World of Warcraft Shadowlands Expansion Sets Record Sales


            Shadowlands has been getting a lot of attention in the months leading up to its release, for a mix of reasons. That seems to lead to Blizzard reporting record sales for Shadowlands, the highest the company has ever seen and if the reports to be believed, the fastest-selling PC game of all time. That is an incredible feat, one we would like to dissect to figure out exactly why it happened. With a little scrutiny, it is easy to see the perfect storm come together to lead to record game sales.  This record of sales also correlates to a record number of players purchasingWoW Shadowlands accounts.

            To start with the obvious, the quarantine. It has put more people in their homes and desperately seeking new, or perhaps old and familiar, ways to socialize. Unsurprisingly, a major contribution to those large sales numbers are players coming back to WoW now that they have an excess of time and little else to do. In fact, Blizzard also reported record numbers for both long term subscription sales as well as total time played by players. More time has been logged on WoW during this last year than any other previous year. This may not be the largest contributing factor, but we thought it was one of the big ones worth mentioning.

            Another big factor we think contributed to these sales numbers is the delay. You might have seen a few WoW fans saying they lost interest because of the delay to the expansion and choose to stop playing or sell theirWorld of Warcraft account, but a surprisingly large majority of players said this delay had given them hope in regards to the quality of the expansion. Customer faith in Blizzard has been shaken in these last few years, due in no small part to previous releases that felt rushed, either lacking material that was promised or lacking so much polish that it became an issue where the game wasn’t playable. And one of the key reasons for the delay was that the programming team didn’t think the expansion was good enough to be released yet. This concession from the company and promise that the wait was worth it actually reminded players of a time where they felt the company that invested in their satisfaction and solidified interest in the expansion from many who might have been on the fence.

            One more key factor in why Shadowlands sold well is the recent major overhaul in gameplay design affectionately know to some as the “level squish.” Part of the reason WoW was losing subscriptions was the extremely high-level cap. Extending the level cap with each expansion meant it had reached 120 by the release of Battle for Azeroth and it felt bloated to many players. Blizzard had been receiving this feedback for a while so rather than extend the cap again for Shadowlands, they instead overhauled the leveling system. Everyone's levels were converted to fit a new power structure and the leveling system was overhauled to feel like each level gained was significant and important, which wasn’t the case before.

            One of the most significant complaints about a poorly aged key game mechanic receives an overhaul just weeks before the expansion gets released. This is clearly going to bring players back just so they can get a taste of how everything operates now, and maybe draw in a few new players who the overhaul may have intrigued. Not to mention that, unlike many years before, purchasing just the most recent WoW expansion gets you all the content that came before it. That seems like a great way to bring back players who haven’t played in a very long time. And considering that WoW hit its all-time player high of 12 million subscribers in 2010 (And has nowhere near those numbers now) that’s a lot of potential players. Players who might have been looking to get back in and waited the extra months to hop in with the new content so they could get it all at once. That certainly doesn’t hurt sales.

            So a mechanics fix, a delay, and a quarantine? That’s what we think lead to record sales of the Shadowlands. Not entirely. We certainly think it helped.

            The absolutely necessary thing that contributed to the record-breaking sales of WoW Shadowlands? It’s really fun. Seriously this expansion was made with players’ enjoyment in mind and it shows. WoW developers were looking at what people still wanted to see from the game and what they hadn’t managed to deliver in the last few expansion and thought what made the game great may have been lost somewhere and they were determined to find it and put it into Shadowlands.

            And Shadowlands has a lot of fun features MMO players like to see. It has introduced a whole new area that exists independently from the rest of the map. It introduces four brand new factions with interesting and interlocking stories. Each faction has its own unique aesthetic to unlock, which players love. Not to mention that each faction has unique powers for every class, making wildly powerful and interesting new combinations for players to experiment with. Combine that with the fact that many veteran players are completely rebuilding their characters due to the level switch and Shadowlands creates a whole new playing field. But it isn’t a playing field where the players feel nerfed or robbed, instead, it is one that people are excited to explore, to find out how these new people, and powers, all link together and what it will do to change the game.

            Battle for Azeroth wasn’t particularly well received and while there are some definitely outside contributing factors to players returning for Shadowlands, that shouldn’t take away from the fact that it is a WoW expansion worth it’s salt and a major piece of what helped revitalize an MMORPG that is over 15 years old. Some people might have thought one of the first big names in the genre was dying the slow death of a popular subscription game, but Shadowlands proves that WoW, and its development team, still has some fight in them and a card or two up their sleeves.



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