WoW Factor: So let’s talk about World of Warcraft’s Dragonflight leak

Yes, Dragonflight is probably the next expansion

    
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Yeah, this is a thing.

Sometimes you just get handed a column, you know? No, you probably don’t; you probably don’t work in this insane profession. The point is that it does happen, and if you somehow missed it, World of Warcraft managed to once again continue its habit of screwing things up by revealing the title of its next expansion early. This is like the long-running Peanuts gag of Lucy pulling the football away at the last second, except there’s no Lucy, just Charlie Brown kicking himself in the head five yards away from the football and then blaming everyone other than himself.

So it’s actually not very much like the Peanuts gag at all, if we’re being honest, but it is very much like a self-inflicted wound.

There’s not a whole lot to talk about this particular leak just yet, but there are still some things to discuss, and to help us along we’re going to be doing this in a sort of pseudo-Q&A format just because that’s how everything shakes out best. If it helps, you can imagine that all of these questions are being asked by a very stupid and very meta-aware resident of Zereth Mortis. Whatever helps you get through a day.

I'm your new loathed grind!

So are we sure that this is an accurate new title?

Yes. Let’s be realistic here, Blizzard accidentally leaking stuff early in this fashion is now practically a cottage industry, as it’s managed to do it multiple times at this point. We don’t technically have official confirmation, but considering the company has done this before with Shadowlands and The Burning Crusade Classic (and Overwatch 2, don’t forget), I personally think it’s safe to say that this is yet another instance of Blizzard shooting its own reveal in the foot. Hopefully you hadn’t scheduled time off from work for April 19th.

Or maybe you did; it’s not like the title reveals many details. I’m not your boss. You can take time off whenever you want. Use all your sick days. That’s what they’re there for.

Does that mean the MMO Champion leak about it is accurate?

Ha ha ha ha ha you’re funny.

Look, I’m going to be honest, when I did a speculative exercise about this I specifically avoided the title “Dragonflight” because it sounded too simple, so that in and of itself is not saying much of anything. But let’s look at that actual “leak” for a moment. It has four new single-spec classes when the current design team has not released a single new class with three specs since Mists of Pandaria. (Demon Hunters have two specs, remember? Not three.) It includes common player wishlist features like housing without any details. One of those “micro-classes” uses fire, plate armor, and shouts, which you may recognize as being basically identical to a Warrior already.

Seriously, we can all hate WoW’s habits of content islands, but assuming they’re going to drop that for two revamped zones for leveling is just seriously ridiculous. There are a whole lot of red flags in that supposed “leak,” not the least of which being the fact that it’s on MMO Champion, a site whose commenters are generally known for being about as accurate with its leaks as rolling 3d6 six times in order is known for generating a playable character.

The title happens to be accurate, sure, but for reasons I’m about to elaborate upon even that isn’t all that surprising. I’m not saying that I hate the ideas here, or at least not all of them (micro-classes sound stupid, but player housing obviously doesn’t), but it has very little to back it up or point to it as anything other than a completely speculative wishlist that has little to nothing to do with reality. And considering that the “leak” post claimed this would be announced on February 28th, its prognosticative abilities are highly suspect.

Sort of draconic.

Wait, does this mean you called it?

Nope. I did speculate about an expansion themed around the dragonflights as part of my speculative series about the next WoW expansion. However, as I mentioned in those columns multiple times, those columns were speculative rather than predictive; these were not cases where I was trying to guess at the future of the game but where I was throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what stuck.

Moreover, there had been datamined bits and bobs that hinted at some sort of dragon-themed mount being added to the game for a CE of an expansion, which implied right away that the next expansion was going to have something to do with dragons. That was honestly why I included it in the first place; I figured that might be where we were heading next, so why not play with it?

If everything else from my speculative column plays out? Well, I’ll be surprised, but I still don’t think it’ll really mean I called it so much as I made some remarkably accurate speculation.

But you got part of the idea right, didn’t you?

Eh, I wound up swinging and probably hitting in part, but I wasn’t really trying to, so I don’t consider that a mark in favor of my predicative abilities. That’s all right by me. I don’t consider “we’re going to get dragons when we’ve had lots of hints in and out of game” to be a mark in my favor. You are free to disagree.

Ain't no school like the old school.

So what are your actual predictions, then, if you’re not hedging?

One of the things that I’ve said before that bears repeating now is that there’s going to be a big need on the part of the designers to restore faith in the game as a whole and its design process; a lot of predictions aren’t going to wholly address that problem. We’re probably not going to have a full picture of the expansion on April 19th, after all. But there are at least some things I feel fairly confident in predicting.

First of all, I do think we’re going to get a new class of some sort, whether it’s a Hero Class or another base class. We haven’t gotten anything since Legion, after all. I also expect we’ll see at least some expansion of class/race combinations, but I sincerely doubt we’ll have any new actual races, including allied races from the Shadowlands proper. If this will be the expansion that finally does away with class/race restrictions altogether, I will be surprised, but pleasantly so.

Borrowed power seems like a given; there are five dragonflights to derive various class-themed abilities around, and that’s disappointing but seems quite likely to be a thing. I sincerely doubt we’ll actually see housing at this point; I don’t think the team has gone that far in the “listening” route. More easing of faction restrictions is definitely plausible, but not certain. More deterministic gearing options seems highly likely at this point.

The expansion will most likely center around the Dragon Isles, which may or may not be in their historic location north of Lordaeron. I expect that the story will play up Wrathion a bit at the very least; it’s unclear who will serve as the big bad, but it’s reasonable that Nathanos Blightcaller might turn up in a role here. More customization options will be added to the various races.

Those are my guesses and predictions. As for how accurate any of that is… well, we’ll have to learn more on April 19th, when we will almost certainly find out it’s not planned until 2023. Let’s be realistic, here.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
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