Want to preface this with the thought that nothing is expected of a game development company. No updates at all are owed to the player community. PMG (usually via DarkHeraldMage as the defacto community liaison) has been very involved with the players compared to other games.
Theory #1 – Licensing
PMG has previously said that there were licensing issues. This seems plausible for at least some of the delay. Likeness rights for each crew card could certainly be time consuming. Add in that the voice emotes could require the sign off from every one of the actors and actresses, plus the general Star Trek intellectual property department, and potentially script writers that created the actual lines to begin with. This could require hundreds of licensing agreements to put together the entire set since each crew card could require multiple different individual’s approvals.
Theory #2 – Money
PMG may need to hit certain monetary benchmarks to receive approval from CBS to move forward with additional sets of cards. If the game is underperforming to date it simply could not be worth it to pay the licensing costs of releasing another set of cards. This is not terrible in that presumably those benchmarks would ultimately be reached albeit slower than originally anticipated.
A worse scenario would be that the game simply is not profitable and PMG is trying to stay afloat. This would certainly be worse. However, this also seems less likely in the realm of monetary issues. There have been no money grabs made. Nothing would boost revenue quicker in the short term than the release of a new set and creating additional store options such as pack subscriptions, deals of the day/week, etc.
Theory #3 – Personnel Bottlenecks
We know that the ladder resets are a manual process and that there was at least a delay in doing that due to PMG personal reasons. We do not know what goes into the reset, why it cannot yet be automated, nor why it is tied to a single person handling the responsibility. However extrapolating this out a bit we can guess that the PMG team is relatively small. Do not believe there has ever been an exact confirmation on the size of the team. It is possible that there just is not a ton of cross training. A 3D model artist just may not be qualified to do whatever process a ladder reset requires.
The ladder resets themselves are not a cause of the expansion delay, but could provide insight into how the PMG team is forced to operate due to the size of the team. This has been at least partially confirmed by DHM saying that the PMG team is concentrating on development and not community involvement.
Theory #4 – Development Bottlenecks
We are pretty sure that there are balance updates that are tied to the expansion release. Potentially there is significant development time to adjust cards, test them internally, and then roll out a balance update. Perhaps more likely there is a next version of the game which has the Romulans, and a sub version lodged behind that with the balance fixes.
There have also been two times that weekly rewards were higher than expected. Why not announce that ahead of time? If just on Discord or another forum, not all players would see it. There is not currently a method to set a daily or weekly message in the game and something along those lines would require a full game update to do so currently.
Factor in as well that iOS releases take a couple days longer than the other platforms. We saw with the last balance update that iOS devices still showed the old card text even though the stats on the backend were updated. What then would happen in the few days that iOS did not have the graphics for new cards?
This could result in the need to revamp a significant portion of the game’s code in order to decouple interface changes from card text and cards themselves. With a revamped codebase the Romulans could be preloaded well in advance and then turned on as of a specific date and time when every platform could get it at once. The data sets for the cards themselves could potentially be updated at logon of the game as a content update without releasing an entirely new version.
The couple things we know for sure are that the delays have continued and the reasons for those delays have not been shared with the community. Reasoning that has been given for the lack of details has simply been that not everything is suitable for sharing outside of the development team.
Monetary issues in one form or another would absolutely not be something that PMG would want to share with the outside world and it could also be the most worrying to the community. Why get involved in a game that is going to go away?
Personally, I am hoping that Development bottlenecks discussed in Theory #4 are the biggest reason for the delays. If that is the case, the ultimate outcome would be a more nimble framework with which to release future content and balance changes. Hoping however that there is enough seed money and runway for PMG to do what they need to do.