Elite Dangerous has a massive scope and Frontier Developments have ambitious development plans. Frontier takes an iterative approach to Elite Dangerous content, gradually building upon features to expand and improve the game.
During an interview at Lavecon 2015, David Braben stated that he had a clear intention of a 10 year development plan for the game, which includes smaller free updates, paid major updates, and expansions. On March 1, 2019, Frontier stated they have a continued and unwavering commitment to making Elite Dangerous the most authentic, ambitious, and expansive evolving space game in the world.
Below is an overview of updates and expansions, both released and planned.
The first season added various new features and content. It was released after Elite Dangerous launched on December 16, 2014 through 2015. Notable features are:
- 1.1 Community Goals
- 1.2 Wings
- 1.3 Powerplay
- 1.4 CQC
- 1.5 Ships expansion added many new ships
- 1.6 Mission System
- New mission types
- Module storage
- Beautiful station interiors
- New navigation filters
- Ship transfer
Horizons - Season 2
Elite Dangerous: Horizons is the second season of expansions for Elite Dangerous. It introduced a variety of new features and gameplay content. Horizons v2.0 was released on PC on the 15th of December 2015. Subsequent major updates were released in 2016 and 2017. The most notable are:
- Planetary Landings on airless planets and moons
- Ship Launched Fighters
- Passenger transport
- Camera Suite
For detailed information about this season see the Horizons page.
Beyond - Season 3
Elite Dangerous: Beyond is the third season of expansions planned for Elite Dangerous through the year of 2018. The main focus is core gameplay, existing features, quality of life and other improvements. Beyond updates are free for all Horizons owners. The most notable are:
- New ships: Alliance Challenger, Alliance Chieftain, Alliance Crusader, Krait MkII, Krait Phantom, Mamba
- New hybrid fighters: XG7 Trident, XG8 Javelin, XG9 Lance
- New weapons
- GalNet Audio: text-to-audio feature for GalNet reports
- Wing Missions
- Planet tech improvements: Planetary Visual Improvements
- Revised trade data in the Commodities Market and Galaxy Map
- Engineers improvements and 4 new Engineers in the Colonia Region
- Material Traders
- Technology Brokers
- Crime & Punishment improvements: Notoriety, Advanced Tactical Response, Detention Centres
- Megaship and Installation activities
- Guardian Beacons, new Guardian Structure layouts, and new Guardian tech modules
- Pirate Activity Detected signal sources for challenging combat
- Improved Lighting Model with adaptive lighting, color grades, fog and god rays
- Scenario Missions
- Mining gameplay improvements, including Hotspots and new mining modules
- Exploration gameplay improvements, including Notable Stellar Phenomena, Galactic regions, and new scanners
- Streamlined cockpit layout and interface with new Combat Mode and Analysis Mode
- Orrery Mode in the System Map
- Night Vision
- Codex, which tracks discoveries and includes the lore-rich Knowledge Base
- Incursions and AX Conflict Zones
For detailed information about this season of updates see the Beyond page.
Over the course of 2019, in between Season 3 and Season 4, Frontier Developments planned a series of smaller content updates with various quality of life improvements: the April Update, September Update, and December Update. Notable changes and additions include:
- The Pilots' Federation District
- Advanced Docking Computer & Supercruise Assist modules
- The Pilot's Handbook
- Interstellar Initiatives
- Revamped training and challenge tutorial missions
- New starter Sidewinder MkI tutorial mission
- Integration of the web-based Frontier Store into the game itself
- Livery can be previewed within the Store and managed from the main menu
- ARX currency introduced for Livery purchases
- Fleet Carriers
The Next Era - Season 4
Frontier said on 1 March 2019:"Back in August, we mentioned that the team had begun work on the next major era of Elite. We believe this will be a defining moment in the history of the game and it will be our biggest update yet."
"In that post, we explained that the content was still very early in development, so we won’t be ready to announce it for a while. To give this more context, in order to realise the ambition for this update, and the size and scope of the content we wish to bring to the Elite Dangerous galaxy, we estimate this major milestone will be ready by the latter half of 2020."
"As development progresses, we will share more news and announcements on features, as well as timelines regarding this upcoming content for Elite. We can understand that having a long wait for news can be frustrating, but we truly believe that this will be the single most impactful update for our community. Having a development team dedicated to this milestone is our continued and unwavering commitment to making Elite Dangerous the most authentic, ambitious, and expansive evolving space game in the world."
"As mentioned in our previous post, this new era will be paid for content and all lifetime expansion pass owners will have this included in their pass."
What does 'The Next Era' contain?
The Next Era update will be in-game content and, as we've said previously, as development progresses, we will share more news and announcements on features, as well as timelines regarding this upcoming content for Elite.
"We know that waiting for a mammoth update like this one is going to feel like your 3rd run to Hutton Orbital. But don’t fret, we’ve got plenty of updates, content, and plans happening as we progress through to this monumental milestone."
"As well as the team of developers working on our next big milestone, we also have a smaller development team focused on adding to and improving the existing game between now and that time. This will take the form of regular game updates and development supported events."
Development supported events
"One of the biggest changes will be the way that we create and support in-game events and activities. Starting in the coming months, we will be looking to change the way that in-game events happen. The aim here is to create ongoing, engaging, and varied sets of content that are supported by the development team which players will be able to actively engage in."
"We have listened to community feedback regarding Community Goals and while they are an incredible tool, they have become somewhat routine for many Commanders. We felt that we needed to adjust them to be more event-related while taking our in game events a big step further. We will gradually be changing our community goals and their frequency, using them within a larger schedule of development-led events to help us create more improved, meaningful and engaging experiences." 
"As well as Community Goals, we will also be using things like new scenarios, reputation and reward boosts (such as Superpower reputation increases), BGS and global galactic changes, in-game interactions, new game assets and much more to make game-wide events that tie into the game world. The aim is to constantly create new and exciting events and campaigns for you to get involved in and shape, which will focus on and benefit different types of players."
"Outside of the game, we’ll communicate with you about these events, how they work and what goes into developing Elite Dangerous."
"In addition to the weekly and monthly activity happening in Elite, we will also be releasing a series of updates roughly every 3-4 months. The first two of these updates will primarily focus on new player and welcoming experiences, and we will also be introducing a number of quality of life improvements for the entire player base, of which we will have more news on in the coming weeks. This will help ensure that new players are able to better progress through the game, and therefore help bring more players through to our very awesome, very welcoming community. We will also have additional game tweaks, benefits and bug fixes for all players. In the subsequent updates we will be focusing on bringing in new features, perks and content, including a range of exciting new additions to the game that will build up to this new era."
"It is important to note that these updates will not take the same level of content or size that we have seen from our previous updates in Beyond or Horizons, as the majority of the development team will be focusing on the new era."
Our commitment to squashing bugs hasn't ended, and we're going to be implementing a new bug report system. As we have mentioned previously, the new bug tracking website will make the bug reporting process easier, better, and more manageable! You will be able to log issues as you're used to, and the community will be able to vote on your issue. This will consider it confirmed and in that way we can put more focus into accurately examining the highest ranked issues.
We hear your concerns and feedback on Powerplay in and outside of this thread. We'll be evaluating and looking into some of the proposed solutions Sandro detailed in his post here. This is an on-going investigation and nothing is confirmed at the moment, but rest assured that we will let you know when we have updates regarding this.
Ice Planets and Fleet Carriers
Both Ice Planets and Fleet Carriers are still planned for the development road-map, and we'll be able to share more information with you in the future.
The Next Era content will be paid for content and LEP owners will receive it as part of their pass. We don't have anything to announce regarding any additional LEP content at the moment.
David Braben commented in an AMA on 11 April 2017: “I don’t think people liked having to pay for multiple updates in one go, so that is something we are going to move away from. At this end of the ‘season’ it makes sense, as people can see the huge number of features we are delivering, but it makes for a higher price.”
The expansions will include significant new features such as seamless freeform (manual pitch/yaw/roll) atmospheric flight and landings (atmospheric landings) and on-foot and out-of-ship activities (space legs) such as FPS combat, walking around and boarding ships, walking in stations and walking and driving vehicles on entire 1:1 scale populated living planets (procedural cities) with multi-player crew and player executive controlled capital ships.
Frontier said "we plan to follow that same incremental development philosophy that we’ve done throughout our Alpha and Beta phases, and continue to significantly enhance the game via further expansions post-launch."
Frontier intends to release small, free updates after launch. Expansions that include significant new features and content will have to be purchased.
- Landing / driving / prospecting on airless rocky planets, moons & asteroids- this was added with Elite Dangerous: Horizons, see Planetary Landings.
- Walking around interiors and combative boarding of other ships. - see Space Legs.
- Combat and other interactions with other players and AIs in the internal areas of star ports
- Accessing richly detailed planetary surfaces - see Atmospheric Landings and Procedural Cities.
- Availability of giant ‘executive control’ ships to players. - see Capital Ships.
The scope of Elite is huge, so a sensible strategy is used to add to the game in stages. "The core release of the game focuses on the ships and space. We'll then be working to expand the game. This includes exploring your ship and space stations. The potential content for Elite is huge, so we're keeping a sensible strategy to add to the game in stages."
Keep in mind that the game has been well planned and designed from the start with all these features in mind (it is not an afterthought) and Frontier Developments already has the technology for this.
10 Year Development Plan
During the 2016 Elite Dangerous 24 Hour Charity Livestream! David Braben confirmed a 10 year development plan and he hopes it'll be a lot longer than that. "Looking back at those (developer videos), you can see what we've done, we're executing on the plan. There's still a lot of things that are to come and those are very exciting. We do have a long plan. It would take us a long time to deliver all the things that we want to do. The great thing is the more things get added to the end of it. So it may well be never ending. I've said sort of 8 years, 10 years, but actually it could end up and I'm hoping it'll be a lot longer than that. The key point is we'll keep doing exciting things and we'll work out how best to do that."
Lifetime Expansion Pass
The LEP was included for Kickstarter backers who purchased the £80 "Digital Download Pack" tier in 2012. It was also available during the pre-launch beta period in 2014 and for a final time from August 6, 2015 to September 14, 2015.
Developer CommentsOn 12 March 2015 David Braben said: "We’ve said things like going down to planet surfaces, walking around inside your spaceship, getting out of your ship, all of those things would be part of paid updates. And we would phase it, we wouldn’t necessarily do them as part of one big thing, there would be multiple over time. Cause each of those, if you think of the work to do each one, it’s a major new-game-level of content. And so we’re just trying to take that seriously. We don’t want to do half-baked solutions."
On 20 March 2015 David Braben was asked about the long roadmap ahead and he said: "Well I'm very excited. I've said over a long time I'm very excited about some features that we will do down the road including things like landing on planets, walking around inside your spaceship, getting out of your spaceship, all of those things I think are very very exciting and obviously those are in the long-term roadmap."
These are comments related to Elite Dangerous: Beyond.
On 24 May 2017, Frontier's head of communications Zac Antonaci commented on future major updates after Horizons: "So with the Horizon season of expansions coming to a close, what is beyond 2.4 I hear you ask? Well, it certainly isn’t the end of this amazing journey… we’re only just getting started!"
"Our awesome dev team are dedicated to continuing to build and improve the Elite Dangerous experience with an exciting long term vision in mind. We’re happy to be able to confirm that the next major updates following 2.4 will focus on core gameplay, existing features, quality of life and other improvements! We’re delighted to be investing a considerable amount of development and effort into making the core gameplay experience even better for our fantastic community or players."
On 26 July 2018, Braben said "We’ve continued to support and nurture the existing franchises. Elite Dangerous has continued to grow, the team size is actually getting bigger. The plan was – beyond the current season for Elite, which is mostly announced – there are a lot of things that we will be announcing that are really exciting, some of which will be free, some of which will be paid."
This is a traders quote from the investment firm Liberum in 2019 "The company is working on a number of exciting updates for both franchies and our expectation is that we could see a big refresh release of ED in FY20, five years after launch (we expect Elite Dangerous to be closing in on £100m of life-time revenue by the end of this financial year)."
On 26 May 2017, Frontier's Lloyd Morgan-Moore said "The Elite Dangerous team is over a hundred people strong."
On 31 August 2018, Zac Antonaci reaffirmed that more than 100 people are working on Elite Dangerous"The Beyond season was always something that we wanted to do in order to bring even more enhancements to the core experience of Elite and being able to dedicate a full development team (over 100 people!) for a full year of free content was specifically to gear ourselves up to support our long term vision for the game."
On 27 September 2018, a small group of community guests visited the Frontier headquarters in Cambridge to check features of Beyond Chapter Four. Vingtetun said: "For the record, yes, the numbers of people working JUST on ED are what they say, their other games were on other floors and no, jobs like HR and finance etc staff weren't part of that number. It was all people actively working on Elite. Compared to my last visit, they aren't kidding when they say the team has never been bigger. The sweeping improvements and changes have satisfied me that they haven't been idle in the last year of the free 'Beyond' update."
Elite Dangerous Sequel
In an interview with PCGN at E3 2018, Frontier's founder and CEO, David Braben, said that while he wouldn’t rule out a sequel to the deep-space adventure, fans shouldn’t expect to see anything on that topic soon.
Braben said “the world has changed. We’re coming to the end of the fourth year of Elite Dangerous.” That's “a wonderful place to be in,” but “isn’t to say there won’t be something at some point.” A sequel is a “long time off and there is lots to do in the Elite Dangerous world.”
- The Future of Elite: Dangerous
- Elite: Dangerous - Development Plan video
- Q&A about Development Plan
- Newsletter about Landing on Planets, Ship interiors and Walking around
- In-depth Yahoo interview with David Braben about the scope of Elite.
- In-depth Edge article with David Braben and Jonny Watts about the scope of Elite.
- ↑ https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php/165775-Lavecon-News
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Important Community Update (01/03)
- ↑ https://www.elitedangerous.com/en/seasons/#season1
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php/354066-Elite-Dangerous-2-4-and-beyond
- ↑ https://www.reddit.com/r/EliteDangerous/comments/9pbpvh/beyond_chapter_four_exploration_reveal_megathread/
- ↑ Frontier Forums: April Update - Coming 23 April 2019
- ↑ Frontier Forums: Lavecon 2019 Content Reveal
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 https://forums.frontier.co.uk/threads/important-community-update-01-03.479122/page-47
- ↑ https://forums.frontier.co.uk/threads/important-community-update-01-03.479122/page-47
- ↑ https://forums.frontier.co.uk/threads/important-community-update-01-03.479122/page-47
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Frontier’s Next Game To Be Unveiled in Late 2018/Early 2019; Elite Dangerous Is Getting Exciting Things - July 26, 2018
- ↑ https://www.reddit.com/r/EliteDangerous/comments/64pp4c/ask_him_anything_david_braben_obe_fdev_ceo/dg42x3y/
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Elite Dangerous Newsletter #29
- ↑ https://www.pcgamesn.com/elite-dangerous/elite-dangerous-standard-beta-begins-next-week-last-chance-grab-lifetime-expansion-pack
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 Elite: Dangerous Development Plan
- ↑ https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1461411552/elite-dangerous/faqs
- ↑ Elite Dangerous 24 Hour Charity Livestream! Part 1! 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KS33cyq6Z_A&t=21m00s
- ↑ Interview: David Braben On Fan Anger And Expectations
- ↑ Elite: Dangerous - David Braben Interview, Gamereactor, 5:20
- ↑ https://www.reddit.com/r/EliteDangerous/comments/aoc8ue/liberum_our_expectation_is_that_we_could_see_a/
- ↑ Frontier's Financial Position and the Future of Elite Dangerous
- ↑ http://www.redbull.com/en/games/stories/1331858657533/elite-dangerous-ps4-interview
- ↑ https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php/444800-Important-Community-Update
- ↑ https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?p=7049960&viewfull=1#post7049960
- ↑ 25.0 25.1 https://www.pcgamesn.com/elite-dangerous/elite-dangerous-2