson’s fall from grace, or the steady stream of ‘leaked’ celebrity sex tapes, I suppose. As MMO players, with tiny morsels of carefully manipulated information thrown our way every once in a blue moon, rumors, speculations, and in this case, estimations are what keep us at bay till the vicious cycle starts all over again.
Let’s take a look at what some of the people in the community have to say.
Elnia over at Pink Pigtail Inn believes the game will be released on February 1, 2009. She gives five reasons:
- The expansion was announced at Blizzcon. It doesn’t make sense for them to wait for another Blizzcon to announce the release date.
- The last two expansions were released in the winter season.
- Blizzard said it would make yearly expansions. Considering that they have been working on Cataclysm since before Wrath was released, a summer 2010 release date would be very unlikely.
- Icecrown will be released likely no later than December 1, 2009. Anything past February 1, 2010 would create a massive content gap.
- Anything past the February 1, 2010 release date would be a poor marketing decision as you would not be able to tap into the deep pockets of the holiday shoppers.
The aptly named blog has an entry that argues for a 6 month delay between patch 3.3 and the third expansion. He states that Blizzard has sped up its development cycle and wouldn’t need a full 24 months to put out a new expansion.
Finally, Gordon over at We Fly Spitfires says the release date will be 11th November, 2010. His reasoning? The simplest of all: a hunch.
My guess: July 20, 2010
Let’s look at some empirical and chronological evidence.
- The last two expansions’ release dates were announced on September 11, 2006 (BC, released January 16, 2006), and September 15, 2008 (WotLK, released November 13, 2008), and not during Blizzcon. This means Blizzard will likely not announce it by next Blizzcon, the announcement will be much sooner.
- Going off of what Tobold said, for Blizzard, if providing a polished product means taking the extra time to ensure everything is just right, they will delay the release. Burning Crusade was released 26 months after vanilla WoW. Wrath of the Lich King was release 22 months after the Burning Crusade. Elnia’s estimation, Feb 1, 2010 is merely 15 months after the previous expansions. Tobold puts it at early summer, say, May 1, 2009, which makes it 18 months. Gordon’s guess is a full 24 months. Given that the second expansion was released 4 months sooner than the first one, it stands to reason that the third expansion will take less than 22 months. 15 months, however, seems highly unlikely to me. So I am with Tobold on this one.
- Let’s look at the patches right before the last two expansions. Patch 1.11: Shadow of the Necropolis was released on June 11, 2006, well over 7 months before the expansion. Patch 2.4: Fury of the Sunwell was released on March 25, 2008, again almost 8 months before the second expansion. This implies there would be approximately 7+ months between the last major patch, Icecrown, and Cataclysm. So Tobold is again right on the money. Elnia feels anything more than 3 months is too long a content gap. It is for maybe the top 5% guilds that play WoW, but not for everyone. There should be at least 6-7 months to allow everyone to see the penultimate content in Wrath of the Lich King.
- The marketing Masters graduate in me agrees with Elnia in that anything past February 1, 2009 would be a poor business decision. But then again consider the fact that WoW has nearly 12 million active subscriptions. Most of the player base is excited about Cataclysm. I have a feeling that no matter what the release date, the store copies would vanish faster than Thai whores on new years.
- How long before Icecrown? I have built a time line of patches that introduced new instances. The average release time between major content patches is 4.4 months. Following the law of averages, we should see Icecrown sometime around December 20, 2009. The date doesn’t make sense, as a December release will see limited playtimes due to the holiday season. A more realistic release date would be January 5, 2009. That being said, clock on the seven month cycle from the last major content patch to the expansion date would kick off on December 20, 2009.
- Vanilla release
- Mauradon – 1.5 months
- Dire Maul – 2.7 months
- Blackwing Lair – 4.3 months
- Zul’Gurub – 2 months
- Ahn’Qiraj – 3.5 months
- Naxxaramas – 5.6 months
- The Burning Crusade – 6.8 months
- The Black Temple – 4.3 months
- Zul’Aman – 5.7 months
- Sunwell – 4.4 months
- Wrath of the Lich King – 7.6 months
- Ulduar – 5 months
- Call of the Crusade – 3.7 months
- Icecrown – Unknown
- Average: 4.4 months
Given the data above, I estimate that Cataclysm will be released July 20, 2010. What do you think?