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Is This the Next World of Warcraft Expansion?

Still playing World of Warcraft? Of course you are, and nothing I could possibly say about the game's slavishly repetitious fundamentals is going to dissuade you. It's more than that in your book: your rock-paper-macro playground, your trial-by-raid (and Ventrillo) leadership crucible, your daily social hour (or five, six, seven and eight), your video gaming joie de vivre.

You've bopped with Kil’jaeden and boogied with The Lich King, paddled into Cataclysm's maelstrom and leveled up to 85 with a dozen different characters, and now you're waiting, patiently or no, for Blizzard to introduce the fireworks Deathwing raid finale.

While you hang fire, here's something else to consider: the next World of Warcraft expansion may be titled Mists of Pandaria, not to be confused with feminist fantasy Mists of Avalon, or Mists of Dawn (an actual Tauren myth).

You know, Pandaria? The legendary domain of kung-fu-fighting pandas? Created as an elaborate April Fool's joke by Blizzard for 2002 real-time strategy game Warcraft III?

Sounds like a prank to me, too, but a forum admin posted an official-looking template to MMO Champion claiming it's not, prompting another breathless media "Blizzard trademarks next WoW expansion!" pile-on.

That prompted me to look up Pandaria, which—according to WoWWiki—is in fact "a legendary place of bambus [bamboo?] forests and the mysterious pandaren of the Pandaren Empire." And yes, they're basically kung-fu pandas, complete with robes, pole weapons, and rice hats.

If any of this turns out to be true, it'll be interesting to see how Blizzard and Dreamworks skirt what certainly sounds like a looming trademark dispute.

When? Place your bets. Last we heard (or noticed in a leaked internal document), Blizzard was targeting the second quarter of 2012 for a fourth WoW expansion.

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