Blizzard has revealed when they're going to announce the next World of Warcraft expansion. Surprisingly enough, they won't wait until BlizzCon to do it.
Instead, Blizzard says they will be revealing the expansion during European convention gamescom 2015, happening next week:
Join us Thursday, August 6 at 9 a.m. PDT for a special World of Warcraft event streamed live from gamescom 2015 in Cologne, Germany—where we’ll be unveiling the next chapter of the World of Warcraft saga. . . .
Although Blizzard typically saves its biggest reveals for BlizzCon, the timing of this announcement makes sense. This new expansion will come roughly a month after the release of Patch 6.2, the final major update for current expansion Warlords of Draenor. I imagine many players are prepared to take a break from WoW after defeating the Hellfire Citadel raid in 6.2 but this announcement could get them excited enough to keep playing.
Blizzard has plenty of incentive to hold their attention. The long lulls between past expansion packs has cost them lots of money. When players know that the game won't be getting any new content for several months, they tend to unsubscribe. There's not much point to paying the monthly fee if you don't have anything to do. WoW has lost millions of paying subscribers in these periods. Many of these players come back when a new expansion is released but in the meantime, Blizzard is losing millions of dollars in potential revenue each month.
The harder way for Blizzard to prevent these subscriber dips is to release expansion packs faster. In the past, they've discussed the possibility of releasing a new expansion each year. However, lead game designer Corey Stockton said in a recent interview that they won't sacrifice an expansion's quality for a faster release:
We're not happy when players have to wait a year for new content, either. It's definitely not something we want to do but we've found ourselves in situations where we're working on an expansion and, as Blizzard does, we're not going to release it until we feels it's at the quality level where it's going to be great.
If Blizzard can't release expansion packs any quicker than usual, they might settle for simply talking about new expansions sooner. It's harder for players to be bored with the game when they know big, new changes are around the bend. Maybe starting this anticipation in August rather than November will be enough to stop the game from bleeding players.