In the wasteland of terrible video game-themed April Fools Day pranks, Blizzard's Pandaren race for Warcraft III was the rare joke that was actually awesome. A fake teaser for a new army to be added in an expansion, the Pandaren army was introduced with authentic screenshots, detailed models and serious lore. It was an elaborate-ass joke, and such was its popularity that real Pandaren characters actually made their way into both Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne and World of Warcraft. But according to a recent patent filling, the Pandaren could very well become the subject of their very own WoW expansion.
MMO-Champion (a site famous for digging through WoW patches to reveal the latest items, mounts, and story content added to the game) managed to locate a recent patent application from Blizzard. The application in question is for an upcoming Blizzard product titled "Mists of Pandaria." According to the patent filling in question, the patent has been filed for a piece of "computer game software", as opposed to, say, a WoW-themed novel or comic book.
Obviously, a patent filing is no sure bet for an upcoming game release, but given that the name of the last WoW expansion similarly leaked out from a patent filing, I'm more than a little inclined to believe that, yes, the next World of Warcraft expansion will take you the homeland of the mystical Pandaren (which, given the animal's origins and the "Mists" title, will be some sort of Chinese-influenced continent to explore). Or maybe I just want to believe as hard as I can that we'll see a Pandaren expansion pack. The idea that this April Fools prank would be the basis of its own release is the best damn way to the end the whole joke.
And I'm sure my enthusiasm (and the enthusiasm of many other Warcraft players) for a Pandaren expansion is no accident. Following the "tepid" sales of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm (though, in this instance, tepid sales means that the expansion didn't grow the size of the subscriber base for WoW), Blizzard's management announced that they would be changing their expansion pack process, focusing on releasing more expansion packs at a faster rate rather than once every 18 months. By announcing that the latest expansion will finally make good on bringing a fan-favorite race into the limelight, Blizzard potentially dodges the accusation that they're tainting the value of Cataclysm by releasing the follow-up so quickly.
As with so many elements regarding Blizzard's upcoming games, we won't hear definite information of a new WoW expansion until Blizzcon, Blizzard's yearly fan conference. However, like Cataclysm before it, I'm sure we'll see similar information leaks about Mists of Pandaren in the months to come. In the meantime, I'll be sitting here thinking about what kind of class my new Panderan will be. Maybe a Pandaren Warrior? Or how about a Pandaren Death Knight? Pandaren Rogue would be good too...