I have been an advocate since before Blizzcon that Cataclysm will release before March 1st, 2010. The purpose of this post is to share my reasoning with you.
(1) Given that Blizzard has already announced Cataclysm at Blizzcon 2009 it makes no sense that that they will wait for yet another Blizzcon to go by before the release. In fact, it makes no sense for them to announce the new release and then wait an entire year before the product comes out. Whatever suspense they build up with the end of Wrath will be dissipated if there is a six month gap between the end of Warth and beginning of the next expansion. Further, the summer is the slowest season for playing the game and it makes no sense to release a game at a time when people have no desire to play it. In short, it's inconceivable to me they would release after May 1st, 2010.
(2) There is precedence for releasing a game in mid-winter (Northern Hemisphere). The Burning Crusade was released January 16th, 2007. In fact, with Wrath being released in November 2009 both expansions have been released in wintertime. So another winter-to-early spring release is in keeping with that pattern.
(3) After Wrath came out Blizzard publicly stated that their goal was to make expansions on a yearly basis. While it is true that Blizzard does not always keep its word in such matters, there doesn't seem to be any particular reason to think they can't keep that pace. Furthermore, Blizzard stated at Blizzcon 2009 that they had already started working on Cataclysm before Wrath was even launched. Anything in summer of 2010 would mean that the company was not merely off target; it would mean that the third expansion took just as long as the 22 months it took to complete as Wrath. That's unlikely.
(4) Patch 3.1 dropped in mid-April 2009. Slightly less than four months later patch 3.2 dropped in early August. Patch 3.3 is on the PTR and a four month gap means it would drop no later than December 1st. A release day after March 1st, 2010 would create a yawing gap of content. In fact, all three patches have been essentially raid patches with no new solo content to the game. The idea that Blizzard will go six to eight months with no major updates (either raid or solo) to the game is inconsistent with recent practice.
(5) A release date after March 1st misses a landmark sales opportunity: Christmas. Christmas is the busiest shopping period in North America. With Patch 3.3 coming out no later than the beginning of holiday season it's inconceivable to me from a business point of view that any company, let alone Blizzard, would fail to have some major Warcraft product for sale during that time period. A release date of the first three months of 2010 allows them to market and sell pre-orders during the holiday shopping period.
I could go on but for me that's enough. There is a constellation of reasons why it's highly improbable that Blizzard will release the next expansion after March 1st, 2010. Given the release status of Patch 3.3 I expect it to drop mid-November, a public announcement of the release date of the next expansion during the holiday season, and the next expansion to release February 1st, 2010.
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