Tag Archives: Wrath of the Lich King

WoW Shadowlands Sales Stacked Up Against Past Releases

This has become a staple post after every WoW expansion release, usually because Blizzard puts out a press release about the first day sales full of superlatives.  And so it goes for Shadowlands.

This time though Blizzard has out done itself with a press release declaring Shadowlands “the fastest-selling PC game of all time industry-wide” having had 3.7 million first day sales.  That is some boast, though the previous champion was, by their accounting, was Diablo III which had 3.5 million first day sales.

They also have a few additional brags.

  • In the months leading up to the expansion’s release and the time since launch, the game reached and has sustained its highest number of players on monthly or longer-term subscriptions compared to the same period ahead of and following any WoW expansion in the past decade, in both the West and the East.
  • Players have spent more time in Azeroth year to date than in the same period of any of the last 10 years.
  • In addition, total player time in game this year to date has nearly doubled compared to the same period last year.

The last bullet point is a solid one, since numbers were up a year ago due to WoW Classic, so topping that says something.  The first point is time bound by expansions that launched in the last decade, which basically means since they pissed a lot of people off with the Cataclysm expansion.  The game’s peak no doubt remains in the Wrath of the Lich King era.

A chart from 2015 back when we used to get subscriber numbers

Still, it is good to see the game doing well, though for the video game industry the pandemic has been a rising tide that has lifted all boats it seems.

Anyway, like I said, there is a press release like this every expansion.  Battle for Azeroth had one two years back which pegged its first day sales at 3.4 million, and Legion had one before that which put it at 3.3 million, and so on down the line.  The totals, so far as I could figure it out some time back, should now look like this:

  • Shadowlands – 3.7 million
  • Battle for Azeroth – 3.4 million
  • 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
  • The Burning Crusade – 2.4 million
  • World of Warcraft – 240,000

Those are mostly “first 24 hours” of sales, except where noted.  After Cataclysm Blizzard needed to give Mists of Pandaria a bit more runway to get into the zone I guess.

And, of course, we get into what really counts as day one sales.

With the original World of Warcraft  launch, that was all boxes purchased retail.  I recall the story of Blizzard having to divert the truck filled with employee versions of the collector’s edition to the retail channel because the game was selling out.

Day one of The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King both saw midnight launch parties at retailers.  I recall a pallet of TBC collector’s edition boxes sitting on the floor at Fry’s in Sunnyvale the day it launched.  But I haven’t been down to a retail store to buy a physical box for a WoW expansion since WotLK.  Since then digital sales and pre-orders have been my thing and have no doubt come to dominate the sales numbers.

Because, technically, that 3.7 million number isn’t the first day sales number.  That is the number of units they were able to recognize revenue on due to having shipped the product on November 23rd.  The expansion had been selling via pre-orders for a long time.

I have a post back from November 7, 2019 where I compared four upcoming MMORPG expansions that mentions that the Shadowlands pre-orders were already open and available.  That is more than a year ago, so we are not talking a single day sales record… or probably even “fastest selling” if we were able to get the actual sales data from Blizzard.  I strongly suspect that the most sales in the shortest space of time still belongs to some of the older titles.

I am now also curious about how long pre-order periods have been for WoW expansions over the years.  I am going to guess that Shadowlands, which ran over a year in pre-order mode, would top that list.

Still, that is a lot of sales, and with that big revenue recognition burst I expect we’ll see World of Warcraft pop up a few spots on the SuperData Research November chart when we get that later this month.  Can it dethrone League of Legends?

Of course, as that list I made indicates, nobody is likely to debate whether or not Blizzard can move boxes, virtual or otherwise.  Can they keep the subscribers though?  That has been a problem for several expansions in the last decade.

Other coverage of this announcement:

Addendum: Shadowlands record broken already by Cyberpunk 2077.

A Visit with Prince Keleseth

It was a busy weekend and we could not get the whole instance group together, but on Sunday afternoon three of us, Ula, Skronk, and myself, found a bit of time to log into WoW.

Retail WoW.

We got out the group I posted about previously to pick up where we left off in Northrend.  We had made it out to the airfield in Borean Tundra and carried on with a couple of quests there as a warm up, enjoying the luxury of features offered by the current version of the game after doing quests together the previous week in WoW Classic.  You can just mouse over the quest in the quest tracker and it shows you everyone’s objective/collection status.

With three of us though, questing was a bit of a walk over.  So we decided to take a shot at one of the challenges we discussed when we started this venture.  We were going to try running an instance.  Our ability, so far, to run all of the WoW Classic instances with a group of four made us wonder if we could handle any of the Wrath of the Lich King instances with a group of three.

Retail WoW is easy-mode, right?  But how easy?

Our group at the moment was:

  • Mendula – 22 gnome priest
  • Fergorin – 22 dwarf shaman
  • Merchi – 24 gnome hunter

We at least had healing covered, as Menula spec’d into that.  We didn’t really have a tank, there not really being a shaman tanking spec.  And, while Merchi was beast mastery, the only REAL hunter spec to my mind, he did not have a pet that was the tanking spec.  His robo-bunny from the tutorial was the cunning  pet spec, which has some damage mitigation, but a tenacity spec pet would have likely been better.

Still, what the hell.  So we headed towards Howling Fjord and the traditional first dungeon from WotLK, Utgarde Keep.  I’m not sure we HAD to go with that instance.  Keeping track of what unlocks when as you zip up levels is more than I can manage.  But we knew where it was and they give you the flight path up front now.

Flight path available

So it was on the… well, not a bird, but a gnomish flying machine… and off to the far side of Northrend.

They don’t call it the “boring” tundra for nothing

Over in Howling Fjord I was reminded just how close to the flight point and the inn that first dungeon really is.  It looms over Valgarde Point, the sinister skull in its facade looking out over the area.

Mendula coming in for a landing

From there it was a quick ride north, dodging the field of mobs before the structure, to the instance portal.  Once inside we were able to pick up the quests from the quest giver inside the instance… by WotLK there wasn’t all the running around for dungeon quests the way we have been dealing with in WoW Classic… after which we were left eyeing the first set of mobs.

The plan was to use my pets to tank… I chose the “two pets out” from the talents, which seemed far and away the best idea… and Mendula would heal while Fergorin and I piled on whichever mob was the target.

After getting a handle on the various mobs wandering around ahead of us, we managed to pull a pair… and it wasn’t a disaster.  Sure, Mendula went down… healing drew aggro… but Fergorin could ress, so we were able to get ourselves back together.

Mendula and our two targets down

Once she was ressed, we carried on, learning a bit with each fight.  All of us died a couple of times before we started to get the hang of it.  By the timer we got out onto the furnace floor, I had figured out my traps, one of which made a pretty effective crowd control.

One mob ice trapped, with the tar trap slowing the others down

Like so much in retail vs classic, hunter traps are a lot different.  I found that I could not only throw them in combat, but I could even throw the freezing trap under a mob in a group that we had yet to aggro and trap it without pulling the group.  Strange times.

We were starting to make headway and it felt like we were doing okay, and then we made our way into the dragon room.

The dragon room

Something in the back of my head said that the dragons were tougher than normal elite mobs in the instance.  I seemed to recall they had double the xp rewarded, which was commensurate with their increased difficulty.  Also, I remembered that we didn’t have to clear the whole room, just one side, in order to make our way to the next area.

I found out quickly that my freezing trap wasn’t good on dragons and deaths occurred.  Fortunately Fergorin has a self-ress spell… also, because we wiped more than once in the room, it is nice that when you release you come back in the instance.  Again, WoW Classic had us expecting to run back from the local outside graveyard.

Dragon progress

We managed to make it through the dragon room on a few tries, then pressed on into the next hallway, where we faced a group of four normal elites.  That we were able to handle.

From there it was into the next big room, Reavers Hall, which is where Prince Keleseth resides.

The big room with the map table

The four mobs at the table, who come as  a group, got a bit out of hand, but we managed to take them down.  That left Prince Keleseth, the first boss in the instance, as our next target.

Prince Keleseth was an inflection point for the instance group back in the day.  We managed to half-ass our way through vanilla WoW instances as a full group, and managed to barely get past the instances in The Burning Crusade.  But Prince Keleseth was a wall we could not get past the way we were working.

We actually spent a week off reading up about our classes over at the then font of such knowledge, Elitist Jerks, upgraded our gear (I think I still had the Carrot on a Stick trinket equipped), and generally worked to “git gud” before we gave it another try.

And, after no small effort and a few more runs, we got past him.  And, from that point forward in the group, instances became more a matter of learning the boss fight mechanics than simply trying to apply enough DPS.  Our ability to run through most of the WoW Classic instances as a group of four, many of which were a struggle as a group of five back in the day, is directly related to lessons learned back then.

Which also leads to us having the spunk to think we might be able to take on an instance in pre-Shadowlands WoW with a cobbled together group of three players.

Prince Keleseth, however, had other plans.

We sort of remembered bits of the fight.  I recalled that he would summon helpers during the fight from the door on the far side.  I thought I might put my tar trap down there to slow them down a bit.  Other than that we couldn’t recall much.  So we gave it a try.

We wiped, naturally.  We had forgotten about his ice block attack, where one of the party members is encased in a block of ice, unable to do anything, while it applies a bunch of damage.  You have to get everybody to attack the block and burn it down before it kills the person encased in it.

Also, as we remembered, Prince Keleseth summons friends, a set of undead, to come help him.  You need some AOE to knock them down fast.  And there were some line of sight problems with the big table and the short people standing around it.

We got ourselves together and tried to refine our approach.  We pulled Prince Keleseth back to the door in order to give ourselves a bit more time versus the adds, but we were not quite ready to deal with them, or the ice block.

A couple more tries yielded the same result.

I’m dead, Fergorin is in the ice block, Mendula is all the DPS

We had been at it for a while by then and it was getting to be time for dinner at my end, so we called it for the time being.   We might not have a very good class mix, I might need a better pet, we might not even have critical skills at our level, or it might not  be a viable instance to go in with just three people.  Some more research to be done.  But it was a bit of fun to go in and try, and we even got the first quest done for the instance, got a few drops, and gained a level.

Arrival in a Level Squished Northrend

I suppose, given the nature of the level squish, I should call it a “level expanded” Northrend.  But it’s current status is a by-product of the level squish, so you get what you get.

In checking out the Shadowlands pre-patch, running through the new starter area is fine and dandy, but it is only a 1-10 level experience that won’t take you more than an hour unless you’re set to explore every nook and cranny of the place.  And for us… Ula, Skronk, and I… the idea was always to go check out Wrath of the Lich King in its new 10-50 incarnation.  So it was off to Northrend!

Northrend awaits

Back in the day WotLK was a level 60-70 experience.

As the level cap grew in WoW though, Blizz started experimenting with expanding the level ranges of some of the older content so that players in a game with a 100+ level cap and an xp curve adjusted to suit that wouldn’t constantly out-level zone and expansion content.

Blizz took a shot at solving this first with the Legion 7.3.5 patch, which expanded the level ranges for expansions and made everything scale to your level within those ranges.  At that point you could go to Northrend at 58 rather than 70 and could stick around until 80.

  • All starting zones scale up to level 10.
  • World of Warcraft Vanilla (Eastern Kingdoms & Kalimdor) scales up to level 60.
  • At level 58, players can choose between Outland or Northrend (capped at level 80).
  • At level 80, players can choose between Cataclysm or Pandaria (capped at level 90).
  • Zones still have a minimum level requirement.
  • Dungeons also scale
  • Quest rewards scale up to your level.

That was not enough.  Levels were still a problem.  And last week we all dropped down to a level cap of 50 with the promise of being able to choose any of the expansions as a route to that, pending the release of the Shadowlands expansion, at which point the cap would go to 60.

I made this graphic, so I am going to use it again

So off we went on the boat to Valliance Keep in Northrend.  Our little group was:

  • Merchi – Level 10 Hunter
  • Fergorin – Level 10 Shaman
  • Mendula – Level 10 Priest

Waiting for Ula… or Mendula

Unlike the old days, one of the first quests you get sends you to Dalaran, a flight point you get by default.  You can also fly directly to Howling Fjord, as that flight point is available as well.  There would be no need to repeat our 2008 ride across the continent.

Our first ride across Northrend

One of the first things I noticed looking at the map… the real map… was that while the expansion now scales from 10 to 50, the individual zones are not all equally accessible.  There are different ranges for the zones.

  • Borean Tundra 10-50
  • Howling Fjord 10-50
  • Dragonblight 15-50
  • Grizzly Hills 15-50
  • Sholazar Basin 20-50
  • Zul’Drak 20-50
  • Crystalsong 25-50
  • Ice Crown 25-50
  • Storm Peaks 25-50

So they haven’t gone full Legion/BFA “all zones are equal” with the scaling.  They do want you to go through the content in some semblance of the original order.  And that is fine.  We didn’t have any intention otherwise.

Running through the initial content was fun.  It has been nearly a dozen years since we did this, but a lot of it remains fairly fresh in my memory.  And what I had forgotten was renewed and fresh again as we moved along.

I didn’t do a lot of posts about particular zones or bits of content back then.

When we got down to the the mist shrouded beach at Riplash Strand and the haunting music I could vividly recall the first night in the expansion.  We were all out there together and I particularly recall being held up on one quest that required you to slay a named mob, Gamel the Cruel.

Gamel, Gamel, bright as a camel…

Back in the day there was no sharing a kill with people outside of your group and there was a crowd of people showing up to slay him.  This wasn’t the happy times of the launch of WoW Classic either, with everybody lining up politely and waiting their turn. (Except Poncho! Never forget Poncho the line cutter!)  I recall standing on his spawn point and casting consecrate with my pally in hopes of getting the first hit on him.  It took quite a few tries before we got him.

But it is not 2008 any more and much has changed.  You can now get a hit on a mob that somebody on your faction has started with and get credit.  And there certainly were no launch day crowds down at the beach with us, though we saw a few other players around almost everywhere we went.

And when we went to get Gamel another player ran up after we had started… a Horde player too.  But he was able to get credit, because the faction exclusion doesn’t apply to named quest mobs.  Everybody gets credit in this happy new world.

We carried on, running down the quests, swimming through the misty water, and advancing down the quest chains.

Swimming in the mists

I had the pumpkin head transmog on because I had to explain how to hide your helm, which used to be a checkbox in the settings… and still is… but which now requires you do interact with a transmog NPC.  Fortunately somebody had the Tundra Yak out in Valliance Keep, so we could use the NPC on that.

And, then when I got a new helm I had to add in that transmog isn’t applied to your character, but to the individual piece of gear, so my pumpkin head was gone.

I also had to bring up… still bitter… about how the Azure Water Strider, the most OP mount in the game and maybe the best thing to come out of Mists of Pandaria, had been nerfed so it no longer let you walk on water by default.  Our mounts had to schlep through the water like suckers.

No walking on water here

We made our way along, found ourselves out at the D.E.H.T.A. camp to run through their quests, then down to the shore and the first interaction with the Kaluak.  I spent a lot of the time with the Kaluak back in the day.  Vikund, my main, still carries the fishing pole he got from reaching exalted status with them.

We finished that up and made it to the airfield.  Along the way we all made it to level 20.

Another achievement

At level 20 the list of things like battle grounds that open up to you can take a while to flash by.

The leveling is probably a bit faster than the rate you might want if you didn’t want to hit level cap before you finished up the expansion, but that is okay.  I’m not sure we’re in it for the long haul, but for now it is fun and memories and an odd mesh between how the game used to be and how it plays now.

What is that diamond? Is this The Sims?

There are still some oddities.

At one point I was standing around and decided to talk to the trade skill trainers.  I trained cooking, then got the option to train Northrend cooking.

Cooking choices

That made some sense to me because Blizz had divided up trade skills into expansion based grouping.  When I trained Northrend cooking I was then able to train up a bunch of recipes.

Then I went to the fishing trainer and that was less clear.

All the fishing

When you get fishing you get the option to train up all the expansion fishing variations.  That seemed kind of odd.  I guess it knows where you are fishing and can apply the skill up to that  area.  But I feel it might have been better to have skipped this one.

And some bugs from Exile’s Reach followed us.  In the starter area you get some skills early on, but later you choose a spec.  If your spec did not include one of the initial skill it stayed on you your hot bar and was usable… until the game tried to push a new skill onto the bar after you left the starter area.  Then the skill would just disappear, replaced on your action bar by a new one.  And it is never well received when things just disappear, so we spent some time trying to figure that one out.

But otherwise it has been a light and fun trip through some old memories.

Ula also wrote a bit about this on her blog.  Check it out.

Tough Act to Follow

We are in the waning days of the Battle for Azeroth expansion in World of Warcraft.  This expansion seems destined to rank down the list in the annals of the game.  It is a bit hard for me to even judge it as an expansion, as I did about as little as you could do and still be able to claim to have played.

Battle for Azeroth

But even with my low commitment to the expansion… I made it to level cap with two characters and unlocked flying, but did little else besides the main overland quest lines… I felt the pain of the expansion.  The whole idea that mobs ramped up in difficulty so that equipping better gear made the game harder… a problem that Blizzard acknowledged but said they didn’t care about… was just the main issue I had to deal with.  But it seemed like everything from the story to the raids was making somebody angry over the course of the expansion.

However, some of my lack of enthusiasm is no doubt related to the fact that the previous expansion, Legion, was one I did enjoy.  I played that through pretty thoroughly… for me at least, no raiding, but I ran the instances via LFG… and came away feeling pretty satisfied.  I liked the story, the zones, the mechanics of the classes I played, and I honestly felt a bit robbed when my legendary weapon abilities went away.

So I wonder how much of my disappointment… or at least my lack of enthusiasm… lays in the fact that I enjoyed Legion more.

I have, in the past, tried to articulate the problems with expansions.  They must, by necessity, reset the game in some way, undo what has gone before, in order to give you new things to accomplish.  They also stand as waypoints where  a company can assess features, add new ones, and adjust things that players were complaining about.  For WoW, the latter always involves an update to classes because there has literally never been a time in WoW when somebody wasn’t loudly and repeatedly complaining about their favorite class being bad on some other class being too good.

That means there is almost always a shake up to the status quo, something that will make some slice of the player base pack up and walk away.

And yet some expansions are recalled fondly.  Maybe not by everybody, but there is often something of a consensus about what was a good expansion and what was not.  The good ones mentioned are often:

  • Wrath of the Lich King
  • Mists of Pandaria
  • Legion

While the bad list tends to be:

  • Cataclysm
  • Warlords of Draenor
  • Battle for Azeroth

But there is clearly a pattern to that, and a regular “every other expansion sucks” seems a bit too convenient.  So I wonder how much the quality or popularity of a specific expansion influences that of the expansion after it and how much the expansion before it does the same.

As I noted above, my enjoyment of Legion might very well have shaded my reception of BFA.  Maybe.

More certainly, my time spent with Wrath of the Lich King, where I played from the last few months of The Burning Crusade and straight through the whole time it was live, made me less receptive to Cataclysm.

I have softened a bit on Cataclysm over time.  Destroying the old world still seems like a mistake… unless you think somebody was playing the long game and that Blizz meant to do WoW Classic the whole time.  And giving people flying out of the box was problematic.  But there was still some quality content there, including possible the prettiest zone in Azeroth, Vashj’ir.  And when we went back and did the instances, especially the 5 person heroic versions of Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman, those were a good time.

And it is quite arguable that my enjoyment of Mists of Pandaria… I skipped the first year of it, but then played it through until Warlords of Draenor hit…  was colored by my dislike at the time of Cataclysm and the fact that I stayed away from WoW for at least 18 months before getting into it.

Which, of course, brings me into another cycle with WoD, and the story continues.

Are the ups and downs of my relationship with World of Warcraft because of the expansions and their merit (or lack thereof) or due to my own expectations being set or mis-set by over exposure or hype?  Should we be thus optimistic about the coming Shadowlands expansion, it having followed one of the down expansions?

Every expansion is its own time in the WoW continuum, and yet none of them exists in a vacuum either.  Each one builds on the past and sets expectations for the future.

WoW Battle for Azeroth Sales Stacked Up Against Past Releases

Fortunately I did some of the groundwork for this post back with the WoW Legion release.

It is here and it is selling

Blizzard announced today that the Battle for Azeroth expansion for World of Warcraft, which went live around the world on August 13th and 14th, sold more than 3.4 million copies.  From the press release itself:

Heroes everywhere turned out in force, and Blizzard Entertainment today announced that as of Battle for Azeroth’s first full day of launch on August 14, more than 3.4 million units of the latest World of Warcraft®expansion had sold through worldwide—setting a new day-one sales record for the franchise and making it one of the fastest-selling PC games of all-time.*

I was a little worried about that asterisk at the end, but that just points to this:

Sales and/or downloads, based on internal company records and reports from key distribution partners.

So nothing dramatic there, just a clarification without much information.

To put that number in perspective here is how it shakes out relative to past launches:

  • Battle for Azeroth – 3.4 million
  • 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
  • The Burning Crusade – 2.4 million
  • World of Warcraft – 240,000

That bodes well for the expansion.

Of course, you have to have some perspective when looking at that list.  Back in 2004 people had to go buy a physical box to play World of Warcraft and it has only been over the years that the process has become mostly a digital download experience.  But back then even that 240K number set a record for single day sales.  That number could have been bigger, but they effectively ran out of copies.  At BlizzCon they told the tale of the truck load of collector’s editions meant for employees being diverted to the retail channel because the game had sold out.  And that was US sales only, as it didn’t expand to the rest of the world until later.

The Burning Crusade number is probably the most impressive on the list, since it is made up of people who went out to a store and bought a physical copy on day one.  I went down to Fry’s on launch day… not at midnight for the launch party event… that used to be a thing back in the day… but closer to noon, to find pallets of the expansion out in the front of the store.  Blizzard was not going to run short like they did with the initial launch.  The cashier told me that people had been lined up outside the store for a copy earlier, so it was a pretty big deal.

I think the last time I went to the store to buy an expansion was for Wrath of the Lich King.  It has either been digital or Amazon discounted pre-orders since then.  WotLK was also a big seller considering how much of it was physical boxes.

And then there is Mists of Pandaria in the middle there, which they extended out to the first week of sales because it had to fight against both the sense of betrayal that some felt after Cataclysm and the lightweight perception that people had about it because it featured Pokemon-like pet battles and pandas as a race.  It turned out to be a fine expansion, but it had some work to do to overcome that.  I didn’t buy a copy until almost a year after it launched.

Anyway, the 3.4 million number is impressive, though the there ought to be an asterisk after it as well to remind people that the number includes all pre-launch digital sales.  You’ve been able to buy a copy of Battle for Azeroth since late January, so they have had a lot of time to pack in the sales, making the “fastest selling” claim a bit dubious.  (I am pretty sure that title really belongs to The Burning Crusade.)

But there were reasons to buy the expansion early, aside from the usual max level character boost (and mounts and pets if you bought the digital deluxe version).

There were four allied races to unlock (for which we received four more character slots per server) and level up, with special transmog gear if you hit level cap with them.  So, as a “giving people something to do” option it had some additional pull relative to past expansions.  And even that was only worth an additional 100,000 sales I guess.

The real number we’d all like to know, how many people are actually subscribed to World of Warcraft, remains hidden.  Once a staple of the Acitivision-Blizzard quarterly reports, they have kept it hidden since the dark days of late Draenor, when the number dropped to 2006 levels.  I suspect that if the subscriber base passed 13 million they would issue a press release, but the days of being able to track that quarter by quarter… or even pick out WoW‘s revenue from the financial statements… are long gone.  The irony of being a public company; they are required to report important data, but they get to decide what is important.

We will see how Battle for Azeroth does in the longer term.  A lot of people are very happy with the open world story and quest lines and the look of things in general.  But there is still the whole question of Sylvanas, a story line that upset some people in the pre-launch events. (#notmyhorde) And then there are the recycled bits from WoW Legion that pop up pretty quickly.  Those aren’t bad, but they aren’t new either.  Blizzard has had time to learn how to keep people engaged with an expansion.  They did well enough with WoW Legion, even if they did open up the Battle for Azeroth pre-orders seven months before it was done.  They will get to show us what else they have learned I suppose.

Picking My Favorite WoW Expansion by Reputation

There is always a desire to rate and rank things, to quantify things down to a simple calculation.  Sure, you wrote a nice 2,500 review of that game, but how many stars did you give it?  What is the Meta Critic score.

And I am not immune to such things.  I can ramble on for hundreds of words about something, how I feel about it, what I liked and what bothered me, but sometimes I’d like a nice objective measure of my real reaction.

Which brings us to World of Warcraft expansions.  I had this idea rolling around in my head and then Syp moved me to action by essentially praising what I found to be one of the worst aspects of the first WoW expansion, The Burning Crusade.

Looking out from the Portal

I find expansions problematic in general.  They must change the game and, in doing so, alienate some segment of the game’s population.  They seek to extend the support of the fan base yet risk driving it away because every horrible feature, no matter how seemingly universally reviled, is somebody’s favorite.  So when an expansion makes something better it inevitably wrecks the game for somebody.

I’ve long said, only semi-sarcastically, that EverQuest: The Ruins of Kunark was the only “good” expansion, mostly because it expanded Norrath without changing it too much.

And yet I am always at least somewhat enthusiastic for expansions, so I am even at war with myself over the idea.

Anyway, my gut ranking of WoW expansions has generally been:

  1. Wrath of the Lich King
  2. The Burning Crusade
  3. Mists of Pandaria
  4. Warlords of Draenor
  5. Cataclysm

Vanilla can’t really be ranked in that list, it is more of a baseline, and WoW Legion is still active and I am still playing it, so the jury remains out.

But I do wonder how much of an effect distance in time has on that ranking.  If it wasn’t for a peeve of mine about quests in TBC it might actually contend for first spot.  I mean, I loved the dungeons, there were plenty of them and, at the time, that was more important than a lot of other things.

So I started fishing around for a way to quantify my activities in each expansion.  Ideally I would be able to extract something like total play time or number of quests or number of dailies or number of dungeons run while each was the current live expansion.

I stopped for a bit at measuring the number of characters who hit the level cap during the expansion, that being at least theoretically being a measure of how much I enjoyed playing in an expansion, but discarded it when the list turned out like this:

  1. Warlords of Draenor – 7
  2. Mists of Pandaria- 3
  3. Cataclysm – 3
  4. Wrath of the Lich King – 2
  5. The Burning Crusade – 2

Hanging with Khadgar and Thrall in Draenor

This is more a measure of how easy it was to level up rather than an indicator of enjoyment.  Plus, WoD started the trend of giving players a level boost and ended on the pre-launch event for WoW Legion where I managed to get two character to max level.

So I fished around some more and settled upon factions.  More specifically, how may factions from a given expansion did I end up getting to exalted status?  It is a decent measure of how long I stuck with a given expansion and it is something I tend to do with a single character.

So I went over to the WoW Armory and looked at Vikund’s standings, took the total number of “main” factions and the number I managed to get to exalted and ranked the expansions based on the percentage, which looked like this:

  1. Mists of Pandaria – 10 of 12 or 83%
  2. Wrath of the Lich King – 8 of 11 or 73%
  3. The Burning Crusade – 6 of 13 or 46%
  4. Warlords of Draenor – 3 of 8 or 38%
  5. Cataclysm – 1 of 4 or 25%

Jumping into Pandaria

Of course, there are problems with that measurement.  To start with, not all expansions have the same, or even comparable, numbers of factions.  And there there is the question as to which factions should really count?  I put “main” in apologetic quotes above for a reason.  I somewhat arbitrarily decided individuals in Mists of Pandaria should not count, nor should the Sholazar Basin factions in Wrath of the Lich King.

If I add those in MoP goes to 63% and WotLK goes to 61%.  Since that keeps the ranking the same I dismissed that for the moment.

Going the other direction, I might argue that the sub-factions of Alliance Vanguard in WotLK ought not to count the same way the Sholazar Basin factions didn’t count, which would give the expansion an 86% score, putting it on top.

And then there is the question of which factions did I get to exalted in one expansion AFTER a later expansion appeared.  Things get ugly for TBC with that, since I did at least three of those factions long after the fact, and even uglier for Cataclysm, which drops to zero.

  1. Wrath of the Lich King – 8 of 11 or 86%
  2. Mists of Pandaria – 10 of 12 or 83%
  3. Warlords of Draenor – 3 of 8 or 38%
  4. The Burning Crusade – 3 of 13 or 23%
  5. Cataclysm – 0 of 4 or 0%

Valiance Keep Harbor

This is the reason I cannot rate Vanilla, I am pretty sure I only had one or two factions to exalted at the most during the reign of the original game, and maybe not even that.  The Argent Tournament in WotLK got me to exalted on most of the main alliance factions  Also, there are a those wacky factions, like the Bloodsail Buccaneers, or raid only factions, like the Brood of Nozdormu, that I was never going to crack.

And this brings in a side issue, which is the expectations set by the previous state of the game.  After Vanilla my expectations for TBC were pretty high.  They were met on the dungeon experience side of things, but were dashed by how Blizz decided questing should be handled.  And don’t get me started on ugly equipment or the introduction of some really dull daily quests.

So my expectations were more modest for WotLK.

Then came Cataclysm, the expansion I spent the least amount of time playing.  That set expectations so low that I punted on Mists of Pandaria until it had been out for a year, then found it to be a really solid expansion.  But with only 5 level boost in the level cap you could get to dailies and follow on items like playing with your farm or doing fishing quest pretty quickly.

That realization, along with the return to TBC vibe that Warlords of Draenor started with and the idea of housing, again set expectations high.  The zones were fine, the dungeons good, but garrisons sucked the life out of things, seemingly having been designed to prove a comment that Blizz made long ago about why they didn’t want housing; they pulled people out of the world into their own little domains.

To add to the list of things that this might measure, I should also consider what I got out of getting various faction standings to their current state.

In WotLK getting to exalted unlocked mounts.  Many mounts.  Likewise, mounts were a motivator in MoP.  I know that the only faction I have at exalted in Cataclysm is there because I wanted that camel mount, while in TBC the Netherwing and the Sha’tari Skyguard specifically to get their mounts.  But in Warlords of Draenor I either didn’t want mounts or they were not there.  I can’t remember.  All I really wanted was to unlock flying, and that

And over the course of all of this the game has changed, the market changed, and we have all changed.  Goofy stuff that my daughter and I used to do, like wander far afield just to find a specific pet, have been replaced with other tasks.  The instance group, with whom I ran though Vanilla, TBC, and WotLK, started to fall apart as the years went by, our lives changed, and our ability to stay up late diminished.

So I have gone from a situation where the dungeon content has been supreme in my mind to being much more interested in solo items with some touristy group things via Dungeon Finder and LFR.  That means my rankings are flawed in an even more esoteric fashion.

So TBC and WotLK were good at dungeons when that was important to me while Cataclysm was not, while MoP was very good for solo when that was important to me while WoD wasn’t quite there.  But WotLK was also very good for solo for me once the group tired, while the TBC solo content didn’t hold me very well once the group was done with dungeons.

So maybe, in my own little world, I can admit that WotLK was a good expansion and put it alongside Ruins of Kunark.

Basically, 1,500 words in, I think I have decided that I have wholeheartedly liked two MMO expansions, but I don’t expect you to agree with me.

Timewalking to Northrend

Timewalking has been in World of Warcraft for a while now.  This is where they open up dungeons from past expansions, reworked to support players in the current expansion.

Re-using old content and making it viable in the current context/meta of the game is something I am totally in favor of.  I just haven’t participated in the whole Timewalking thing up until now.

That is mostly because I haven’t been subscribed and playing for about the last year, so I missed the previous events.  Now that I am back though I took an evening to look into what was going on.

I was lured in by the fact that the current event is for dungeons from the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, which was provably the peak of my interest in WoW.

That was the only expansion I stuck with from day one through until the next expansion drop.  Unfortunately, the next drop was Cataclysm, about which I have a list of gripes, and which started my pattern of starting expansions, go away for six months to a year, then coming back to finish them off after Blizz has unlocked all the content and fixed the more egregious issues.

(As an aside, Wrath of the Lich King was launched nine years ago yesterday.  That seems like a long time ago now.)

However, now that I am back and enjoying Legion, timewalking is also an option, of course I was going to indulge myself in the current even and travel back to Northrend and the instances I knew so well at one point.

I did a couple of the instances before figuring out that there was a quest for the event that would award some additional benefit in the form of vendor tokens, so I grabbed that and kept on going for a while.  Going back to the old haunts was a nice little break from Suramar, and didn’t slow me down too much.  I have been on a WoW binge for a bit now.

Slaying King Ymiron again

The event was popular so queuing for it in Dungeon Finder was quick, even as DPS.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the dungeons themselves and how they might scale or what drops one might get.  I was quite happy with the ilevel 880 timewarped Northrend gear I got, which was both an upgrade over what I was currently wearing as well as giving me a bit of the old school WotLK look.

Vikund and the Knights who say “Ni!”

There were also artifact boosts for every boss and vendor tokens along the way, though the drops from dungeon mobs themselves were still seemed to be in the WotLK level range.

Finding the vendor took a minute though.  When I completed the event quest it told me to go find the vendor in Dalaran.  However, he was nowhere to be seen in the Legion Dalaran, so I had to think about the best way to get to the WotLK Dalaran, the two co-existing in the game.

I decided to take the portal to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms in Pandaria from the Legion Dalaran, remembering that there was a portal from there to the WotLK Dalaran.

Passing through Pandaria

That got me to the correct Dalaran where I was able to find the vendor, standing in the center of town with a crowd around him.

The vendor is in there somewhere

The quest turn in actually gave me quite a few tokens to play with, tripling the tokens I had earned along the way.

The reward

The tokens can be turned in for various bits of gear… though honestly I got so many upgrades that there was only one piece that was a semi-side-grade for me… or tokens to up your standings with various Northrend factions… not helpful since I am exalted with all the factions for which there are tokens… and some expensive things like a mount.  I’d have to run a lot more dungeons to get there.

The list of things from the vendor are over at the WoW Head timewalking guide.

It was there that I also learned that there were only six dungeons in play for timewalking, which explains why I saw some repeats.

The limited rotation wasn’t all bad.  My main worry was pulling The Oculus, the gimmick instance most likely to cause a rift in a group in the entire expansion.  Dungeon Finder groups fall apart doing that on normal mode.

What is probably my all-time most run instance ever, The Nexus, was on the list so I got to run a victory lap there.  I even remembered to jump during the last fight.

Still, I wouldn’t have minded doing Utgarde Keep or a couple of the others.

Which leads us down to the experience of running the instances now, so many years later.

On the one hand, it was fun in its own way to romp through a few old places.  I even remembered how most of the fights went.

On the flip side the problems with both timewalking and Dungeon Finder were apparent.

The ilevel reduction to make the instances something of a challenge doesn’t seem to be enough.  This is doubly so since I noticed I was getting credit for doing Heroic instances in doing these timewalking dungeons.  The power/difficulty ratio barely put these on par with normal mode dungeons at level.

And then the real problem with Dungeon Finder, which isn’t jerks or the unhelpful, who tend to be rare in my experience, but the speed.  When you’re in a group with strangers you’re not there to share an experience but get the reward for completion.  So each of these runs became races through the content, made all the more hasty by the ease with which we tore through boss after boss.

Ideally I would have liked to go through these old instances in a pre-made group, preferably the old instance group, to savor a bit of the history, to sit a while and listen to what the bosses have to say, to actually enjoy the fights.  But you go with the options you have, and random Dungeon Finder groups are the only choice some of us have, so you have to make the most of it.

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.

The Lich King? We Could Have Taken Him

I think it is a sign that the team is happy being back in Azeroth when we all show up for group night nearly an hour early.

Or maybe we all just felt we needed some additional warm up time.

Either way, our normal meetup time is 9pm and we were all in-game by 8:10pm.  All five of us and not just the three or four who could make it.  It was on like some sort of plumber vs. ape event.  Our official group lineup for the night was:

  • Earlthecat – Level 80 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 81 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 80 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 80 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 81 Gnome Mage DPS

And the first item on our agenda was to finish up the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.  Last week four of us delved into the final chain of three instances that wraps up the five person content in Icecrown Citadel.  We managed two out of three, with the second one being a bit of a trial for us.  This time around we would go for all three.

Ula, Skronk, and I got out to Icecrown Citadel and used the summoning stone to bring Bung and Earl to us.  Somewhere along the line I guess the summoning stone requirements got reduced to just two people in your group being required to summon.  And so, for the first time in at least two years, we were all together in a group and ready to do an instance in Azeroth.

Hanging around in Icrcrown

Hanging around in Icecrown

(Humanoids in the picture above: Skronk, Alioto, Bung, Ula, Earl, Jaina Proudmoore)

We planned to run through all three.  We wanted Earl to get the whole show and we figured that since we only had trouble with the final bosses on the first two as a foursome, that being a full group would speed things along.  There was a thought given to trying it at the Heroic setting, but we opted for Nomal given that this was our return venture.

More after the cut due the usual verbosity and over use of screen shots in place of narrative.  Plus I totally spoil the ending if you haven’t done it yet.

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The Instance Group Returns to Northrend

Sort of.

As has been the case for much of 2013, we could only muster four out of five of the group.  Still, everybody has successfully resubscribed, patched, and logged into the game in the last week, so everybody is on board with the idea if not able to be present.  We are going to take another run at Azeroth.

So it was time to get the old team out, our original level 1 to 80 instance group, and do some warm-up exercises.  The planned group was:

  • Earlthecat – Level 80 Human Warrior Tank (missing)
  • Bungholio – Level 80 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 80 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Skronk – Level 81 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Ula – Level 81 Gnome Mage DPS

However, as Earl was out of town, we had to make do.

Alioto the druid is my latest character substitution into the group.  I had to change out because I ran ahead in levels with Vikund, my paladin.

Alioto is named after the former mayor of San Francisco because… well… I needed a name and that popped into my head and, more importantly on a very old WoW server, was actually available.  He is one of a selection of druids in WoW that have exactly the same dual spec options and professions.  I always seem to go feral for solo, healing for random instances, herbalism for harvesting, and inscription for a trade.  I actually have more such druids than hunters.

Even on the same server

Just on one server

But now I had a chance to change this pattern.  I cleared out my healing spec on Alioto and picked up the new… well, new to me… Guardian druid spec, which is for durids wat is bare.  Or bear.  I pretty much had to do that because, if you look at our line up, there are not a lot of other realistic tanking options.  Though, as things will turn out, the cloth wearing priest healer will do in a pinch.

The plan was a warm-up exercise to see if we could actually work as a team with the somewhat changed classes of WoW.  Our target was to scout out the three final 5 player instances in Wrath of the Lich King.  Those were added after we had “finished” the last instance… Utgarde Pinnacle… in the expansion.

Time to finish off what we started.

More after the break due to an excess of verbiage and screen shots.

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