Activision Blizzard (neé Blizzard Entertainment) is a very successful video game company. Over the past two decades, the firm has earned the admiration and devotion of a fanbase that trumps every other gaming studio in existence, with the possible exception of Nintendo. Thus, when Blizzard releases a new game, it’s simply expected that sales records will be broken. It’s never a question of “if,” but instead of “by how much.” In turn, when a Blizzard game doesn’t top sales records, it’s a bit alarming and suggests something might be wrong.
Mists Of Pandaria, the latest expansion for the world’s most popular subscription-based massively multiplayer online role playing game World Of Warcraft, hit retail shelves on September 25 alongside Blizzard’s standard marketing push which includes television commercials, online ads and massive amounts of press coverage. It seemed like a typical big-budget Blizzard release, but when the first day sales totals rolled in things seemed a bit off. In that initial 24 hour period of availability, Mists Of Pandaria managed to sell 2.7 million copies, a figure that would be seen as a massive victory for almost any other video game release, but when compared to the numbers posted by Blizzard’s past games, it’s something of a disappointment.
To wit: Cataclysm, the previous World Of Warcraft expansion, which was released in December of 2010, set a new sales record by moving 3.3 million units in its its first day on store shelves (a record that was later broken by Blizzard’s own Diablo III). Likewise, the expansion before that, 2008’s Wrath Of The Lich King, sold 2.8 million copies in its first day, making it the fastest selling PC game released up to that time.
While it’s been public knowledge for quite a while that World Of Warcraft’s subscription base has been steadily dwindling over the past few years, as long as the game kept breaking records with each new addition it seemed that Blizzard’s flagship MMO would continue to utterly dominate its genre. Mists Of Pandaria’s arguably disappointing sales however, seem to suggest that the masses have finally become burned out on World Of Warcraft, and that perhaps they are now gravitating toward other online games.
Of course, even without setting this particular sales record, World Of Warcraft is far from dead. It’s still the largest subscription-based MMO on the planet by a huge margin, and its only real competitors are either games that have yet to be released, or MMOs that have attracted mere fractions of the user-base that Blizzard has cultivated. Also, it’s important to remember that this “2.7 million” figure fails to take into account how well Mists Of Pandaria has been selling in China, a country with a notorious love for both American culture and massively multiplayer online games. Not that we expect the Chinese sales figures to massively increase that first-day sales total, but at least things aren’t quite as bleak as they seem. Activision Blizzard continues to rake in money courtesy the world’s most lucrative interactive cash cow, and the game is nowhere near being shut down. You may now towel the fear sweat from your brow and go back to hunting murlocs.