Blizzard could be gearing up to announce a new World of Warcraft expansion at BlizzCon next weekend. The company filed a trademark for the title Warlords of Draenor in New Zealand and Australia.
The Warlords of Draenor trademark application, spotted by MMO Champion, is fairly specific. It applies to "computer game software, computer game discs, downloadable computer game software" and so on. There's no mention of novels or comic books or any other types of merchandise. Assuming this trademark app is legitimate, it's for a game.
Draenor was the homeworld of the orcs and draenei. During the first two Warcraft games, the orcs opened portals to Azeroth and attempted to conquer the humans, elves and dwarves. Orc shaman Ner'zhul eventually went overboard in creating portals and the ensuing magical overload ripped the world apart.
The planet doesn't exist by the time Warcraft 3 and World of Warcraft rolled around. Only a large chunk - known as Outland - still remains. The floating half-planet is still large enough to be habitable, though. WoW players traveled to the Outland to fight Illidan during the second expansion pack, The Burning Crusade.
The past three expansion packs - Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria - centered around Azeroth so a trip to a different world would be welcome. Outland already exists in the world thanks to Burning Crusade, though, so I'm not sure how Blizzard would make another expansion pack. Will players travel to a previously unseen remnant of Draenor?
It's also possible that players will be able to visit Draenor in its former glory thanks to time travel. Many dungeons and raids in WoW center around the Bronze Dragonflight, a group of dragons seeking to preserve the time-space continuum. Maybe they'll send players to Draenor prior to its destruction in order to prevent their enemies, the Infinite Dragonflight, from mucking with established history.
Hopefully they'll take the opportunity to revamp Burning Crusade quests in Outland as well. The low-level zones in Azeroth got a facelift in Cataclysm so the 60-70 zones from TBC are now the oldest content in the game. These zones are missing some of the design flourishes that Blizzard devised later on (such as instanced quest areas and siege vehicles) so Outland is arguably the weakest part of the leveling experience now.
A 2014 release for the next World of Warcraft expansion pack seems likely. The game's four expansions have been released roughly two years apart. Mists of Pandaria, the most recent, celebrated its first birthday in September.
Given the declining subscriber numbers for WoW, Blizzard has every reason to announce new content as soon as they can. They have to give players a reason to stick around and stay excited. It seems likely that an announcement will come at BlizzCon 2013, which runs on November 8th and 9th in Anaheim.
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