Home > Cataclysm, World of Warcraft > “Cataclysmic” or “When it’s Done, Stupid!”

“Cataclysmic” or “When it’s Done, Stupid!”

Cataclysmic or When Its 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.

Pink Pigtail Inn

Elnia over at Pink Pigtail Inn believes the game will be released on February 1, 2009. She gives five reasons:

  1. The expansion was announced at Blizzcon. It doesn’t make sense for them to wait for another Blizzcon to announce the release date.
  2. The last two expansions were released in the winter season.
  3. 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.
  4. Icecrown will be released likely no later than December 1, 2009. Anything past February 1, 2010 would create a massive content gap.
  5. 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.

Tobold’s MMORPG Blog

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.

We Fly Spitfires

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

  1. October 15, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    July does sound pretty plausible to me actually. WoW usually has a big slump in subscription numbers over the summer so this would be a good way for WoW to prop that side up.

    However, the counter argument to that is perhaps they don’t want to take the risk and would rather not release in a classically slow time.

    Guess we’ll just need to wait and see 🙂

  2. Elnia
    October 15, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    From a statistical point of view I’m discounting the distant past more than you are. I realize some people are cynical but I am putting more weight on the fact that Blizzard really is trying to speed up the development process.

    I also think that it’s worth nothing that I hedged my bets a little in my post.

    Let me put it this way:

    Feb 1st 2010 odds 50/50
    March 1st 2010 odds 66/34
    May 1st 2010 90%

    I would honestly be surprised if it was any later.

  3. Jeremy
    October 16, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Nice analysis.

    You might want to go back and fix a couple of your dates. I think you meant to predict a release date of July 20, 2010. You also wrote that Gordon predicted a Nov. 2009 release date, but by context I think you meant 2010. And yes, I’m just being picky. 🙂

  4. Shal
    November 20, 2009 at 6:16 am

    I agree with Elnia’s prediction, 3.3 is coming like now due to the fact they are letting us DL it now also it would be a horribly poor marketting strategy to wait much longer and I have faith that Blizzard has grown as a company so time will be reduced from the normal.

  5. November 21, 2009 at 2:48 am

    While February 1 would make a great release date in order to destroy any interest in Star Trek Online, I just don’t think it’ll be ready by then. They’d probably consider SW:TOR to be more of a threat anyway.

    I’d imagine 3.3 is coming out sometime in December, though I think May or June is a bit too far away for 4.0. I’ve been assuming since Blizzcon that the expansion would be released some time around late March or maybe April.

  6. the reporter
    December 8, 2009 at 8:55 am

    well like any other game that has came out with a subscription… “CRASH BURN FALL DIE” i dought that any other game out there is much of a threat to WoW… Aion came out and SUCKS even my closest EB games cant sell them they are actualy getting more people returning than selling… ok w/e cataclysm release date is going to be 20th July 2010 b/c it is most realistic and also u have to think about how the world progreses in time we have a growing nation and people are getting smarter and learning new things everyday like video/ game development and that said Blizzard would like to have this conent expansion up and running withen 6months time…(thats enough time to kill lich king right?)

  7. Dave
    January 6, 2010 at 7:14 am

    Well, 3.3 was released december, and next section of ICC opening mid january, if they carry on releasing a new section every month we won’t even see arthas until april, then there is the usual gap between last content patch and expansion, im betting on july/august

  8. hellomynameis
    January 25, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    You got some “announced”- and “released”-dates wrong. wowwiki.com will tell you the right ones. When you view at the history of when expansions have been announced and released, you can clearly see that they mean for Cataclysm to get out November 2010.

    The Burning Crusade was officially announced on October 28th, 2005
    The Burning Crusade was released on January 16th, 2007
    (=1 year 2 months 14days)

    Wrath of the Lich King was officially announced on August 3rd, 2007
    Wrath of the Lich King was released on November 13th, 2008
    (=1 year 3 months 10days)

    Cataclysm was officially announced on August 21th, 2009
    Cataclysm WILL BE released BETWEEN November 7th AND November 31th, 2010

    As many others have said, summer time isnt a good time to release a game. People feel bad when they sit inside playing, when there is nice weather and beachparties outside.

    1st Feb is out of the question. There is still content to be revealed in ICC.

    But predicting the date isnt that important. They will let us know the date 2-3months in advance, when the cinematic trailer comes out.

  9. hellomynameis
    January 25, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    my bad, you wrote about releasing release dates, not announcing. But my dates is still valid though. 🙂
    And seeing your dates in a new light, I guess they will let us know the real release date in September 2010, and release it in November 2010. Its fun to play prophets, ey? 😉

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