An expansion is additional software (usually made available for retail sale) that adds new content and features to a game.
The content of an expansion is usually not available to anyone who does not own the expansion. Most expansions will not install or run as stand-alone products.
It was stated in an interview prior to the first expansion, that concepts for that expansion had been made, and that Blizzard already had enough ideas for 5-6 more. As of 2021, eight have been released.
Following the release of World of Warcraft's first expansion in 2007, Blizzard announced plans to release expansions once per year. However, this rate of production was never delivered, with subsequent expansions arriving roughly every 2 years.
Activision Blizzard CFO Thomas Tippl stated at the Citi 2011 Technology Conference that 6 expansions for its most popular titles are planned by 2014, of which 2 of them are to be for World of Warcraft following Cataclysm.
The process of brainstorming a new expansion generally happens 2 expansions ahead which allows for story plot point-making. Typically this happens with a large group and weekly sessions where the developers think of cool things, throw away others. It's a mix of things. They generally think about The World - the world is the main character that you explore and fill with your own story. The first question is "Where do we want to go next?" The story sometimes has to twist and turn to get there EX: Warlords of Draenor. Then they can add features that make sense alongside that world.
- Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal — expansion of Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness released April 30, 1996
World of Warcraft
- World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade — first expansion, released January 16, 2007
- World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King — second expansion, released November 13, 2008
- World of Warcraft: Cataclysm — third expansion, released December 7, 2010
- World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria — fourth expansion, released September 25, 2012
- World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor — fifth expansion, released November 13, 2014
- World of Warcraft: Legion — sixth expansion, released August 30, 2016
- World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth — seventh expansion, released August 13/14, 2018
- World of Warcraft: Shadowlands — eighth expansion, released November 23/24, 2020
How long until the next expansion?
Blizzard develops everything on Blizzard Time, which is more specifically "Soon". As a player, we want to know now. That being said, you can always look at the past expansion timelines to get a very rough idea.
- Amount of time since previous expansion
- Expansions have lasted roughly 2 years.
- – : 26 months (2004-11-23 — 2007-01-16)
- – : 22 months (2007-01-16 — 2008-11-13)
- – : 25 months (2008-11-13 — 2010-12-07)
- – : 22 months (2010-12-07 — 2012-09-25)
- – : 25 months (2012-09-25 — 2014-11-13)
- – : 21 months (2014-11-13 — 2016-08-30)
- – : 23 months (2016-08-30 — 2018-08-14)
- - : 27 months (2018-08-14 — 2020-11-23)
- Blizzard usually announces new expansions at BlizzCon, which occurs in the fall. In 2015, they broke from tradition and announced the expansion at Gamescom. The expansion has typically been released a year or so later.
- : 15 months (2005-10-28 — 2007-01-16)
- : 15 months (2007-08-03 — 2008-11-13)
- : 16 months (2009-08-21 — 2010-12-07)
- : 11 months (2011-10-21 — 2012-09-25)
- : 12 months (2013-11-08 — 2014-11-13)
- : 12 months (2015-08-06 — 2016-08-30)
- : 9 months (2017-11-03 — 2018-08-14)
- : 12 months (2019-11-01 — 2020-11-23)
- Alpha/Beta testing
- Beta testing happens several months before release, when some lucky players get to taste the expansion for free.
- Release date announced
- The release date is announced a few months before release:
- Amount of time between last raid patch and release
- A substantial part of a year has taken place between the last raid patch release from the previous expansion and the launch of the next expansion:
- Patch 1.11 – : 7 months (2006-06-20 — 2007-01-16)
- Patch 2.4 – : 7.5 months (2008-03-25 — 2008-11-13)
- Patch 3.3 – : 12 months (2009-12-08 — 2010-12-07)
- Patch 4.3 – : 10 months (2011-11-29 — 2012-09-25)
- Patch 5.4 – : 14 months (2013-09-10 — 2014-11-13)
- Patch 6.2 - : 14 months (2015-06-23 — 2016-08-30)
- Patch 7.3 - : 11 months (2017-08-29 — 2018-08-14)
- Patch 8.3 - : 10 months (2020-01-14 — 2020-11-23)
- Almost all releases have been between September and December, two reckoning of autumn.
According to the past releases we know we will learn about new expansions at BlizzCon or gamescom, and have an 11-16 month wait for their releases. Previously, it was possible to learn about new expansions at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational until being merged with BlizzCon.
At release time
- The rush of players into brand new, highly-anticipated content can be huge, if you try to play at the moment it is opened up expect some server burps and issues. Blizzard tries to make sure capacity is up before launch, but understand they have no control over how many of the playerbase take off work/school and dive in immediately.
- You may want to log onto any characters at the former level cap and make sure they are in inns to make sure they start to accrue rested bonus.
- While not a part of the expansion, the release of an expansion is usually a gold rush for the savvy player. Many wealthy (in-game) players and guilds try to level up their characters as quickly as possibly and will pay any price for profession materials in the auction house. If you can part with the raw materials for your profession for a week or so, you can make a tidy profit until the prices come down.
- Expansion ideas for player ideas about future expansions