Blizzard’s latest foray into the successful Warcraft series of games is selling exceptionally well, with over 600,000 copies sold across North America, Australia and New Zealand since its 24 November launch.
The fourth game in an already well-established and popular game series, World of Warcraft (WoW) is an online-only MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) putting players in the control of one of eight races (Humans, Night Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Orcs, Tauren, Undead and Trolls) and one of nine classes – each with unique abilities and skills.
While traditionally MMOs have only managed to crack the niche end of the role playing game market, WoW has managed to go mainstream, with over 600,000 copies sold during the 2004 holiday season.
It is tipped to continue to grow in popularity as the community flourishes and as the game is updated to provide new content and game modes, such as PVP: Battlegrounds which pits large groups of players against each other in a good versus evil epic fight between 'the Alliance' and 'the Horde'.
Predicted further increases in market share may be particularly interesting, given WoW faces stiff competition from rival Sony’s EverQuest II and its already-established fan base.
Ongoing beta testing of WoW in Europe means numbers will surely soar once a retail product is available.
Given the global and geographically dispersed nature of the servers for the game, it’s tough to track exactly how many people from any one region are playing concurrently.
Blizzard’s figures placed it at over 200,000 simultaneous connections during the peak holiday period. New servers needed to be brought in just to cope with the demand for service.
Once the product is available in Europe and South Korea there’s talk of local servers helping share the load and no doubt player numbers will soar as users jump on the WoW bandwagon.
Providing enough server power to survive the onslaught isn’t the only problem, with games outlets selling out over the holiday period and two other shipments to Australia selling out since.
Chris Davey, a media relations spokesperson for Vivendi Universal Games (VUG) Australia, said WoW's success was down to its accessibility above all else.
"MMOs have traditionally been the sacred ground of the uber-gamer. They have been difficult to understand and even more difficult to master," he said.
"The overall difficulty level of MMOs has also required an incredible amount of time in order to be competitive. Blizzard has overcome all of these barriers with World of Warcraft. The sales success of the game is testament to that fact."
No release date was yet available for PVP Battlegrounds. However, Blizzard was committed to keeping WoW a constantly evolving game. "There are many more additions on the horizon," he said.
Davey admitted keeping stock of the software was “posing quite a challenge” given the game’s popularity.
However, he confirmed that VUG Australia shipped over 30,000 copies of WoW to the market in 2004. " The game has proven to be a massive success with most retailers completely sold out over the Christmas period," Davey said.
"As an interesting note, virtually every copy of the Collectors Edition was pre-sold prior to the game even being released, they didn't even hit the shelf."
VUG Australia had no information on the number of concurrent WoW players based in Australia. All statistics published by Blizzard included Australasia-based players.
The game retails for $89.95 and is paid for by subscription of US$14.99 per month, US$13.99 per month when paid quarterly and US$12.99 monthly over half a year.