Thursday, August 6 at 9 a.m. PDT, we’ll be getting news about the World of Warcraft new expansion (its sixth) from a live-streamed briefing at Gamescom in Germany. There will also be a World of Warcraft developer chat on August 9 at 8 a.m. PDT.
The World of Warcraft new expansion will join The Burning Crusade (2007), Wrath of the Lich King (2008), Cataclysm (2010), Mists of Pandaria (2012), and Warlords of Draenor (2014). The MMO‘s expansions have typically added a great deal of content to the game, including new playable fantasy races, environments, items, and quest content. Personally I stopped playing just before Cataclysm came out in 2008. I imagine if I were to jump back in I’d find the game entirely changed from what I remember.
World of Warcraft currently has 7.1 million subscribers, down from 10 million at the end of last year. Typically the release of an expansion will push those numbers back up. (Though, despite falling subscriptions, World of Warcraft remains the top subscription-based MMO in the world.) Kotaku’s theory on the sudden dip in players is that the latest expansion—Warlords of Draenor, in 2014—allowed players to jump straight to level 90, which garnered a lot of interest from lapsed players (like myself) who didn’t want to grind their way back through the game. However, there isn’t a lot to do once you’ve finished the content at level 90, so a few months later, users left once again. On the other hand, World of Warcraft is over a decade old now, and it isn’t entirely surprising that it’s begun to bleed subscribers in a natural way.
This will also be the first WoW expansion to be released since the token system started up in April. Tokens allow players to buy game time with in-game gold instead of real dollars. Theoretically this will help combat gold-farming and third-party sellers. In a Q&A on Blizzard’s website, they explained that the token system will “help make World of Warcraft a safer and more enjoyable game for all of our players.”