Despite the Azeroth-rending effects of The Shattering, it's a safe bet Cataclysm was not the end of the World of Warcraft. The next chapter in the massively multiplayer online role-playing game may not be too far off, as a recent Blizzard trademark application with the US Patent and Trademark Office has sparked speculation regarding the online 800-pound gorilla's next expansion.
As spotted by MMO Champion, Blizzard has filed for a US trademark on "Mists of Pandaria" for use in gaming software and entertainment services. Much like Blizzard's trademark for Cataclysm, the application was made under international classes 9 (electrical and scientific apparatus) and 41 (education and entertainment). However, the publisher also trademarked Cataclysm separately under international class 16 (paper goods and printed matter) for comics, strategy guides, and the like.
The Pandaria name may be familiar to Warcraft fans. It is the island home of the panda-like Pandaren race, first teased as an April Fools' Day joke by Blizzard. However, the Pandaren have found a following among the Warcraft fan base, such that references to the race have found their way into the games proper, most notably with a Pandaren Monk pet available for World of Warcraft players for $10.
Regardless of whether the Mists of Pandaria speculation is accurate, news of the next World of Warcraft expansion is possible in the not-too-distant future. Last year, a purportedly leaked Blizzard product slate gained validity by correctly revealing the code name of the company's next MMO title, Titan. That same document had World of Warcraft's fourth expansion pack penciled in for a second-quarter 2012 release. However, that same document had Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm and Diablo III set for launch in 2011, but Activision has told investors neither of those titles is a lock for release this year.
A Blizzard representative acknowledged the filing for GameSpot, saying, "We appreciate your interest in our trademark filings, but we're not ready to reveal any details at this time." Whatever the Mists of Pandaria trademark is intended to cover, it may be detailed at the upcoming BlizzCon conference, set to take place October 21-22 in Anaheim.