Guild Wars 2's first birthday by the numbers: 3.5M sold, 460K peak concurrent

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Today Guild Wars 2 celebrates the first anniversary of its official launch day. On the one hand, it's hard to believe it's been a year already. On the other hand, the game has seen so many changes and content updates that my adventures in Tyria today don't resemble what they were like this time last year. According to the anniversary blog post just released by ArenaNet's president, Mike O'Brien, my experience is exactly what the team is aiming for: "I think the real mark of a success of an online world is how that world grows and evolves, and the extent to which players can take the world and make it their own," he writes.

In addition to the blog post, ArenaNet has released a fancy infographic, announced a special anniversary bash, and answered a few of our questions via press conference. Read on!

That cadence

Before Guild Wars 2 launched, the MMO community showed concern about how much post-launch support and content the game would receive considering there was no subscription fee. During the conference call on Monday, O'Brien and global brand director Chris Lye stressed that they didn't want their business model to dictate how frequently they updated their game.

Initially their goal was to release monthly content updates, which began with the popular October patch titled Shadow of the Mad King. From there they released seven more monthly updates: The Lost Shores, Wintersday, Flame and Frost: Prelude, Flame and Frost: The Gathering Storm, Flame and Frost: The Razing, Super Adventure Box, and Flame and Frost: Retribution.

Guild Wars 2 One year later
As they pumped out the content, ArenaNet noticed an interesting reaction from the community. When details of upcoming changes were made public, there was a tangible buzz emanating from the playerbase. This excitement continued when patches hit live servers and caused activity on the forums and in-game to skyrocket. Then a week after each patch launched, a noticeable lull would occur as the community waited for news on what was in store for them next.

This observation led to a critical moment in Guild Wars 2's development: What if ArenaNet could remove, or at least shorten, that lull in the buzz? What if every week there was either a new content patch or a reveal of what's coming up next for the game? The devs decided to find out, and a major reorganization of the development team was the result.

O'Brien explained this transformation: "I think the number one thing we accomplished was reorienting our company to be able to update the game so much. In the first eight months after launch, we shipped eight major releases, and then in the subsequent four months, we shipped eight more major releases. We're releasing new content every two weeks. Think about the power of that. We're now updating Guild Wars 2 about five times as often as the typical MMO."

For fans of Guild Wars 2, the past few months have been extremely busy. Since May we've learned the secrets of Southsun and made our last stand there, bashed the dragons while fending off strange sky pirates, traded with the Zephyrites at the bazaar, engaged in politics by voting on a new council member, and watched as the Queen's jubilee transformed into chaos. It feels like we've just begun to fight back against Scarlet's invasions, and already we have details on next week's return of the Super Adventure Box!

Guild Wars 2 One year later
An evolving living world

ArenaNet emphasized on the call that its focus is not just about delivering fast content; the studio wants the world to feel alive and be ever-changing too. Furthermore, the devs want to give the players opportunities to help shape the living world, as evidenced by the recent player election that elevated Ellen Kiel to her position on the Lion's Arch captain's council.

I asked O'Brien to comment on the challenges of the static personal story that could interfere with plans to provide living world plotlines affecting certain areas or NPCs; many players would love to see the cleansing of Orr following the defeat of Zhaitan, but doing so would be confusing to players who visit those areas before finishing their personal story. He admitted that ArenaNet has purposefully steered clear of any plot threads that could interfere with the personal story, but in the long run the team doesn't want to be inhibited or have any areas that are off-limits to the living world updates. While he wouldn't share any of the details, he did assure me that the devs have major plans to address that exact concern.

Year one by the numbers

In addition to O'Brien's year-one blog post, ArenaNet has also released a spiffy infographic (not to be confused with the fan-made one) showing off some staggering statistics. We recently heard that Guild Wars 2 is the fastest-selling Western MMO of all time, but now we know it's sold more than 3.5 million copies and has had over 460,000 players online concurrently. It would perhaps be more interesting to see a breakdown of peak concurrent players per month during the first year, but there's no denying that those are impressive figures.

Humans are the unsurprising dominant race for characters, nabbing 36% of the population, while only 13% of players chose Charr as their avatars. Warriors are the most popular profession (16%), while Engineers and Mesmers tie for the most rare (10%). The infographic (shown below) also highlights how helpful and friendly the Guild Wars 2 community is because players have revived each other a staggering 471,583,637 times since launch. I'm sure the experience point reward and daily achievement credit has nothing to do with it.

Party time

If you're going to be in the Seattle area this weekend for PAX Prime, you may want to clear your schedule on Saturday night. ArenaNet will be hosting an Anniversary Bash at the Renaissance Hotel, where the devs will engage in an informative panel and offer a sneak peek at exclusive new content. The bash will also include the inaugural PvP Invitational Tournament, where teams will compete for $10,000 in prize money!

Guild Wars 2 One year later

Happy birthday, Guild Wars 2!

This article was originally published on Massively.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.