WoW: Pandaria Coming Sept 25

From the Well, Duh Department: Blizzard announced today that World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria will be released exactly two months from today, on September 25. And this post isn’t meant so much as a news alert, but to ask a question: was this a surprise to anyone? 

Between Diablo III releasing in May, the timing of the MoP beta, and Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm looming on the horizon, it was a no-brainer that Blizzard would target a Q3 release for Pandaria, with mid-to-late September being the most likely window. Of course that was the target, leaving the option to get Heart of the Swarm out in Q4 and make their Activision overlords ridiculously happy with mega-releases in three straight quarters. Which, it seems, is exactly what we’re headed towards. 

(Although, with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 coming in November, you could actually concieve Activision preferring to push the next Starcraft to early 2013 to keep the gravy train rolling, so who knows?) 

The real question now is: when will the v5.0 patch arrive, and what will it contain? Every WoW expansion has been preceded by a major patch overhauling the game with a host of new free features, and if history is any indication, that should happen extremely soon. Cataclysm launched on December 7, 2010, but the v4.0 patch that introduced all the talent changes dropped almost two months earlier on October 12; the “Shattering” event that reformed Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor arrived on November 23. So it’s not crazy to think that we could see a pre-expansion patch as soon as a few weeks from now.

As for few features, the area of Pandaria or the new monk class obviously won’t be available until the expansion releases, nor will the level cap get raised to 90 until Sept 25. On the other hand, the talent system, which is getting a total overhaul, is a safe bet to go live immediately, as well as some system tweaks like the removal of the ranged slot from the game and the addition of account-wide pets, mounts and achievements, which a lot of people are excited about.

Maybe the biggest question is when we’ll see the debut of the pet battling system, which I suspect is going to be huge in MoP. I’ve made fun of it in the past, referring to it as PokeWoW, but then again, I’m a longtime fan of the Pokemon games and am looking forward to playing around with the pet battles myself. So with any luck, the panda-loving fun will get started fairly soon.