As it currently stands, Shadowlands, the next World of Warcraft expansion, is set to release at some point in 2020. While the logical trajectory would seem to place the expansion somewhere in the ballpark of November of this year, it’s safe to say that with the ongoing global crisis in mind, production and development of the expansion have been affected in some way.
If that’s the case, I wouldn’t be disappointed in the slightest if Shadowlands was delayed in order to fully realize the expansion’s potential. Whenever content is rushed, the end result usually is lacking in some department, so it would definitely be best to delay the product instead of bringing it to the forefront while trying to appear ahead of schedule.
If Shadowlands were to release in Mid-November, that means that Patch 8.3 would have only been with us for just over 9 months. If we flashback for a minute, the final patch of Legion was in place for a full year and Battle for Azeroth still felt like it lacked in a ton of areas after its successful launch. Once the layers were peeled back, it became glaringly clear the BfA was the result of an incomplete development process. If Shadowlands is rushed as well just for the sole purpose of landing a late 2020 release date, we might see a similar pattern of results.
Don’t forget that when the final patch of Warlords of Draenor got extended by a few months and Legion was pushed back to a Q3 release all the way back in 2016, the game was given its strongest expansion in recent memory. Although WoD was starved for content with the Tanaan Jungle/Hellfire Citadel patch lasting for 14 months on live servers, we were immediately graced with a ridiculously strong expansion in Legion at the turning point.
Now, obviously, a 14-month wait for new content does seem drastic on the surface, but with the global crisis in mind, it doesn’t seem all that unreasonable to delay Shadowlands to that degree if the extended process will ultimately result in a better expansion. If anything, 9 months between one expansion’s close and another expansion’s launch seems brief without an international health crisis. And, I understand that these expansions go into development long before the final patch of the previous expansion is launched. However, history has shown that when the final furlong of the process is wrapped up at a brisk pace, the end product falls flat more often than not.
This timeline in WoW history reminds me a lot of the months leading up to Cataclysm once Wrath of the Lich King had wrapped up. The launch of Cataclysm occurred exactly one year to the day after the release of the final content patch of Wrath. If you include the release of the Ruby Sanctum, there were only 6 months between the final piece of content from Wrath and the launch of Cataclysm.
And while we’ve been with Patch 8.3 for nearly 6 months now and Shadowlands is still a ways away, the similarities between the two time frames do feel eerily similar. Let’s hope that there’s a sharp left turn in there somewhere and Shadowlands turns out differently from the haphazard disappointment that Cataclysm turned out to be.
Of course, Blizzard could be totally comfortable in the development process right now and speculation could be a dominant force, but at the end of the day, if Shadowlands does get pushed back to any degree – whether it be 2 months or 6 months, history shows that the wait will probably be worth it.
Featured image via Blizzard Entertainment.