In a move that hints at a possible next expansion for World of Warcraft, Blizzard has purchased the name "Mists of Pandaria." This move leads many to believe that Blizzard is laying the framework for World of Warcraft's fourth add-on in the series.
The lore for Pandaria is in place already. What once started as an April Fool's Day prank for WarCraft 3 has turned into something of a reality. Currently, a player can go to the Blizzard store and purchase a kung fu Panda for a companion pet, and there have also been rare sightings of pandas in Azeroth. The popularity of the creatures might hint at the next move for Blizzard.
The news of a "Mists of Pandaria" trademark first appeared on a forum at MMO Champion - which now features clarification that the trademark is not a book or other non-game merchandise.
Given that Blizzard has promised a faster turnaround for WoW expansion content, this could be an interesting add-on - as with each expansion, the developer has also added new races or additional classes. In the past, the Pandas have been more aligned with the Alliance. As a result, it is doubtful that they would be a new playable race - unless Blizzard has something similar in store for the Horde - to balance things out. By looking at past expansions, the pattern has been an alternating one. "The Burning Crusade" introduced two new races: Blood Elves and Dranei. In "Wrath of the Lich King," Arthas' Death Knights turned against him - giving players a new class. "Cataclysm" went back to the introduction of new races with Goblins and Woregen. According to the lore, Pandas are expert martial artists (and drinkers) - so they might make for an interesting new class that relies heavily on hand to hand combat and martial arts.
Some questions do arise with Pandas running around Azeroth. As the national animal of China, Blizzard runs the risk of alienating decision-makers in the region. With Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard made several changes to the content - in order to pass the censors in China. China actually protects the Panda in its national constitution - including protection for images and the portrayal of the animal in mainland China. Should Blizzard show harm coming to a Panda in the game, it will make it difficult to sell the game in the region. As it stands, though, Blizzard has a tenuous relationship with the nation, and may be willing to forgo its relationship with the state - or at the very least, forgo selling the expansion in the Chinese markets.
While Blizzard has kept players on Azeroth for two expansions, many fans have wondered where a fourth add-on would take them. Pandaria would keep gamers on the mainland - but still with the possibility of new lands to explore. In the wake of the sundering, Blizzard could easily incorporate something along these lines - especially since the island of Pandaria is already a part of the lore.
While Blizzard has not communicated anything regarding the purchase, a trademark is often the first step. In 2009 Blizzard had purchased the name "Cataclysm" - hinting that a new expansion would be arriving in the not-too-distant-future. Of course, we now know that speculation around the trademark was correct - since "Cataclysm" was released back in December 2010.
Ever since Blizzard merged with Activision, the developer has followed the publisher's lead by putting out one expansion a year - in an attempt to keep content fresh. Now that Blizzard has made the "Mists of Pandaria" purchase, they've no doubt put another expansion of the WoW community radar. Maybe they'll unveil the new expansion in October at BlizzCon 2011.
Where would you like to see Blizzard take the next expansion? Are you ready to face Pandas?
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