Cataclysm Sales Were Actually Bad

Posted by Daeity On Monday, December 13, 2010

Blizzard announced their Sales Figures today, and all of the major media organizations (IGN, Joystiq, Gamepro, etc. etc.) are reporting that Cataclysm sold 3.3 million copies within the first 24 hours.

In actual fact, all of that information is completely false. It's like they just read the Subject Header without actually reading any of the factual information.

Blizzard sold a "record 3.3 million copies sold through as of its first 24 hours of release*". There was even a asterisk pointing to a small little caption at the bottom of their announcement, but no one seems to be paying attention. =]

Normally, Pre-Sales are included in industry announcements - but the new Digital Download process makes this a very different case. It's like heavily hyping a game, pushing it's "first" release date, allowing players to buy the game and install it on their PC, then have a "second" release date but say all of the sales were actually made on the "second release date". Most if not all other developers can't do this, making this a special case.

That 3.3 million sales figure was based on ALL sales over the past several months and included Pre-Order Sales and Digital Downloads (which went live Nov. 3, 2010). Blizzard is a master in the communication arena and it's like what I've always been saying - it's all about wording. Sales during the first 24 hours were probably significantly less than 2.5 million, but there's no way to tell since Blizzard opened up Digital Downloads during the same quarter as the release. Very sneaky.

Jay Allen Brack originally stated, "We expect the Cataclysm sales to exceed the levels of the previous versions, but we do not have an exact target." So that new announcement needed to be worded in such a way that it didn't make him look bad. I'm really disappointed with the lack of transparency.

But it gets even more sneaky..

1. Let's ignore all of Digital Downloads (over one month prior to retail launch day) for a moment.

Blizzard didn't actually count sales during the first 24 hours of Dec. 7th. In fact, they included sales from Dec. 7th, Dec. 8th, and Dec. 9th. Dec. 10th was the actual "ending date" of the 24 hours sales period. =]

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm was simultaneously released in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Europe, Russia, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand on December 7, and became available in Korea and the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau on December 9.
Cataclysm became available in Korea and parts of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau on December 9th. So, they counted the 24 hour sales period from geographies that contained the smallest number of sales but added in 3 WHOLE DAYS OF SALES from their largest subscriber based geographies. Nice.

That's a HUGE amount considering the daily trends of average game sales. For example: 5M sales opening day, 3M sales next day, 1.5M next day, 750k next day, etc. If Cataclysm sales were based on previous Expansion Pack sales (and there was never a Digital Download), that 3.3 million number was actually calculated over a 3 day period, and it would have ACTUALLY been closer to 2 million on the first day, 1 million the second day, 300-500k on the third day, and so on.

2. Blizzard stated that Cataclysm sales made "it the fastest-selling PC game of all time.*". However, that statement also had a little caption attached. It was, in fact, the "fastest-selling PC game" based on Blizzard's internal lineup of games and the use of special calculations from their own "internal company records". Meaning that they included 2 months of sales, but are classifying it as "sales in 24 hours".

3. They also called it a "PC game", but Cataclysm is not a stand-alone video game. It's an expansion pack (it could even be classified as a large patch or DLC) with a much cheaper pricing model than a real PC game purchase. I don't know if you could even classify the retail DVD as a large patch.. it's just the 4.0 update which players can (and already have) download for free. Really, if you get technical, you're just paying for a code to "unlock" new stuff for your account.

Sales did not actually "shatter" anything and if you've been reading earlier posts you'll know that 3.3 million sales over a 2 month period are not good at all. It also looks like this little prediction came true. =]