For seven and a half years, World of Warcraft (WoW) has been the world’s most popular subscription-based MMO game. Although free-to-play challengers have been nibbling away at WoW’s fan base, as of today, Blizzard can still hold its head up as the reigning king of the English-speaking MMO world: In its first week, its most recent expansion, Mists of Pandaria, sold 2.7 million copies.
Pandaria’s sales did not surpass those of WoW’s previous expansion, Cataclysm, which sold 3.3 million copies in the first 24 hours and expanded to 4.7 million copies in the first month. (WoW currently boasts 10 million subscribers, down from 12 million in October 2010.)
However, 2.7 million is a much larger figure than previously anticipated by investment bank Lazard Capital Markets.
Lazard, as VentureBeat reported, estimated last week that Pandaria only sold 600,000-700,000 physical copies. Lazard analysts acknowledged that the figure didn’t include digital sales, but stated that “digitally distributed copies likely won’t compensate for the estimated 60 percent drop [bold mine] in physical sales.”
Michael Pachter, videogame research analyst at Wedbush Securities, said, “50 – 70% of PC games are downloaded every year, and [Pandaria] is a PC game.”
50-70% averages out to 60 percent, so actually it’s extremely likely digitally distributed copies would make up the difference. Especially for a game that requires an always-on network connection and is updated digitally.
This means that with the news of 2.7 million in sales, digital copies of Pandaria outsold the physical copies almost 4:1.
Thanks to digital distribution, players now spend less time at the local game store and more time in game. And as we know, most hardcore Warcrafters would rather be raiding.
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