Blizzard is breathlessly proclaiming this morning that World of Warcraft Shadowlands is the fastest-selling PC game of all time, by virtue of its having sold 3.7M units globally between when preorders went live November 1st, 2019, and its launch just before Thanksgiving 2020. Whether you think a year of preorders counts as fast, of course, is up to you. Either way, you probably knew an announcement like that that was coming since the company was already talking up its preorder count, but now it’s official, or as official as Blizzard can make it alone.
The company’s press release includes another bowl of word soup that builds on some of the more vague “engagement” claims made during quarterly releases.
“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.”
We’re assuming the pandemic is probably largely responsible for the massive playtime bump this year, but the key words in the rest are “in the last decade” and “last 10 years.” WoW’s peak, of course, came prior to the last decade; the game self-reported over 12M subs back in 2010. The highest sub peak ahead of an expansion the last decade that we know of – before Blizzard started obfuscating its sub numbers as studio-wide MAUs, which have been falling heavily in the last few years – was something in the 9M-10M range ahead of Pandaria (depending on when you start counting). Is Blizzard claiming it had that many subs just prior to Shadowlands? And if so, why not just… say that instead of offering up said bowl of word soup? Who knows. Blizzard gonna Blizzard. Either way, the game is at worst still doing just fine, even setting aside the metrics mischief.