WoW Patch 4.3 Release Date: Rounding up the speculation

So, the big question (as of November 2011) is this – when’s World of Warcraft’s Patch 4.3 release date set? I’ve been reading all the speculation about when 4.3 will come out, and I’ve compiled all the relevant bits.

Updated 28th Nov, 2011

Yep, I read WoW forums so you don’t have to!

TL:DR: Just want the beef? Patch 4.3 will be released on the 29th of November, 2011 – this has now been confirmed.

What we Know

Facts that might weigh into a 4.3 release date:

  • We know that as of the 7th November, there was still heavy PTR testing going on. Raid encounters are still to be tested and the Darkmoon Faire has just opened for testing.
  • We know that all three 5-man dungeons are open for testing and have been for a while, as has the first half of the Looking For Raid version of Dragon Soul, and the new BH boss.
  • We know that the Background Downloader has just started downloading for most people.
  • We know the PvP season is ending on the 29th of November.
  • We know that Blizzard originally announced the PvP season might end as early as the 15th of November.
  • Most class changes seem to have slowed down on the Public Test Realm, and most other 4.3 features are now in.
  • The Looking for Raid tool is attracting heavy criticism.
  • A Release Candidate build hit the Public Test Realms on the 10th of November.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic is due for release on the 22nd of December.

So, what does that lot all add up to?

Patch 4.3 speculation

We’ve got a lot of data to work with here.

The Arena season closes 29th November, implying the patch is close. Season 9’s end was announced on the 7th of June this year, and 4.2 landed on the 28th, 3 weeks later. Likewise, Season 8’s end was announced on the 29th of September 2010, and the new Patch 4.01 dropped on the 12th Oct, two weeks later. Patches historically drop either one or no weeks after the end of the Arena season.

That gives us an absolute earliest date for the 4.3 patch of 29th November, with an outside chance of the week after (6th December). The 6th of December would also coincide with a Darkmoon Faire week.

In general, the background downloader has started up around a month before the patch dropped – 4.01’s background download started on the 16th of September 2010. That’s not a 100% reliable predictor, but it implies that the patch is about a month out. 4.01 was also a huge patch, so it makes sense that the download would start this far in advance.

Most of the testing seems to be drawing to a close, with Heroic Mode raids currently being tested. The only part of the patch that is generally considered to be unfinished at this point according to PTR reports is the Looking for Raid tool, which Blizzard may well wish to see running on live servers before making any changes (due to the difference between PTR and live playerbases, it’s hard to see exactly how it will play out on a non-live server). Some tents on Darkmoon Faire Island are also empty, but it’s believed they are placeholders for future content rather than still to be filled in 4.3

Blizzard won’t release before the end of the PvP season, as the sudden addition of new gear would throw the Arena season into chaos.

All of this information points to a November release on the 29th, with an outside chance of a release on the 6th of December.

But what about SWTOR?


Dun Dun Dun Dun da Dun…

The mega-MMO from Bioware launches on the 22nd of December – a date that looks a lot like it was set as close to Christmas as possible, in order to make it hard for Blizzard to steal Bioware’s thunder. However, Blizzard still have to try – SWTOR represents the single greatest threat to WoW’s dominance of the MMO world ever.

A release date 3 weeks away from SWTOR seems to me to be slightly too far away, although closer than was originally mooted – the hullabaloo of 4.3’s release will have died down in time for SWTOR to steal, well, Christmas. My original hunch was that Blizzard may be sending out signals to its playerbase that the patch is slightly closer than it is in order to keep excitement up – however, the Arena season announcement seems to imply that they’re serious about a November release.

My guess at the moment is that there are and have been some pretty heated discussions going on at Blizzard HQ, with the people responsible for setting the launch date trying to balance keeping existing players happy, raining on SWTOR’s parade as much as possible, but not being flattened by SWTOR in turn. The original suggested release date of the 15th changing to two weeks later suggests that either the QA department weren’t happy with the release candidate build that Blizzard put out on the 10th, that they weren’t happy with having virtually no testing time for that build, or that the “damp down SWTOR” argument won, at least to some extent, over the “players are really bored” argument.

November 29th is still a gamble, albeit a less dramatic one than November 15th. With three full weeks of raiding before SWTOR, players should be well immersed in the 4.3 content by the time of launch, and I imagine that Blizzard is hoping the combination of that fact and Christmas will mean that many players put off buying the rival MMO for a few weeks “while they clear Dragon Soul”. However, most harder core players will have consumed the casual content by then – they’ll have repeatedly farmed the 5-mans, and at least gotten started on Darkmoon Faire. Will there still be enough there to mean they don’t pick up SWTOR?

We shall see.

And, of course, it’s still possible that Blizzard have something else up their collective sleeve for the SWTOR launch. We’ll see how it plays out.

Do you think Blizzard have the most effective strategy to combat SWTOR?