Blizzard has begun the alpha testing for World of Warcraft's new expansion Legion. They're currently sending out email invites to a select group of players.
Here's an excerpt of the email invitation, obtained by BlizzardWatch:
Congratulations—you’ve been selected to participate in the alpha test of World of Warcraft: Legion!
The alpha's very limited right now, though. The new level 100-110 zones in the Broken Isles aren't available yet. Testers can only play Mardum and Vault of the Elders, two parts of the starting experience for the new Demon Hunter class. Furthermore, the Mac version isn't available for the initial alpha build.
Odds are you didn't receive an alpha invite. Right now it seems to be limited to friends and family of Blizzard employees along with some streamers. Fortunately, you'll still be able to see gameplay footage from the test. There's no non-disclosure agreement in place so all alpha testers are free to share video, screenshots and information about Legion. There are already full playthroughs of the Demon Hunter starting area on YouTube. Here's one of them:
When Blizzard first announced Legion this summer, they said that the beta test would be available by the end of 2015. We've only got about a month left in the year so it looks like that might not be happening. The alpha and beta tests for previous expansion Warlords of Draenor launched about two months apart.
Legion is currently expected to launch by September 2016. Blizzard hasn't announced a specific launch date yet but I'm sure they'd like to get the expansion out quickly to improve the declining subscriber numbers. They've been able to slow down losses by releasing new content patches for Draenor but they're not going to be able to win back millions of players without a new expansion.
Blizzard recently opened up pre-purchases for Legion through their online store. Anyone who pre-purchases the expansion pack will get a free level 100 boost for one character that they can redeem right away.