World of Warcraft has once again proven itself the king of MMO hill.
The long-running massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) saw its fifth expansion launch last week, and according to publisher Activision-Blizzard the numbers are looking good.
In the first 24 hours after launch, the expansion sold over 3.3 million copies through to customers. At $49.99 for the Standard and Digital copies (and higher price tiers above that) we’re talking about serious sales, comparable to a full PC release.
The expansion has also helped revitalize World of Warcraft’s flagging subscription numbers. The game was already the king of MMOs, but was dipping into the 7 million range. At 10 million subscribers it’s still well below the glory days of 15 million subscribers. And while it’s the top dog in its genre, other online games like League of Legends are growing fast.
Still, as Paul Tassi reported earlier this summer, in 2013 World of Warcraft still commanded 36% market share and was bringing in over $1 billion a year.
While the release of Warlords of Draenor has been rocky—Activision-Blizzard has given out free game time as an apology for over-taxed servers—the expansion is still one of the best-selling games of the year. It brings updated character models, a higher level cap, and tons of new content to the table, and it avoids the addition of giant pandas, which many players were unhappy with in the game’s previous expansion.
(Yes, I know they were Pandarens, brewer-monks, which I actually liked, but whatever.)
Warlords of Draenor launched November 13th. It will be interesting to see where subscriber numbers are six months from now. Can the expansion bring people back to the game for long? Is this proof that the subscriber model really can work, at least for established brands?
I think, if nothing more, it’s proof that the subscription model can work for World of Warcraft. It might be viable for a handful of other MMOs—Final Fantasy XIV is doing well apparently—but beyond that the future of the genre is free-to-play. Games like Wildstar and Elder Scrolls: Online face an uphill battle.
I also think the future of MMOs is casual. The next big hit will be the equivalent of Hearthstone. I wouldn’t be surprised if it came from Blizzard.
From the press release:
In Warlords of Draenor, Garrosh Hellscream has escaped through the Dark Portal to help forge the orc clans of old into the terrifying war machine that is the Iron Horde, intent on the destruction of Azeroth. Players must mount a desperate charge into the orc homeworld of Draenor and fight alongside and against legendary characters from Warcraft®’s history to bring down the warlords before all is lost beneath the tides of iron.
As Azeroth’s heroes explore the savage world of Draenor, they’ll build and manage a mighty Garrison, a customizable stronghold that grows with them on their journey; reach new heights of power and unlock bonuses on their way to the new level cap of 100; fight the opposing faction for control of Ashran, a huge and dynamic PvP zone; and take on a wide array of Dungeons, Raids, Battlegrounds, Challenge Modes, and more.