I haven't seen much speculation around for a while about the next expansion(s), and I feel it is always fun to think about what will come in future. I am not a lore expert but I know a fair bit, but if there is anything crucial I have overlooked it would be interesting to know.
So I will lay out my beliefs on what will come from the future expansions.
How many will there be?
*One of the most difficult questions as nobody kills a cash-cow like WOW, so I can't see them stopping for a while
*If they do announce the final expansion, this could have serious repercussions on subscribers as people may be put off by the impending end of the game.
*Based on the levels, 100 would seem to be a good place to end it, 2 more expansions of 5 levels each?
*It would be cool to have another 10 level expansion, especially for a final one, one last lvl grind to the end for everyone
*Lots of the obvious expansion ideas have now been realised, meaning there are fewer options, however I am sure the lore could provide for a fair few more
What will they be?
This is the major expansion idea that was always predicted but never came. Some were concerned at the lack of environmental diversity of such a zone but this was also a concern with WOTLK and it worked out fine, and besides, a zone such as the emerald dream is almost a blank slate as far as specific details on environment etc. are concerned.
Overall I think there is a decent chance of the Emerald Dream becoming an expansion, as there are not many obvious options anymore, and I dont think they are ready to take us to the final expansion (discussed below) yet. There is also a fair chance that ED will become part of an expansion or just a single zone/instance.
Final showdown against the burning legion
This has to happen. It is easy to forget, but really the only bad guys in WOW are the Burning Legion, so the natural climax of WOW will be a showdown with them. This would be awesome in many ways, and the new zone and events could be truly epic in scale.
So this expansion is more a question of when than if.
Final showdown between Alliance and horde
It could be argued that this conflict is the one at the heart of WoW, and thus the final showdown of the game should be between these factions. This would not give much of a foundation PvE-wise so this final conflict will probably be a plot-line in the final Burning Legion expansion, with reconciliation between the factions being a possibility.
As you can see, there are not many obvious paths for an upcoming expansion now, which makes such predictions a lot easier.
This is another banker: DH is going to happen, and its going to be in an expansion focusing on demons. DH is too popular, too prominent lore-wise and too cool to not be a class (hero-class) one day. DH also has nothing to rule it out as many other proposed classes do. It would fit neatly into the game.
So here are my thoughts on DH:
*Mail wearer- DH will wear mail for the simple reason that there are only two mail wearing classes at end game, and once again this fits well with the class
*Pure dps?- Obviously one of the specs will be melee dps, and possibly all three of them will be. However, the likelihood of this is diminished by the fact that Blizz will be reluctant to add a pure dps class (a very popular one) to the game, causing tanks and healers to re-roll dps
*Tank/dps- Fairly likely to have a tank spec as tanks are always useful, however the last 2 classes added have both been tanks, which may cause Blizz to take a break from bringing in new tanks. A DH would not conventionally be considered a tank according to how they have featured in Warcraft so far (being shirtless amongst others), but it is not too much of a stretch
This is also a possibility as it will ensure healthy role balance amongst players. A healing spec at first seems a bit ridiculous, but warlocks have a lot of self-healing abilities, so it would not be too much of a stretch to make a DH healer which relies on some kind of Fel Energy or otherwise demonic form of healing, and with the unique mechanics of a hero class, this could be made to be a very fun and unique.
*Healer/dps- as above, just drop the tank spec, a decent option imo.
Other new classes
To be honest I cannot think of any other obvious choices for new classes, and there is a limit to how many will be added in order to avoid ridiculous complexity and balancing issues.
So I will address some of the propositions people have made in the past, all of which I don't think will be introduced.
*Necromancer- Main reason this won't happen is because of DKs, sorry ppl but not going to happen
*Blademaster- Too niche and minor
*Druid of the fang/talon etc.- To be honest this one may actually have a chance. Snake and other forms are popular amongst wow players, and the druid is a popular class, and also a 3-role hybrid. It could be a hero or a normal class, but the difficulty would be in distinguishing it from regular druids sufficiently.
Once again, the potential new playable races have been diminished as they have been added to the game, which makes the remaining options more obvious to an extent. There is a very high likelihood that more races will be added, as it is a great way to add freshness to the game without introducing new mechanics.
Naga are a race which I feel have a great chance to make the game, and I would love to see it. They are a considerable feature in the world of Azeroth and they do not suffer from the 'mindless mob' categorisation that rules out races such as Gnolls and Kobolds from becoming playable.
Naga would be a unique addition to the races of either faction as they are very different from anything currently in-game. They are very popular with fans and Blizz, and they could easily be fitted into the game lore-wise with a new expansion. Just like goblins, it would be a faction of the Naga who will join one of the factions.
*Horde or Alliance?- Based on lore, it would be easier to say they would join the horde due to the Night Elves hatred of naga and the Blood Elves previous alliances with them, as well as the Horde's general tendency to accept anyone who wants in (had to have a little dig at the horde). However, they could go to the Alliance without too much trouble.
*Issues with leg armor- Some people have cited this as a reason that Naga will never be in-game. I think the answer is simple: boots/legs just become a metal band around the naga's tail as is already the case.
*Male/Female roles- I'm not sure if Blizz would ever do this purely due to wanting to let ppl play what they want, but as in the lore, Naga men and women have defined roles, so may be cool if warriors etc. were male only and casters were female only.
Ogres have a decent chance to make the game, they are fairly popular and would be easy to implement.
*Horde/Alliance? Once again, Horde would seem to be the better fit. However, as the two most-likely races to make it, they may have to go to the Alliance.
*Similar to the Naga male/female thing, maybe Ogres could have a cosmetic feature that means that casters have two heads and other classes have one.
The remainder vary from very unlikely to quite unlikely as far as their odds go.
*Furbolg- This was a race which was somewhat of a frontrunner amongst speculators in the vanilla days, but now they are only a minor part of the game so it would seem that there opportunity has passed.
*High Elves- Same as above, although they are much more prominent in the game and would be an easy addition. Although they would not be a full-blown 'new race', they would make a lot of people happy, and I think it would be quite cool. Maybe just a small addition that could be made as part of an expansion without the race being central to it.
*Murlocs/gnolls/kobolds- Hmm, Murlocs have the best chance, and it would be fairly cool to have such races in the game, but at the same time it just feels quite unlikely that they will ever get the attention needed to become playable races. Would be somewhat gimmicky to have them playable, which is not always a bad thing.
So I will make my predictions for the future:
*An expansion in the Emerald Dream for 90-95s.
*An expansion against the Burning Legion for 95-100s, with DH, Naga and Ogres added.
To be honest I can't see Blizz saving all that for the final expansion, so it could be either way (except the DH). In each expansion and especially the final one, Blizz will want to give serious incentive to lvl from 1-end each time, so I am probably off with that call, it's just I cannot think of what other class/races they will add to balance the gap.
Anyways guys, hope this was an interesting read and any thoughts are welcome:)