In a post on the official forums, Blizzard has let World of Warcraft players know they can expect a major content update "in the coming weeks".
Similar to the "Before the Storm" patch released just before The Burning Crusade, the patch will include those features of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion that will be accessible to all players, whether they buy it or not.
The "larger features" that will appear in the patch are:
- New class spells and talents
- Stormwind Harbor
- Barbershops in capital cities
- Zeppelin towers outside of Orgrimmar and Tirisfal Glades
- Two brand-new Arenas featuring challenging new layouts, terrain hazards, and moving obstacles
- Guild calendar
- Hunter pet skill revamp
- New profession: Inscription
This is noticeably more generous than the pre-Burning Crusade patch. A major departure is the inclusion of the new profession, Inscription, which most supposed to be exclusive to Lich King players. However, according to the post, this will be available to all Burning Crusade players, who will be able to take it up to the current profession skill cap of 375. If they want to take it beyond that, they'll need the expansion.
Stormwind Harbor and the new Zeppelin towers will eventually provide access to Northrend once the expansion is released, so when the update lands, they'll be for sight-seers only. The barbershops allow players to change their characters' hairstyles and accessories; it's a surprise that these won't be an expansion-only feature, as is the case with the new Arenas.
The Before the Storm patch released in December 2006, with Burning Crusade following in January 2007. If the new patch is released within the next couple of months, this would seem to indicate that Lich King is on track for its late-2008 release.