World of Warcraft’s next expansion, Dragonflight, will take place three years after the events of the game’s current expansion, Shadowlands, the game’s narrative lead Steve Danuser has confirmed.
Danuser specifically laid out the timeline of events for the two expansions in a post to the official WoW forums, stating that Shadowlands began in the year 35, and Dragonflight is set to begin in year 40. The World of Warcraft universe began counting this timeline’s years following the opening of the Dark Portal.
“Given that the events of Shadowlands took place over the course of two years, that leaves a few additional years that we are fast-forwarding through,” Danuser said in his post. “Our purpose here is not to have a litany of events take place outside the game that you need to read about in a novel or other media to understand the state of the world. The goal of the fast-forward is to provide the people of Azeroth with a slice of ‘normal’ life without a major threat looming over their heads.”
Although nearly 18 years have passed in real-life since the launch of WoW back in 2004, a little less time has passed in-game. The game’s first expansion, The Burning Crusade, was released in 2007 but took place in the year 26 in the WoW universe. Only nine in-game years had passed between the game’s first and the game’s latest expansion, Shadowlands, despite 13 years passing in the real world between their respective releases.
In years past, Blizzard Entertainment has released WoW novels and short stories to fill players in and what happens in-between expansions. In-between the Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands expansions, Blizzard released Shadows Rising, a novel to bridge the gap between the two versions of the game. Blizzard plans to release a digital short story that details a teased specific event in Dragonflight during the time-skip, although the story “won’t be necessary in order to understand the events of Dragonflight,” according to Danuser.
One of the primary reasons Blizzard is electing to skip a few years in the timeline ahead of Dragonflight is to “[stretch] out WoW’s timeline,” in addition to letting younger characters age a bit. Anduin Wrynn, who is in his early-20’s in the current timeline, could be a character to benefit from a time skip.
Blizzard confirmed that no major story developments will take place during the skip and that players will be able to experience any hard-hitting plot lines and quest chains themselves through gameplay. “As cool as it is to show locations and populations evolving because of story progression, we want events of this importance to be in-game questing that our players experience for themselves,” Danuser said.
WoW: Dragonflight has not been given an official release date at this time, although the game is slated to be released before the end of 2022. The expansion is currently in its alpha testing phase.