Game of Thrones season 7: Winter is coming this summer?

No, it’s not too early to get excited about the return of Game of Thrones. With the HBO hit’s sixth run now over, thoughts are inevitably turning to the next season… and how much longer the fantasy epic can run.

Is the end in sight? Here’s everything you need to know.

Game of Thrones season 7 release date: When’s it on?

HBO has made a habit of debuting new GoT episodes in the spring – ordinarily in early April. But this year, it’ll launch a little later, in the summer months.

“We’re starting a bit later because at the end of this season, ‘Winter is here’ – and that means that sunny weather doesn’t really serve our purposes any more,” showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss confirmed.

Game of Thrones Whitewalkers

“So we kind of pushed everything down the line, so we could get some grim grey weather even in the sunnier places that we shoot.”

Makes sense… not that it helps to soothe our broken hearts.

GoT‘s return date was apparently leaked by IMDb – with a post suggesting June 25 as an air date for the premiere.

But this info was swiftly removed from the site – and let’s not forget that data on IMDb can be edited by the site’s users. HBO is yet to officially confirm when the show will be back.

Filming will wrap in February – with Emilia Clarke having already completed work on the “mind-blower” new season.

Game of Thrones season 7 episodes: How long will it run?

HBO officially renewed its smash-hit series for a seventh year on April 21, 2016. HBO’s then-president of programming Michael Lombardo later indicating that Game of Thrones would end after eight seasons.

“David and Dan are feeling there’s probably two more years after season six, that’s what we’re looking at right now,” he said in January.

In June, Benioff and Weiss appeared to confirm that the show would wrap up with two shorter seasons:

“It’s two more seasons we’re talking about,” Benioff said. “From pretty close to the beginning, we talked about doing this in 70-75 hours, and that’s what we’ll end up with. Call it 73 for now.”

Given the 60 hours already covered, that does indeed leave us with just 13 remaining – and it’s since been announced that we’ll be getting seven episodes this year.

So does this mean the eighth and final run will be divided into just six installments? Ser Davos actor Liam Cunningham seemed to suggest as much, revealing that filming on the final season will commence in September.

But HBO boss Casey Bloys later insisted that nothing is set in stone – and that the exact number of episodes being produced for GoT‘s last season is still to be decided.

Whatever ends up happening, we’ll certainly be getting less Game of Thrones per year than we’re used to.

But don’t fret: while the next two seasons will be shorter, the total time spent filming (roughly five months) will be the same as for a 10-episode run. According to Iain Glen, this means that the “scale and size of the set pieces” will be more epic and “more extraordinary” than ever before.