It's become standard practice for massively multiplayer online games to release expansion packs to update their core offerings sometime down the road. Since launching in late 2004, Blizzard has placated its 9 million-strong audience with a single expansion, The Burning Crusade, which was snatched up by the human hordes at a record-setting pace in January. Though the two-year development time undoubtedly helped Blizzard's expansion achieve critical praise near-equal to its progenitor, fans of the series have been antsy about how long they'll have to wait for the game's next expansion.
It appears the next add-on may be closer than many may have thought. As the Entertainment Software Rating Board is occasionally wont to do, German software ratings board Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK to its friends) appears to have tipped Blizzard's hand by revealing not only the name of Blizzard's next expansion, but when gamers can expect to see it as well.
Spotted by German community site Gamona, a listing for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King appeared on USK yesterday, accompanied by the tag "GC-demo," implying Blizzard will be showing Wrath of the Lich King at this year's Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany. Responding to a request for comment, a Blizzard representative stated, "We have not yet announced any details with regard to future expansions of World of Warcraft."
The listing lends further credence to rumors circulating this week that the next WOW expansion will travel north to the frigid region of Northrend. According to a report on WOW Insider, an anonymous tipster sent world that the Video Games Live orchestra, slated to perform the final concert at this year's BlizzCon, will play three pieces titled "Northrend 1," "Northrend 2," and "Northrend 3." Warcraft aficionados will be quick to note that Northrend is where the Warcraft III hero Arthas Menethil made his stand against the dreadlord Mal'Ganis, only to be corrupted by the powerful yet chaotic Frostmourne sword due to the meddling of Kel'Thuzad.
With the WOW expansion now quite visible on the horizon, a new wrinkle has been added to the much-speculated beta-key giveaway at this year's BlizzCon. For more news from Blizzard and Wrath of the Lich King, check back later this week for GameSpot's coverage of BlizzCon as well as later this month for updates from the Leipzig Games Convention.
[UPDATE] It would appear Blizzard was none too happy to have its thunder stolen. Updating its listings today, USK has pulled the entry for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King from its database.