Last week there was the usual rush to declare victory or defeat, at least on the sales front, when it came to Mists of Pandaria.
Retail sales were pegged at 600-700K units, which is down considerably from past expansions. Of course, that is only physical boxes shipped. There are only pulled-from-various-orifices estimates on digital downloads. (Some of which were pretty positive.) Only Blizzard knows the real answer there, though if there is no press release from them you can guess that they did not set any records. We will have to wait for the quarterly report for those numbers if that is the case.
Blizzard was pushing the digital side pretty hard, and the option does come with the advantage of having everything pre-loaded and ready to go come launch.
And Blizzard itself is offering free server transfers due to queues on a few servers. Eight US servers with long queues does not seem like a lot compared to the full list of servers, but how many MMOs get queues after 3 months, much less after nearly eight years?
Another press release I don’t expect to see is one announcing how much money Trion Worlds raised from their own little jab at Mists of Panadaria.
Trion Worlds announced their own “buy our expansion and save a panda” offer, where they declared… well, I’ll used their blurb.
Trion Worlds, Inc. will donate US$1.00 to Pandas International for each copy of Storm Legion that is pre-ordered through StormLegion.com, worldwide (excluding Alabama, Massachusetts, and South Carolina, even though we really wish they’d let us), between 12:00am PDT September 26, 2012 through 11:59pm PDT October 3, 2012, up to a maximum amount of US$10,000.00. Know why we have to do that? Maine. Weird, right? We don’t know what they have against Pandas, or why $10,000 is a magical number, either. This contribution is not tax deductible, but it would be pretty awesome if it were. Pandas International is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization located at P.O. Box 620335, Littleton, Colorado 80162, whose mission is to ensure the preservation and propagation of the endangered Giant Panda.
The reason I suspect that we won’t see a follow up press release on this because even if they make the 10,000 mark, it would still be during the same week when Blizzard sold more than 600K boxes. And if they don’t make that mark… well, really nothing to brag about then. This sort of publicity works better for somebody like The Oatmeal, who just wanted to annoy someone, than as a method to sell game boxes.
Then there is actually playing the game itself. I have a number of friends who pre-ordered the expansion because… well… its WoW and they always get the expansion… who seem reasonably happy. I did hear more than once a little bemusement that after the panda starting zone it was a bit of a bummer to then have to work their way through all of the old content to get to the rest of the expansion with their new character.
One friend failed to outsmart the system by using a refer a friend bonus to grant levels to their new panda monk. Unfortunately, impatient with the starter zone, they apparently applied those levels right away and ended up with a level 30 monk they didn’t know how to play. Let that be a warning to you.
I decided to give the new panda starting area a look. I think one of the smarter things that Blizzard did was opening up the full selection of races to all players, regardless of which expansions they own. Selling boxes is a good boost to income, but keeping people subscribed is the winning strategy.
Anyway, a new panda warrior was born.
The panda starter area is very nice and does not, I gather, degrade Asian culture for western consumption, or play to western stereotypes of Asian culture, since nobody seems to be out there protesting. I guess pandas are too cute… or Victoria’s Secret models are too thin.
My patience for starting a new character in WoW is fairly low at this point, but I made it pretty far into the tutorial. The monkeys who climb on your back and need to be shaken off might be a joke too close to home for some who spend too much time in Azeroth, but the whole thing is good for new players as it introduces new game concepts at a measured pace. It might be too slow for veterans, but you will come out of it knowing the basics of the game.
The only real surprise was that on a Sunday afternoon I only saw a single other person in the starter area. I realize that, being on the conveyor belt of such an area, you won’t run into a clump of people, but just one seemed quite sparse. But my own server, Eldre’Thalas, seems to be somewhat sparse overall these days. I couldn’t even take care of my item level needs at the auction house the previous week. It has fallen quite a ways from the launch of Wrath of the Lich King, when the queue to get on during the first few days was 700+ players deep at times.
But, nice though the starter area is, it did not respark any desire for WoW in me. I did not run out and buy the expansion or decide to stay subscribed.
There is still a great deal of nostalgia for WoW in our regular group. The topic comes up now and again, even when I am not making videos designed to ignite those emotions. But our own time in the game peaked about the time our server’s population did, during Wrath of the Lich King. WoW has moved towards the point EverQuest occupies in my heart. The disappointing part is that, unlike EverQuest, we cannot go back to revisit old WoW as Blizzard washed it all away with Cataclysm.
And the world keeps turning.