Today, Blizzard announced that players have forged a truly formidable defensive front—as of the expansion’s first full day of launch on August 30, more than 3.3 million copies of Legion had sold through, matching the all-time record achieved by previous expansions and making it one of the fastest-selling PC games ever. In addition, World of Warcraft’s launch-week player concurrency climbed to its highest point since the 2010 launch of the Cataclysm expansion…
Blizzard press release, September 8, 2016
WoW Legion launched, which almost requires that there be some celebratory press release in which Blizzard referred to itself in the third person.
My guess is that they had that press release ready to go for a bit now, as they didn’t even bother to fill in the date before they posted it. I imagine they will fix that before the day is out, so here it is a screen shot for the record.
So we got some numbers. Blizzard kept to its promise not to mention subscription numbers ever again, so they had to make due with vague claims about concurrency. (No numbers = vague in my book)
The number we did get was 3.3 million copies sold in the first 24 hours. (Yes, they said “more than 3.3 million” in the press release, but if it had been 3.4 million they would have run with that number, so it is likely 3.3 million and change.) As usual, with any number standing alone, I start looking for context. Fortunately, the internet provides context if you look for it. The first day sales track record looks like this:
- WoW Legion – 3.3 million
- Warlords of Draenor – 3.3 million
- Mists of Pandaria – 2.7 million (first week)
- Cataclysm – 3.3 million
- Wrath of the Lich King – 2.8 million
- Burning Crusade – 2.4 million
- World of Warcraft – 240,000
So, for first day sales, WoW Legion ranks with… I don’t want to say “the best,” since its peers at that level are not my favorite expansions… past top sellers.
Warlords of Draenor did just as well according to the Blizzard press release from its launch, which included a mention of exceeding 10 million subscribers, a mark that would soon drop precipitously.
Mists of Pandaria, which in hindsight was a pretty good expansion, maybe my second favorite, and which held on to the player base admirably compare to WoD, had to go a full week to get to 2.7 million sales, which put it below every expansion save Burning Crusade. The pleading for a new expansion towards the end of Mists of Pandaria now seem almost quaint given the mass exodus from the game that came with WoD.
Then there was Cataclysm, which I am going to say was probably the first point when digital sales made up a significant portion of the first day sales, setting a record as yet unbeaten, with 3.3 million sales. There were some good things in that expansion, but the destruction of the old world still stings.
Then Wrath of the Lich King and Burning Crusade check in at 2.8 and 2.4 million units sold on the first day. That was back when Fry’s was open at midnight to sell you a copy and they had pallets of boxes out on the sales floor. That was the era of growth, which Cataclysm put paid to.
And finally, just for completeness, there was World of Warcraft back in 2004, which sold 240,000 copies on the first day, which was a record at the time. No digital sales in that number I bet!
So that is how the list stacks up. WoW Legion sold well enough, though judging from what I have seen… or not seen… on store shelves, it was almost all digital. (I was at Best Buy on Monday and they had a single standard edition, wrapped up protectively in an anti-theft device and sitting alone at the bottom of a shelf. No display. No signs. No big deal. How times have changed.) That likely means WoW Legion sold directly into the currently subscribed base in the US/EU.
It would be interesting to know what the subscriber base jumped up to with the launch. I suspect that if it had passed 10 million, Blizz might have mentioned it. But maybe not, and we’ll likely never see a number to prove it either way.
I will have to hang on to the two WoW Legion boxes we got at our house.
Given the state of the retail channel for the expansion, those might be collectible in a few years. I mean, a DVD for WoW Legion? I am not sure why they even bother. The patcher had everything in place already. All I needed was the code off the label and I was upgraded and playing. Modern times.