With Blizzcon a few months away a Blizzard trademark filing has been discovered that seems to indicate anthropomorphic Pandas will be making an appearance.
While most of the Blizzard-loving part of the internet is distracted by this week’s Diablo 3 announcements one keen eyed MMO-Champion forum user has discovered what looks like the name for the next WoW expansion. On July 28th Blizzard filed to trademark the phrase ‘Mists of Pandaria’ in reference to an online game.
As Warcraft fans will know, Pandaria is the home of the Pandaren, a race of anthropomorphic Beer-loving Pandas that first appeared as an April Fools joke in the leadup to Warcraft 3. Fan reaction to the joke was almost uniformly positive, which pushed Blizzard to begin incorporating them into the game’s Lore. They first appeared ingame in the Warcraft 3 expansion pack, Frozen Throne, which introduced a mercenary Pandaren Brewmaster hero called Chen Stormsnout.
Since then Pandaren have been conspicuously absent from the World of Warcraft. They are certainly referenced (one of the more enduring early quests revolves around the lost keg belonging to Chen) but they don’t appear ingame – and their home island of Pandaria’s location remains a mystery.
Including the Pandaren in the next expansion makes a lot of sense. Despite the focus on the elemental planes with the current expansion pack, Cataclysm, there are several overarching story lines that seem to be pointing to the next expansion focusing on the Old God that lurks beneath the Maelstrom in the South Seas. Considering that is where Pandaria is supposed to be located then it makes sense using it as a base of operations for such a campaign.
One of the great myths surrounding WoW is that Blizzard has had to keep Pandaren out of the game for fear of offending the Chinese. While the initial images of Pandaren had them wearing Japanese outfits, which did offend the Chinese (given the less than friendly history between China and Japan one can understand the problems), there doesn’t appear to be any truth to the rumours that you can't anthropomorphise a Panda in China.
As to whether or not this latest trademark is an extension of the joke, or a bit of misdirection, it does seem that the filing matches up with Blizzard’s actions in the past (and mmo-champion has indicated that this is indeed the case). It also curiously matches up with the alledged hoax list of expansion plans that has been floating about the interwebs for some years now.
As to whether or not WoW players will get a chance to play furry alcoholic martial arts masters, we’ll have to wait until late October to see if the expansion gets announced at Blizzcon.