The release of World of Warcraft’s next expansion, Dragonflight, is far closer than most players expected, with Blizzard recently confirming the expansion to be on track for a 2022 release.
That wasn’t news many players in the game’s community expected to hear. After all, when Blizzard announced Dragonflight back in April, it made sure not to give any kind of release date or window, instead telling players it would arrive when it was ready. “When it’s ready” is apparently very soon, as in “before or on December 31, 2022” soon.
Players aren’t sure what to make of this. On one hand, the community is desperate to move on from the disappointment that was Shadowlands and return to Azeroth proper. On the other hand, given the late announcement of the expansion and the fact that alpha testing for Dragonflight has yet to start on the game’s public test realm (but is likely coming very soon), players are concerned a 2022 release date is too soon. As such, a significant part of the community is practically begging Blizzard to delay Dragonflight, take its time, and release the sometime expansion in early 2023 instead.
To be sure, a less-than-six-month window for alpha testing, beta testing, pre-patch (which is typically several weeks long), and expansion release does seem like a tight window. It is not, however, entirely unrealistic, as members of the community have pointed out on Reddit.
In a post from WoW content creator MrGM broke down the number of days between the alpha testing of previous expansions and an expansion’s release date. That number is somewhere between 188 days at the earliest and 281 days at the latest. There are 192 days left in 2022 for comparison. Another post from Reddit user Jeth84 compared release dates for all of WoW’s previous expansions, and it shows that if Dragonflight does arrive this year, it will be pretty much on schedule for what is typically a two-year window between expansions. On paper, Dragonflight’s 2022 arrival would be right on time. However, it’s worth keeping in mind the development challenges Blizzard has faced the last several years that could have potentially affected Dragonflight’s development, including much of the team working from home due to COVID-19 and various issues (including staff walkouts and strikes) stemming from the various lawsuits and investigations that have plagued Blizzard for the last 11 months.
That all being said, there are some reasons for players to be optimistic about Dragonlfight’s chances of arriving in 2022. Many fans have theorized that Dragonflight might be much further along than expected due to Blizzard shifting resources away from Shadowlands over the past two years to focus more on the new expansion. Shadowlands is only the second expansion in WoW history to have received two content patches during its lifespan. While Blizzard insists having only two content patches was always the plan for Shadowlands, many fans believe a third patch (which is the norm for expansions) was cut so Blizzard could reallocate more development resources to Dragonflight.
Fans are also pointing to the idea that for the first time in a long time, Dragonflight won’t include complicated “borrowed power” systems that usually need extensive testing due to their complexity. In Legion, it was Artifacts. Battle for Azeroth had the widely-hated Azerite gear system, and Shadowlands had Covenants. Each of these features essentially added all the new-abilities and progression systems to each class. That won’t be the case in Dragonflight. While the new expansion will include new talent trees more reminiscent of WoW’s early days for each class, they aren’t tied to any other kind of new progression system, which will hopefully mean they will require less testing than other recent expansions.
That could just be wishful thinking, however. Because players haven’t yet been able to check out the alpha, it’s currently impossible to say what kind of state Dragonflight is in or if it looks to be ready for a release by the end of this year. Blizzard has made good on its word recently to incorporate more player feedback into WoW’s development, with players making significant recommendations and contributions during testing for the game’s 9.2 patch that made their way into the finished product. One can only hope that testing for Dragonflight will be approached in a similar way. Fans, for example, already have some feedback about the new Dracthyr race. But if Blizzard rushes the game out the door to hit a 2022 release, extensive testing might not be possible.
Given the reception to Battle for Azeroth and the early days of Shadowlands, players are desperate for WoW to be good again. That begs the question, would Blizzard really publicly announce a 2022 release if it wasn’t confident it could stick to the landing? As the community’s reaction has shown, players are more than willing to give Blizzard more time. Whether Dragonflight does arrive in 2022 as planned or is ultimately delayed is anyone’s guess, but longtime fans of the MMO simply want Blizzard to get it right this time around, even if it means delaying Dragonflight into 2023.
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