Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Best Expansion No One is Playing

Or at least that's what the analysts would like you to believe based on the early estimated sales figures. You can read the brief summary at Massively by clicking the link below.

The short of it is Mists of Pandaria reportedly only sold an estimated 700,000 physical copies of the game in its initial release. I admit I was a little surprised at this development. And then a little skeptical when I read that it didn't include digital sales. This was the first expansion that allowed a direct digital download, and much like people took advantage of that with Diablo III, I had to assume they would do the same thing with Mists. My own unique situation involved buying one digital download (for my wife) and then picking up a physical copy for myself at the local game store on Monday night.

One of the first things I noticed when I arrived at the game store was there were a lot fewer people waiting around than in years previous. I've been to midnight releases now for Wrath, Cata, and Mists. The Wrath release was at a mall in Burlington, MA. There were well over a hundred people, some in costume, and one of the fast food places brought everyone free chicken sandwiches while we waited. When Cata came out, we had moved to North Carolina. The town was less populated, but there were still probably 60-70 people at the game store with the line going out the door. Now with mists, at the same store where I got Cataclysm, there were maybe 30 people total, and we all comfortably fit inside the store.

I didn't think much of it until they started handing out the games at midnight. I would say around 80% of them were the big box collector's editions. I was only there for the regular edition, and the only reason I didn't download it is because I had a gift card to the store. It dawned on me that the low turn out was due to the availability of the digital download, but the only way to get the collector's edition with all the bells and whistles was to through a retailer. If I based sales expectations on my experience, I'd say that digital sales were three or four times as much as the physical sales. That would put Mists total sales up above the two million mark, and close to the sales from previous year.

Then Massively did a follow up to their first article.

That's more encouraging. I hope Blizzard releases some actual numbers for us before November.

I have to ask myself why I care. Sales of the game don't really help or hinder my enjoyment of the game, so what does it matter? Mists of Pandaria is a wonderful expansion. I've only played it for a week, but I look forward to logging in every night. The zones are beautiful. The quests are fun and entertaining, and the new lore of Pandaira is fascinating. The few dungeons I've done have been well laid out and a lot of fun. There are an overwhelming amount of things to do at max level, which may be good or bad depending on your personality, but I like that there are options.

A lot of people in the various forums where Warcraft is discussed dismissed this expansion as Kung-Fu Panda in WoW or argued that the inclusion of pet battles meant Blizzard was catering to the Pokemon kids (news flash, a lot of those kids are grown up now and still enjoy it). The company got a lot of flack for what some considered a very bad Diablo III release. But the expansion is so much more than that. I can't get over the art, or the variety of quests. The NPCs are some of the best I've seen to date in the game. I've never seen Kung-Fu Panda, but I know the Pandaren have a rich and detailed history that stretches long before the movies existed.

My hope is that the game begins to attract attention for these things, and that the pretenses that people may have dismissed it for initially get washed away. It would be like a movie that doesn't do so great on opening day, but word of mouth gets out this movie was the best movie in the franchise, and eventually you have droves of people going to see it. I would not be surprised to see WoW subscriber numbers start climbing back up and with it a lot of expectations for the future of Warcraft. Which leads me to my next thought. How are they going to top this one?


2.7 million copies sold and back over 10 millions subscribers. I guess that answers that question. I'd still like to know digital versus physical copies of the game sold, and I wouldn't be surprised to see those numbers grow rapidly over the next few weeks.)

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