World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth expansion which launched last August is the latest in a long series of expansions for the legendary MMORPG. Battle For Azeroth is in fact, WoW’s best selling expansion of all time, with over 3.4 million units sold within the first 24 hours. That got us thinking – how did the other expansions do in terms of day one sales? We’ve gotten some good data from the good folks at Statista and are sharing the findings below.
#1 Battle for Azeroth (3.4m units sold)
In case you missed it, yes Battle for Azeroth is a hit despite the negativity surrounding its launch. The latest expansion which went live last August and brought players to two new continents in Kul Tiras and Zandalar. Both the Horde and Alliance are back at it again, and it’s that classic tale of war that’s got players excited. What also helped sell the expansion is definitely the good use of marketing and social media campaigns. When combined together with the bold storytelling – Slyvannas, Warchief of the Horde, commits genocide at Darnassus – you definitely get more people both old and new, interested in the game to see where this goes. There’s also been a lot more World of Warcraft commercials this cycle. There have been numerous TV ads including good use of the YouTube platform to release those gorgeous cinematics that definitely does great for audience reach, and the total sales count shows.
#2 Legion, Warlords of Draenor, Cataclysm (3.3m units sold)
At second place for best selling World of Warcraft expansion within 24 hours is a tie between three. 2016’s Legion expansion introduced a brand new class, the Demon Hunter, and the narrative brought the Alliance and Horde together to the Broken Isles to stop the Burning Legion once and for all. While generally liked by many for introducing new systems, graphical upgrades and more, Legion still didn’t do enough to break away from the rest.
Warlords of Draenor started strong as the expansion plot piqued a lot of player’s interest. Garosh Hellscream has escaped into a different timeline aided by the Bronze Dragon, and is building a new army. Again, players of both factions return to Draenor to put a stop to this. While early sales were good, WoD marked the beginning of the subscriber count drop, as there were long periods between content that left players with nothing to do.
Cataclysm’s world-shaping events are probably the reason for its early popularity. That and the fact that it was marketed heavily and it helps to have Deathwing on everything. The changing of the World of Warcraft world through landscape fissures and other aesthetics brought a lot of players back to see what and how things changed. It also introduced two new races, the Worgen and the Goblins.
#3 Wrath of the Lich King (2.8m units sold)
Arguably the most popular expansion among players (not sale numbers) is 2008’s Wrath of the Lich King. This expansion brought a beloved nemesis into the fold, and it’s Arthas Menethil aka The Lich King, who’s tragic story unfolded in the RTS games many years prior, and players were excited to see how it ends. Having a very iconic lore character become the premise and drive of the expansion and even a raid boss fight was incredible for its time.
#4 Mists of Pandaria (2.7m units sold)
2012’s Mists of Pandaria was a gutsy expansion by Blizzard. World of Warcraft introduced a new continent, race and class – The Pandaren, and the Monk class. While many still joke about the Kung fu Panda similarities, 2.7m units sold on day one is nothing to snicker about, especially when MoP took huge risks by exploring oriental themes, music and more. But it was done really well to the point that the expansion truly felt unique, and we’ve seen nothing aesthetically like it since. This expansion also brought dominance to WoW in the Asian market, specifically in China where as you may know, Pandas are a national icon. Clever girl, Blizzard.
#5 The Burning Crusade (2.4m units sold)
World of Warcraft’s very first expansion was 2007’s The Burning Crusade. The game added Outland, a new off-world continent, two new races in the Dranei and Blood Elves and much more. With World of Warcraft at the height of its popularity in early parts of 2006, the expansion came at a good time and 2.4m units sold in 2007 is relatively huge. Back then the internet isn’t the marketing monster it is today, and hype about the expansion grew in many ways it would have never done today – magazines, word of mouth and ICQ/MSN – remember that one?