WoW's Next Expansions Already Planned

World of Warcraft's Legion expansion may not be its last.

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World of Warcraft's sixth expansion, Legion, was announced this week at Gamescom. Now, developer Blizzard Entertainment has revealed that it's already planning the next expansions to follow it. World of Warcraft lead designer Tom Chilton shared the detail with GameSpot today in an interview at Gamescom.

When asked if Blizzard ever imagined World of Warcraft would enjoy the enduring success that it has, Chilton said, "It is crazy that we're this far along." He went on to reveal that, "We do have more expansion packs planned already."

Chilton didn't share any further details about what might come after Legion. With Legion just being announced this week, we wouldn't expect to hear firm details on what's coming next anytime soon.

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Legion's announcement comes during the same week that Activision Blizzard announced that World of Warcraft subscribers had dropped to a nine-year low of 5.6 million. Chilton told us that subscriber figures have become increasingly "volatile" in recent years due to the changing nature of player behavior.

Some people who played World of Warcraft in high school or college but now have jobs and families may not be able to play as much as they used to. Now, lapsed players might return for a couple months after the launch of a new expansion and then step away. Even if this leads to extreme peaks and valleys when it comes to subscriber numbers, as long as players enjoy the experience, Blizzard is happy.

"That's part of why our numbers are more volatile than they used to be," Chilton said. "That's part of that changing demographic. And ultimately, what we want is to make sure that we never lose the faith of our players in Blizzard that we'll create great experiences that you'll feel like you've got your money's worth."

Overall, Chilton said reports about World of Warcraft subscriber figures rising or falling--something that's announced every three months as part of Activision Blizzard's quarterly earnings reports--is something that Blizzard is "certainly aware of." But there's more to it.

"Ultimately, what matters to us most is whether we believe we're creating the best possible game experience," he said. "Because there are a lot of factors outside of the team's control that affect subscriber numbers. And so, it's our job to create the best possible experience, factoring in the feedback we're getting from fans."

History shows that World of Warcraft subscriber figures increase with the release of a new expansion. So it may not be surprising to learn that Blizzard's new plan for expansions is to release them faster. As a means to do that, as of October 2014, the World of Warcraft development team was bigger in terms of headcount than ever before.

Blizzard has not yet announced a release date for Legion, though a beta will begin later this year.

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