Today, a mix of things came to light that add a ton of possible weight to the theory that Shadowlands, come hell or high water, is going to push for an August 2020 release. – or at least close to.
Firstly, the new legendary cape of 8.3, Ashjra’Kamas, has a twist that was added in the very final PTR build for 8.3. Before, progression on the cape’s leveling mechanic was ungated (on its own, at least) meaning the key indicator was how many essences you could farm to purchase entry to the Horrific Visions, which was still a gate, but allowed you an extra try every couple of weeks to rank up further. The changes, detailed by Wowhead, place a cap per week of the patch on how highly ranked your cape can be, meaning an alt can stockpile currency and run the HVs all at once in a few weeks to rapidly rank up if you want to do it that way.
However, I’m not here to talk about that grind or the gating or the nature of Blizzard forcing an unnatural, slightly longer pace on the grind after trying throughout PTR to strike a balance to draw it out naturally via currency pacing and the rank-up requirements…but do note those things and my frustration with them!
What really stood out sharply to me is the last date the cape can rank up, reaching the point where you can max out the Corruption resistance offered, which is the upgrades you can make past the final rank of 15. That date? September 8th, 2020.
Now, on its own, this doesn’t say too much. Sure, people will naturally be winding down by September, and surely with that wind-down, the cape just won’t be that important anymore. However, if Blizzard’s actual plan was to release Shadowlands in December, having BfA run out of content in September (even highly repeated content we’ll have had for 9 months at that point!) seems pretty awful and not at all smart – so, I mean, in 2020, sure, Blizzard could in fact do that.
However, an interview with Ion Hazzikostas was drawn to my attention by Wilhelm Arcturus’ 8.3 post today, with the interview in question quoted via Blizzard Watch. In that interview, Ion makes something very clear that I hadn’t quite believed would happen…
There will be no patch 8.3.5.
This sets the stage quite clearly for me. 8.3, released today, is the last patch of Battle for Azeroth. The next time we discuss a patch at all, it will be for 9.0, the Shadowlands pre-patch. No further content is coming for BfA, nothing remains past what we get today to bridge us out of BfA. The next time we discuss brand-new content after 8.3, it is going to be stuff from 9.0.
When I take that notion, and overlay it with “no further cape upgrades past 9/8/2020” it paints what is, to my mind at least, a clear picture. Battle for Azeroth is in its last 9 months, in all likelihood.
Why would I believe that? Well, the biggest reason I have to buy into it is simple – no 8.3.5 means that the team is done with BfA development completely, and any staff left working on content for it are now fully moved over to Shadowlands. Further, I think they could hit that deadline based on one key thing – an insight into the development of the patch.
On Twitter, developer Andrew Chambers mentioned that Horrific Visions were in development around 18 months ago. A crazy thought, but one that sheds a lot of light on something we always suspected – before we even got hands on with BfA as an expansion, 8.3 features were being designed, developed, and implemented. Sure, things in games take time to make – often, a lot of time, and certainly a good chunk of that 18 month lead time was design, people sitting in a meeting room around a whiteboard hashing out what things would and wouldn’t work – but, that tells me that the design direction has been at least somewhat clear for much longer than that, and so the amount of time the team would have had to work on Shadowlands in the margins is probably greater than we might expect.
Couple that with the other bits of speculation I outlined in my last post about Shadowlands release date, and yeah…August is just looking more and more likely.
Of course, I can be wrong, have been wrong, and will be wrong again, and maybe this one is a dud prediction, but of the theories I’ve discussed in the last 48 hours, this is the one I am surest of!