Second WOW expansion 'scheduled' for '08

Blizzard parent Vivendi is planning to ship Wrath of the Lich King in "second half" of the current year; Blizzard revs near $100 million per month.

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Last month, rumors surfaced about Wrath of the Lich King, the second expansion to Blizzard Entertainment's wildly popular World of Warcraft. According to a report on World of Warcraft fan site WOW Insider, "anonymous sources" claimed the game had entered the alpha-testing stage, with "various players...being invited to check it out, under a strict [nondisclosure agreement]."

Today, speculation yielded to confirmation. As part of its quarterly earnings report, Vivendi SA, the French multinational that owns Blizzard Entertainment, officially announced that Wrath of the Lich King "is scheduled to be released in the second half of 2008." Given that the first WOW expansion, The Burning Crusade, sold 2.4 million copies in just 24 hours, the add-on has the potential to dominate the PC gaming market during the holiday quarter.

As outlined in GameSpot's brand-new preview, the expansion will introduce a large amount of new content to the WOW universe. The villain of the title is Arthas, the wicked antihero prominently featured in Warcraft III's Frozen Throne expansion who has since become an undead lord. The expansion's action will be set in the realm of Northrend, a frigid land whose geography and inhabitants are heavily influenced by Norse mythology.

In addition to formalizing Wrath of the Lich King's window, Vivendi gave an update on WOW's overall subscriber base--which will surely expand when the add-on hits the market. As of March 31, the massively multiplayer game boasted over 10.7 million players, which helped Blizzard generate €192 million ($297 million) in revenue during the first quarter--or roughly €64 million ($99 million) per month.

Excluding "the allocation of overheads" of Vivendi's game group, which includes Sierra Entertainment, the publisher generated €99 million ($153 million) in adjusted earnings before interest and income taxes (EBITA) during the quarter--or roughly €33 million ($51.0 million) each month.

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