WoW Legion Sales Numbers Stacked Up Against Past Launches

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.

WoW Legion coming to a server near you

WoW Legion has been up for a week now

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.

Roman numerals maybe?

Roman numerals maybe?

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.

Retail Boxes! Old School!

Retail Boxes! Old School!

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.

8 thoughts on “WoW Legion Sales Numbers Stacked Up Against Past Launches

  1. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @C. T. Murphy – At one point I had the boxes from launch through Cataclysm, but I put them all in the recycle bin during an attempt to clean up the clutter in my office. There is a constant battle within me between hanging on to stuff that is “neat-o” for one reason or another and my desire not to find myself buried in useless crap of no practical value.

    Those boxes will likely hit the recycle bin by Xmas.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Krumm

    Wilhelm, I share a common age category with you…polite way to say we are getting a bit old. Playing on computers from the Vic 20, Commodore 64, IBM 286, 486 , the Pentiums of the late 90’s and onto what ever they are calling these computers theses days. Anyway I remember having a book shelf just full of computer game boxes. It’s funny how digital media, Steam and others like it have made our shelves quite barren. I held onto a few choice loved and cherished games, Ultima 6, XCOM UFO Defense, Masters of Magic, and Masters of Orion. All else is a digital library that I still have fears over not having physical copies of. What happens when steam fails… I still own my large supply of paperback and hardbound …books I may have to have them barried with me when I go because nobody will care for them.


  3. bhagpuss

    My EQ, Kunark and Velious boxes are coming with me to the old folks home. I have a house stuffed to the gunnels with physical collectibles and memorabilia (8000 comics and 1000 vinyl albums just to mention not really that much of it) but it’s going to have to stop when we move to a smaller home, which is going to happen sometime not that far away I’m sure.

    I plan on donating most of my to some unsuspecting academic institution if i can find one that will take any of it – the things I can’t shift on EBay that is. The future, though, that’s definitely got to be digital.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Shintar

    It’s really quite impressive how steady those numbers are. I’m not saying it’s the same 3.3 million people every time, but if you disregard MoP (which apparently wasn’t as much of a hit with the xpac day one crowd), they’ve held on to the same number of people for six years. Clearly subs come and go, but when the new expansion calls, the loyal crowd can be counted on.


  5. SynCaine

    These numbers are always interesting, because out of all the active WoW players, how many DON’T buy the expansion right away? With how quickly people get to the level cap, I’d imagine that number is tiny.

    Lets assume 90% of all active players buy right away. If we also assume that the release brings back some inactive players (lets just say its 1m accounts), that suggests WoW ‘only’ has 2.4ish million active accounts (and even fewer players) before an expansion release.

    But, that would also mean that for WotLK and such that was also the case, which doesn’t add up with historically reported subscriber numbers.


  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine – Yeah, this is where it gets interesting and the numbers clearly are not “apples to apples” as they say. I suspect that digital pre-sales enter greatly into the WoW Legion number, given how hard it was to even find a retail copy, while they were not a significant factor before Cataclysm. So Legion’s 3.3 million first day is less impressive than TBC’s 2.4 million because, if nothing else, Legion had a much larger installed base of current and former players to draw on, and the push to buy digital (and be counted on day one) was significant.

    I think Mists of Pandaria is actually the interesting case. It is the lowest of the bunch and had digital pre-sales available, but also suffered from post-Cataclysm backlash and the image of being the “panda” expansion, and therefore not serious. Yet it was able to hold onto higher subscriptions for much longer than Warlords of Draenor, which didn’t even get six months before it was down below the Pandaria low ebb.


  7. Random Poster

    I still have my original WoW box as well as TBC and WoTLK and Cata Collectors edition boxes, of which I think I have only ever opened those three once to get the pet code other than that they have been sitting in a cabinet since I bought them.

    As much as I have played and liked WoW over the years I do get the feeling they jusy don’t know how to hold on to the playerbase. I have been a “hardcore” raider/GM/RL, and I have been a “dirty” casual They seem to go back and forth between expansions of “Ok lets add a lot of stuff to keep Riders happy” (mythic type raids) to” crap we lost people over time lets add more for casual” LFR difficulty which even when I WAS playing casually was just not fun because it was basically zerg rushing. I don’t think I have ever personally met someone who LIKED LFR for the gameplay, to see the story ok, but gameplay, not one.

    You would think after so many years they would have been able to find a happy balance or just picked one and stuck with it. Instead with the lurch back and forth they take turns irritating one playerbase then the other and each time each side loses a little bit more.

    And onviously the huuuuuuge gaps between content do not help. To top it off the long develpment times don’t help. Even with all of that time WoD released without a lot of stuff to do, that they then patched in later, just….no.

    I personally haven’t bough Legion yet. Not because I am not interested, but due to funds, who knew having a baby/being a new (at 39, what was I thinking)dad was this expensive :D


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