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Bloody Hell

It feels lovely, getting to say stuff like “Recettear has sold 100,000 copies” and “Amnesia has sold 200,000 copies.” Those figures mean that small groups of people’s lives have changed, improved, had nice sofas and bigger TVs added to them. Truly, it warms the cockles of EARTH_MAMMAL_HUMAN_ORGAN_HEART.

Then Blizzard announce that they’ve sold 4.7 million copies of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm and you just think “God, that’s a lot of goblins.”

Reverse engineer the maths and it’s clear that, despite that enormous number, probably not very many people’s lives have changed, improved, had nice sofas and bigger TVs added to them. Blizzard employs, apparently, some 2,700 employees, so they’re spreading the cash a whole lot thinner – but clearly, you’ve got to spend money to make money. The sheer size of the Warcraft enterprise is just insane, and surely unprecedented in the history of games.

Of course, 4.7 million pales in significant to the widely-reported 12 million WoW subscribers figures. Bear in mind, though, China doesn’t have Cataclysm yet, and by all accounts that contributes somewhere in the region of six million subscribers. Also, 4.7 million Cata sales is purely within the first month – there’ll be many more still over time, I don’t doubt. That said, given Cata sold 3.3 million its first 24 hours, that’s only 1.4 million over the following 29 days, so clearly things are tailing off.

And the money! If we ad-hoc average the price of a copy of Cata to £25, that means Blizzard’s brought in revenue of £117.5 million. Man a-live.

Of course, to run Cata you also need WoW core, The Burning Crusade and Wrath of The Lich King. Times at least 4.7 million people, and probably a whole lot more. Do the maths if you like, but I can tell you now that the answer is “all the money in the world.”

The truly fascinating thing for me is just how much WoW bucks every other game ever’s trend. There’s simply no sign of anything like decline or obsolescence in sight. I’m almost at the point where I imagine WoW not ever really closing down, and I’m quite sure that whatever Blizzard’s other MMO is (“Titan” is apparently its title), it’s not going to compete with WoW in any way, shape of form. Their first MMO will remain their deathless god-king.

I’m frightened.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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