It looks like Blizzard is gearing up to announce a new expansion for World of Warcraft. Yesterday they filed a trademark for the title "Mists of Pandaria" in the United States.
The trademark application (via MMO-Champion) applies to "Computer game software; computer game discs; computer game software and related instruction manuals and guides sold together as a unit; downloadable computer game software; computer game software downloadable from a global computer network; downloadable electronic games via the internet and wireless devices; interactive multimedia computer game program; mousepads." This rules out the possibility that this is just a comic or some other form of merchandise.
Some of you aren't sufficiently nerdy enough to know what Pandaria is. Allow me to explain. Pandaria is the island home of the Pandaren, a mysterious race that resembles giant Pandas. Their society most closely resembles feudal Japan - okay, it's pretty much exactly like feudal Japan. They appeared in WarCraft III to a limited extent. Players could control Pandaren Brewmaster units in a few select missions.
The race actually started as a joke. On April's Fools Day a few years back, Blizzard stated they were going to be one of the four playable races in WC3. The giant Panda people were surprisingly well-received by gamers, though, so Blizzard decided to work them into the game's lore.
It's sort of hard to believe that Blizzard would make an entire World of Warcraft expansion based around a race they made up for "lulz." While WoW does have a comic tone at times, generally the main focus of an expansion is serious in nature. For example, the Cataclysm expansion is focused on how the world is literally coming apart at the seams after the return of the mad black dragon Deathwing.
While Blizzard is typically the sort of company that releases one big project a year, I am slightly curious whether Pandaria will be something smaller. Maybe it's a mobile game? Pandaren would make for a good kid's game, too.
If an announcement is forthcoming, it will probably happen at BlizzCon. BlizzCon 2011 will take place on October 21st and 22nd.